The big show kicks off tonight, with the Dodgers looking to become World Champions for the first time in 30 years traveling to New England to take on the Vegas odds-on favorites, Boston, who of course broke the Curse of The Babe back in 2004. Since winning then for the first time in over 80 years, they have come back to repeat it twice in ’07 and ’13. It should be a good series and will feature perhaps the two best southpaws in the game facing off tonight, Clayton Kershaw and Chris Sale. Yesterday I looked at how it seems to shape up to me.
That said, the off-season will soon be here and for fans of 28 teams that means thinking about the things which went awry in 2018 and looking ahead to ’19. And one of the highlights of the whole process is Awards season, so I’ll give you my picks for the big awards this year, starting with the National League today. And remember, votes are cast prior to any post-season dramatics….
Manager of Year – Brian Snitzer, Atlanta. Second year manager, aided and abetted by increasingly impressive GM Alex Anthopoulos, helped the Braves go from a mundane 72-90 last year to an unexpected division title this year. All without any big splashy free agent or trade acquisitions. Runner-up- Bud Black, Colorado, keeping his team on an even keel and getting them hot when they needed to force the Dodgers to a game 163.
Rookie of the Year – Ronald Acuna Jr. Atlanta a big reason Snitzer did what he did. Three very good candidates for award, but I’ll go for the OF phenom. In 111 games, he hit .293 with 26 HR, 64 RBI and 16 steals. His 26 homers and 16 stolen bases were tops among rookies, as was his average for those with 400+ at bats. His 127 hits was second (among rookies). Numbers were quite similar to my third place, Juan Soto of Washington (.292/22/70 with a .917 OPS in 116 games) who was still a teen when he set foot on the field for the first time. But Acuna’s seem a tiny bit better and, Acuna was a lynchpin in a successful lineup; Soto’s team floundered all year. That wasn’t his fault necessarily, but he didn’t add the same “zip” the Brave did to his team.
Runner-up – Walker Buehler, L.A. the best rookie pitcher , by an arms’ length over Pudge’s son Derrick Rodriguez. Buehler looked quite at home in the playoff-bound team’s rotation, and hasn’t buckled under October pressure (not that that counts in the balloting.) He went 8-5 over 23 starts with a stellar 2.62 ERA, best among rookies not surprisingly. His 151 strikeouts was second best and highlighted the low 37 walks he issued.
Cy Young – Jacob de Grom, New York. Voters who once gave Felix Hernandez an AL cy Young despite being 13-12 showed that the win total isn’t the primary factor, and rightfully so. Thus we have de Grom spinning one of the best seasons in this century so far, despite having a so-so 10-9 record. His other numbers dazzled- especially the 1.70 ERA, best by far for any pitcher logging over 100 innings. Speaking of which, his 217 innings in 32 starts is a pretty heady tally in 2018 with the game being what it is now. 28 of 32 starts were “quality”, 269 K’s to just 46 BBs, only 10 homers allowed meaning opponents had a measly ,277 slugging percentage vs him; allowed only 4 runners to be left on base in all the games he departed from… of course, his bugaboo was that the Mets only provided 3.5 runs/game support. Seems like if there was a 1-0 game going on, Jacob’s crew would be on the zero end! Runner-up – Max Scherzer, Washington. A season good enough to win it most years – 18-7, 2.53, lead-leading 220 2/3 innings, 300 strikeouts. Surprisingly, he gave up 23 HR but limited the damage obviously.
MVP – Christian Yelich, Milwaukee. the year’s breakout star and obvious choice, coming ever-so-close to winning the Triple crown. Likely wasn’t even the pre-season choice in the Yelich household … but 6 months later, no arguing with his .326 average, 36 HR, 110 RBI and 1.000 OPS The average and all-telling OPS were best among players with 400+ AB and he was tied for second in RBI, third in HR and second in hits with 187. throw in 22 SB for good measure and you see why the Brewers booted the Cubs from the top this year…which Christian was instrumental in of course, hitting .451 with 7 HR in the final 15 games down the stretch as they caught, then overtook the Wrigley fielders. One wonders what kind of mammoth numbers he would have had if he’d avoided an oblique injury in April that sidelined him for 10 days.
Runner-up – Javier Baez, Chicago. Coming into his own and the type of star people expected him to be, .290, 34HR, league-leading 111 RBI, .554 slugging percentage…and stellar IF defense too. I’ll opt for Freddie Freeman of Atlanta for third place, the veteran engine behind the ROY, Freeman didn’t take a game off all year and hit .309 with a league-high 191 hits, including 23 HR and 98 RBI.
Next , we’ll look at the AL choices…