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SnakePit Round Table: Awards edition

In which we discuss who should, and will, win baseball’s big honors this year.

MLB: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The D-backs won the Wilson Defensive Team of the Year award. Are you surprised?

James: Not really. One thing this team has clearly put a premium on over the past two seasons has been having a strong defense. Even with their offensive woes, the team never went out and picked up a bat-first catcher, nor did they deign to experiment more with Yasmany Tomás in left field (though his 2018 minor league performance suggests that is probably for the best). Even the moves they did make throughout the season were for players with solid gloves. I have a feeling this may be a preview of things to come.

Turambar: Nope. This team was built to save runs in every part of the field. Regrettably, as we saw in September, excelling only in that one aspect of the game isn’t a guarantee for postseason success (or even an appearance). Still it was impressive to see just how great the team was in both this infield and outfield. Hopefully in 2019 that same tenacious D will be coupled with offense.

Makakilo: Two teams had the best defense in the Majors: Astros and D-backs. It was a little surprising that the D-backs beat the Astros. Let’s look at some stats: errors (Astros better), Total Zone Fielding Runs (Astros better), BIS Defensive Runs Saved (D-backs better), and the overarching runs-allowed-per-game (Astros better).

Jack: It’s interesting to note the wide divergence between Fangraphs UZR based defensive ranking and Baseball Reference BIS/DRS based defensive rankings. The DBacks ranked just 5th in the NL at FG, but 1st at BR.

Gold Gloves for Nick Ahmed and Zack Greinke. Did they deserve it?

James: I was pleasantly surprised to see that the voters actually awarded Nick Ahmed his well-deserved Gold Glove. I had been afraid that he was going to lose out to Crawford because of legacy voting. Zack Greinke is going to be difficult to unseat as the award winner for pitchers.

Makakilo: Yes!

Jack : I don’t think it’s homerism or bias to say that they did deserve it. I wrote an article about Ahmed’s case back on August 20th and nothing really changed down the stretch. Watching every Greinke start hammered home just what an excellent overall athlete he is.

And Silver Sluggers for Paul Goldschmidt and David Peralta

James: I’m a bit surprised that Peralta won the award. I’m happy for him, but the awards for the outfield this year feel a bit off. Paul Goldschmidt was a monster in the second half of the season. It’s hard to put together much of an argument against him winning it. Even the folkd from other teams could see it.

Makakilo: Paul Goldschmidt won the Silver Slugger Award four of the last six years. And he clearly deserved it.

This season in the NL, of the three winners in the outfield, Christian Yelich’s stats were clearly best (batting average, on-base-percent, slugging, homers, and runs batted in).

Looking at the stats for the elite group of NL outfielders who have won since 1980, I subjectively ranked Peralta at about the 30% percentile. About 70% of the elite group was better.

Peralta was clearly deserving, although he was not among the best of the elite group of winners.

Jack So looking at the Fangraphs NL Outfielder Dashboard ranked by wRC+ I see a few things that may lead voters on a path to give the award to Peralta over the guys ranked ahead of him:

Yelich of course no question deserving and he won one of the 3 awards.

Brandon Nimmo had a very high walk rate and OBP, but his slugging was under .500 and he hit just 17 HR

Juan Soto and Ronald Acuna were rookies, and didn’t qualify for the batting title, failing to reach 502 PA. and playing in just 116 and 111 games respectively. Even with that, Acuna was only 4 HR behind Peralta’s 30, and had the same BA with higher ISO and Slugging. But I can understand why Peralta would be chosen ahead of him based on full time play.

And the last guy ahead of Peralta was Bryce Harper. He had more HR & RBI than David, but much lower batting avg. His walk totals gave him higher OBP and wRC+ than Peralta, but typically Silver Slugger awards go to guys with combination of batting avg and power.

The real head scratcher was Nick Markakis. Had the voters gone Yelich, Peralta, and one of Harper or Acuna, they wouldn’t feel so “off”

Who will win the NL MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year? And, if different, who SHOULD win?

