Jacob deGrom Won't Win Cy Young Again -- And Other Crazy Awards Predictions For 2020
Freddie Freeman Is On Fast Track For First MVP; No Repeaters From Last Year
By DAN SCHLOSSBERG
In a short season, where anything can happen and definitely has, many baseball experts believe it is foolish to vote on awards.
On the other hand, even a truncated season has its heroes, goats, and unforeseen pitfalls.
Who knew, for example, that the Washington Nationals – hoping to defend their only world championship – would open with exactly the same 19-31 record that they posted in 2019?
The difference, of course, was that the Nats had time on their side in a 162-game schedule that they don’t in a 60-game span.
And who knew that former MVPs Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich, and Ryan Braun would stumble out of the gate in this COVID-curtailed campaign and never recover?
That being said, it’s not a moment too soon to look at likely contenders for 2020 awards, which don’t include postseason performances.
Most Valuable Player
National League – Freddie Freeman’s fast finish should be enough to bring the trophy to Atlanta for the first time since Chipper Jones won it in 1999. Like Jones, who has yielded his Face of the Franchise mantle to Freeman, the 6'5" first baseman is an unlikely leader for the batting title even without benefit of infield hits. Entering play
Thursday he led the NL in runs scored, runs created, and extra-base hits; ranked second in on-base percentage, slugging, OPS, total bases, and hits (tied). The surprise batting leader was also third in runs batted in. Mookie Betts, in his first National League season, has had a great year for the Dodgers and will challenge for the coveted award. So will San Diego shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., an early-season sensation, Padres third baseman Manny Machado, and slugger Juan Soto (Nationals).
American League – The Yankees, who owned this hardware since its creation in 1931, have a great chance of wresting the hardware from Mike Trout, who won his third last year. Between DJ LeMahieu, whose versatility and productive bat led a 10-game September winning streak, and Luke Voit, who became an unexpected home run champion, the 2020 AL MVP trophy is likely to be laced with pinstripes. The closest competitor is White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, who entered the last week leading the league in hits, extra-base hits, total bases, and runs batted in. Look for LeMahieu to win it, with Abreu second, Voit third, and surprise White Sox star Tim Anderson also siphoning off votes. Mike Trout, last year’s winner, has been great for the Angels again but can’t keep his team above water.
Cy Young Award
National League – Jacob deGrom remains a remarkable pitcher, despite a win total diminished by poor support from Met teammates. But he’s no lock for a third straight Cy Young, which would have gone to unbeaten Atlanta lefty Max Fried (7-0) before he tweaked his ankle in the first inning Wednesday and had to leave the game. Newcomer Corbin Burnes of the Brewers has the best earned run average (1.77) but hasn’t pitched as much as Cincinnati’s Trevor Bauer, who’s a tick behind him at 1.80. Yu Darvish of the Cubs is having his best season at age 34 but has cooled considerably recently. Fried yielded his first home run in 68 1/3 innings Wednesday, missing a chance to become the first pitcher since 1926 to complete a season without allowing one. He also knows how to win without racking up high strikeout totals. He’s the choice here.
American League – Shane Bieber leads in wins, ERA, strikeouts, whiffs per nine innings, and several other categories, making the Cleveland ace the hands-down favorite over pre-season pick Gerrit Cole of the Yankees. To show how good he is, no Cleveland pitcher has won the coveted Triple Crown since Bob Feller! If he fails to win by unanimous vote, former winner Dallas Keuchel, who became the best White Sox pitcher in his first year with the club, should finish second with Cole third. And don’t forget Chicago’s Lucas Giolito, who threw the only no-hitter in the American League this season.
Rookie Of The Year
National League – Nobody ever heard of him before this year but Jake Cronenworth jumped from utilityman to starting second baseman for the San Diego Padres while holding his own with the bat. He’s the pick over Dustin May, who offers the Dodgers a lot more than flowing red locks, and magnificent Milwaukee reliever Devin Williams.
American League – Kyle Lewis, a beacon in the fog that has enveloped the Mariners all season, wrapped up Rookie of the Year honors weeks ago. He’ll coast to victory over pre-season favorite Luis Robert, another outfielder, of the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay reliever Pete Fairbanks.
Manager Of The Year
National League – It’s a three-way tussle involving rookie manager David Ross of the Chicago Cubs, Don Mattingly of the Miami Marlins, and Brian Snitker of the Atlanta Braves. Since his team will win its third straight division crown with an extreme dearth of starting pitching, the choice is Snitker, oldest manager in the league at age 65. Mattingly might make it close since the Fish seemed fried by COVID before the season started but responded well after 18 replacements were promoted unexpectedly.
American League – Two pilots who squeezed low-budget teams into top-tier slots will fight it out for this honor. Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash, who has never cashed in on this award, deserves not only this one but a couple of retroactive ones as well. The low-budget Rays are greater than the sum of their parts, have no superstars, yet manage to win more than most of their rivals. Second place goes to Aaron Boone of the Yankees, who survived a tidal wave of injuries, with Bob Melvin of the Athletics a strong third after Oakland ended the three-year Houston strangehold on the AL West title.
Also worth noting:
Atlanta’s Marcell Ozuna, a top contender for Comeback Player Of The Year, leads all players with four five-RBI games . . .
Andrelton Simmons’ career with the Angels ended abruptly when he opted out Tuesday with COVID concerns . . .
Kaycee manager Mike Matheny was ejected from a game on his birthday this week . . .
Highlight of the week was watching rookie Toronto catcher Alejandro Kirk carrying his 265-pound body around on the bases on a 5-8 frame . . .
Don’t try to convince Pete Alonso of the Mets there’s no such thing as the sophomore jinx . . .
Before the Braves did it this year, the last team to win three straight NL East titles was the Phillies, who did it from 2007-11 and added a world championship for good measure . . .
Since the era of divisonal play started in 1969, the Braves have more division titles (20) than any other club.
Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ is co-editor of Here’s the Pitch, national baseball writer for forbes.com, and author of 38 baseball books. His email address is email@example.com.