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Thursday, March 25, 2021

Handicapping the 2021 MVP and Cy Young Races

Last year about this time, I wrote about Trout’s eventual decline from the obvious best player in baseball. He still hasn’t lost that status, but he’s not quite as much of a slam-dunk favorite to win the MVP award as he was in the past. Pushing 30, he’s not likely to have any new gears left, which increases the one-sidedness of his risk. He also tends to dominate statistically on a wide basis rather than having one eye-popping number for people to look at; he’s led the AL in a Triple Crown stat just once, winning the RBI title in 2014. Sure, he doesn’t play in a good home run park, and the Angels’ general incompetence limits his RBI opportunities, but if all voters were taking that into consideration, they’d probably be using different stats anyway. That doesn’t mean that Trout is terrible; only that in some stats, he’s close enough to the rest of the league that he’s vulnerable in an MVP race (and team quality does count).

I questioned whether Bichette ranking so highly made sense, but ultimately, I don’t think it’s that crazy. All the projection systems put a 30–30 season within reach, and a shortstop hasn’t done that since Jimmy Rollins in 2007. Fernando Tatis Jr. is also a 30–30 threat in 2021, but if both he and Bichette did it, does anyone think that both doing the same thing would cause people to hold Bichette in less esteem? The Blue Jays are an extremely interesting team, and should they surge to make the playoffs or even threaten the Yankees, Bichette is the favorite to be the best player on the Jays, which tends to be rewarded. (George Springer and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. just missed this list.)

I’m also intrigued by Mondesi being at the back of the top 20, though I guess it does make some kind of sense that if the Royals are actually good, he’ll have a lot to do with it. He is still just 25 and phenomenally talented, with some holes in his game that, if patched up, could have great dividends. I’m not quite at the point that I’m buying that Mondesi actually has better odds than, say, Springer, but I’m at least fascinated by the notion, as I don’t put my thumb on the scale.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 25, 2021 at 12:36 PM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cy young, mvp

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   1. Space Force fan Posted: March 25, 2021 at 02:00 PM (#6010081)
As a clearly unbiased person, I'll take Ramírez and Bieber in the AL and Soto and Buehler in the NL.
   2. Ziggy: social distancing since 1980 Posted: March 25, 2021 at 03:05 PM (#6010107)
It's clearly time for absurdly wild guesses.

AL MVP: DJ LeMahieu

It's hard to believe, because he established himself in our minds as pretty ordinary, but LeMahieu is actually a star now. He won the batting title last year, plays a decent second base, and plays for the Yankees. In 2021 we'll find that he leads the Yankees to victory over the Blue Jays in a thrilling pennant race that stretches from one wire to the other. Sports writers will delay sending in their ballots (they would have voted for Bichette if it had gone the other way) until the very last minute, but when the Yankees take down the Jays it will be LeMahieu who gets the credit.

AL Cy Young: Nate Pearson

Turns out that Kirby Yates can't get the late inning job done. Out of desperation the Blue Jays call up Pearson and put him in the bullpen, whereupon he establishes himself as the Next Great Closer. He takes home a Cy Young award and never leaves the bullpen.

NL MVP: Acuna

In my version of 2021 the Nationals are surprisingly successful. But voters can't decide whether to give the credit to Soto or Turner, and so Acuna scoops up his first MVP award in a split vote.

NL Cy Young: I like the Buehler pick. Pitchers aging is weird, but he's going into his age 26 season, which can only be a good sign. His FIP was unexciting last year, but excellent two years before. Let's give him a career year, and a 20 win season on a stupendously good Dodgers team.
   3. bfan Posted: March 25, 2021 at 04:12 PM (#6010139)

In my version of 2021 the Nationals are surprisingly successful. But voters can't decide whether to give the credit to Soto or Turner, and so Acuna scoops up his first MVP award in a split vote.

It is funny; in the fangraphs article, 3 of the 8 most likely NL MVP's on their chart were Braves (Acuna; Orzuna; and Freeman), which strikes me as a bunch of guys siphoning votes from one another.
   4. Walt Davis Posted: March 25, 2021 at 05:31 PM (#6010163)
Willie Mays found a new gear from 31-34 (at least WAR-wise). Barry found something from 35-39. Frank's best OPS+ seasons were 30-31, winning MVP at 30. Schmidt's best run as a hitter was 30-36.

Unless he really is the next Mays, obviously Trout can't get better but rumors of his decline might want to wait for reality.

NL MVP: Mookie
NL CYA: some dark horse ... Flaherty

AL MVP: Judge (he's got to have a healthy season sooner or later)
AL CYA: Dylan Cease (fate has to pay me back for my Quintana trade joke earlier today) ... more realistically Giolito

Careful on picking a Dodger starter ... the Dodgers like deep rotations and moving guys on/off the IL and maybe one guy a year makes it to 30 starts. Buehler probably only gets 25-28 starts this year, hard to win CYA on that. Granted, after the Dodgers win 145 games, the writers will feel it necessary to give them at least one of the awards.

On award-vote siphoning ... are there any actual examples where it seems like that's what happened? In 1970, Bench still won almost unanimously (Cub voters) despite Perez in 3rd; he won again in 72 and while Morgan might have pulled away some first place votes (11-5), Bench still won fairly easily. Without Bench, I suppose it's possible Morgan would have wont it but he finished a close 4th to Williams and Stargell so it would have been a close one probably.

Of course winners aren't what we're looking for ... but are there infamous examples of teammates finishing, say, 2nd and 3rd, where both received enough split first-place votes that they conceivably might have won if there was only one of them? There is always the possibility that the presence of two such players left writers feeling neither deserved a first-place vote to begin with but I have no idea how to make a convincing alternate reality case in that scenario.
   5. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: March 25, 2021 at 05:39 PM (#6010166)

Turns out that Kirby Yates can't get the late inning job done.

Probably because he's out for the year!
   6. Jobu is silent on the changeup Posted: March 27, 2021 at 07:56 PM (#6010452)
AL MVP: Judge (he's got to have a healthy season sooner or later)
People think hope is a happy emotion. Sometimes it is very, very sad.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: March 28, 2021 at 11:47 AM (#6010480)
No clue right now, the partial season last year took luster off of some players, added some to others etc... The only thing, as a Cardinal fan, I hope for is that Wainwright gets one vote he needs to add to his Cy Young shares.

(he did lead the league in complete games last year so added black ink to his resume... yes I know, not even close for the hof, but as a fan of the guy, I want him knocking as close to the door as possible...

Ultimately I hope we have a season in the NL where you have multiple great candidates with equal resume at the 8+ war level. I honestly don't feel the young great players as I did with Pujols or Trout, where I trust their numbers out of the gate. But at the same time last season drained a lot of anything from me as a fan. It would be nice to relaunch that love for a Tatis, Acuna, Soto etc in a full season where they can shine while being expected to shine.

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