And It's MVP time ...
Well, we’re six-for-six predicting baseball’s awards this year, though I think bragging about that is more or less like bragging about completing one of those old TV Guide crossword puzzles. I’m sure some of you remember those puzzles — they were in the weekly TV Guide magazine*.
*Actually, they might still be in there, as I just found out that TV Guide still exists. That’s kind of shocking.
Those puzzles used to have clues like:
3 down: The whole number between three and five.
4 across: Game show “Family ____” where families try to name the top answers on a survey of various questions. Host Richard Dawson creepily kisses women contestants. Rhymes with “Rude.”
12 across: First President of the United States. Also a city in the District of Columbia. Also a state on the Northwestern border. Famous for refusing to lie about chopping down the cherry tree. Denzel __________.
16 down: “NYPD ____.” Actually, it’s BLUE. We’ll just tell you this one.
Anyway, it has been that kind of easy-picking the award winners this year. This was particularly true of Wednesday’s Cy Young Award winners. There was never even the slightest chance that anyone but Houston’s Justin Verlander and Miami’s Sandy Alcantara would win. And the vote totals didn’t disappoint.
Justin Verlander, Astros, all 30 first-place votes, 210 points
Dylan Cease, White Sox, 97 points
Alek Manoah, Blue Jays, 87 points
Shohei Ohtani, Angels, 82 points
Shohei Ohtani is going to finish fourth in the Cy Young voting and second in the MVP voting, and as Mike Schur says we should never, ever stop talking about him.
Sandy Alcantara, Marlins, all 30 first-place votes, 210 points
Max Fried, Braves, 72 points
Julio Urias, Dodgers, 66 points
Aaron Nola, Phillies, 48 points
Zac Gallen, Diamondbacks, 45 points
There’s not a whole lot more to say about any of this, except for perhaps this: Toronto’s Kevin Gausman had this really weird year. You look at his season in the most basic way — 12-10, 3.35 ERA, 175 innings, 116 ERA+ — and you think: Yeah, a perfectly fine season, or to quote that sage Dom Deluise in “History of the World, Part I”: “Nice. Nice. Not thrilling. But nice.”
Gausman got one fifth-place vote in the Cy Young voting, which seems right.
But there’s a whole other way to look at Kevin Gausman’s season. You could argue that, had it not been for bad luck and perhaps suspect defense, he was the BEST DANG PITCHER IN THE WHOLE LEAGUE.
How can you say that? Well, because the Batting Average on Balls in Play against Gausman was a ridiculous .364, which was not just the worst in baseball but worst by something like 35 points. Nobody was even close. His teammate Jose Berrios had the second-highest BABIP at .328. Only nine starting pitchers in all of baseball had a BABIP above .300 — remember, almost nobody could get hits in 2022.
So why did Gausman have such a ridiculously high BABIP? Was he just giving up rockets left and right? Yeah, maybe a little bit — the average exit velocity against him was quite high. But there’s a school of thought out there that BABIP, in large part, comes down to luck and defense, and cannot really be controlled the pitcher.
If you believe that to be true — that pitchers can really only be judged on their walks, strikeouts and home runs allowed — then Gausman was one of the premier pitchers in all of baseball. In those 175 innings (174 2/3 if you want to do the exact math), he struck out 205, walked just 28 and allowed only 15 home runs. That gave him a 2.38 Fielding Independent Pitching score (FIP), the best in the American League.
Voters have definitely been taking FIP into consideration in their voting through the years. But, for some reason this year, they didn’t trust Gausman’s FIP and almost entirely ignored him at Cy Young time.
I don’t think we need to spend a lot of time on the MVP races, either, because we all know what’s going to happen here. But I will write a bit on each, because despite the near-certain blowout victories, the races are actually quite a bit more interesting than the likely results.
American League MVP
The nominees: Yordan Alvarez, Astros; Aaron Judge, Yankees; Shohei Ohtani, Angels.