James: I give the NL Cy Young to Jacob deGrom. A close second (closer than I think many would like to admit) would be Max Scherzer. I think it’s still possible that deGrom could wind up not winning it simply because of just how bad the Mets were in 2018.

For the NL ROY, I am giving it to Ronald Acuña, Jr. Anyone who wants to bend my ear that the award should go to Juan Soto is welcome to. I have zero beef with that outcome should Soto win the award. I simply feel that, in the end, Acuña was a more complete player in 2018. Certainly, he’s a much better defender. Also, as unfair as it might be, when the race is so tight, contribution to team success plays a factor in my book. Acuña played a major role in the Braves’ success in 2018, helping to lead them to the NL East title over Soto’s Washington Nationals.

Makakilo:

NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer will likely win because ESPN’s Cy Young predictor has Max Scherzer with the highest score. However, there is an awesome pitcher, who has been called the best pitcher in baseball, and who plays for a team with bad defense (The Mets). Based on pitching prowess, Jacob deGrom should win the NL Cy Young instead of Scherzer.

NL ROY: It is a difficult choice between Ronald Acuña, Jr and Juan Soto. As James wrote, Acuña is the more complete player. And Acuña had the better slugging percent (.552 vs .517). On the other hand, Soto had a higher on-base-percent (.406 vs .366) and a higher Win Probability Added (3.4 vs 2.0), so he had more impact. Because of impact, my preference is Juan Soto.

Jack:

NL MVP: Yelich will and should win

NL ROY: Acuna will win. Tossup between him and Soto as to who should win. Either choice is correct.

NL Cy Young, here is a little something I played with a month ago. The table includes Fangraphs FIP based WAR, Baseball Reference RA-9 based WAR, Baseball Prospectus DRA Based WARP, and Bill James Win Shares. I gave a score for total in each category as a percentage of the highest total in that category. So for example if De Grom had the highest fWAR total of 8.8, everyone elses fWAR rank was the percentage of that. I.e. Scherzer’s 7.2 / Degroms 8.8 = .82. I did that for each category and then added the total.

Doing this, Degrom/Scherzer/Nola still incredibly close, and such a clear cut top tier above everyone else. But Degrom wins and he would get my vote. Not just because of this little exercise, but it confirmed for me what I thought before doing it, based on other factors. Hard to deny Max too though. Incredible talent and competitor.

The eventual winner will be either Degrom or Scherzer. Coin Flip what the voters did here

Same question, in the AL.

James: For the AL Cy Young, I am going with Justin Verlander. Wins aren’t everything, sorry Blake Snell. Also, Workload matters, Sorry Chris Sale (and again, Snell). If Snell wins, I won’t be at all surprised, but it will be a dubious win at best.

For AL ROY, I’m going with Shohei Ohtani. Quite simply, he was amazing, both as a bat and ans a pitcher. He played the game at the highest level in a way not seen since the days of Babe Ruth. If not for exacerbating an injury he came into the league with, his numbers would have been even more eye-popping. IN almost any other season, the Yankee’s Miguel Andujar probably wins. This isn’t any other year though.

Makakilo:

AL Cy Young: Blake Snell will likely win because ESPN’s Cy Young predictor has Blake Snell with the highest score. Snell leads the AL in win-loss record (21-5), ERA(1.89), hits per 9 innings (5.6) and win probability added (5.0).

AL ROY: Shohei Ohtani was a rare rookie who made history because he did well pitching (125 ERA+, 11.0 SO9) and batting (152 OPS+, 22 HR, 61 RBIs). My strong preference is Ohtani.

Jack:

AL MVP: Mookie Betts should and will win the MVP. Using the same method as I did for Cy Young above Betts just barely pipped Mike Trout 3.92 to 3.88. So doing it for the best team in the league gave Mookie the edge for my vote as well. Alex Bregman came in just ahead of Jose Ramirez by the way, 3.16 to 3.01, and Francisco Lindor had 2.96, rounding out top 5.

AL ROY: I go with Ohtani. His sensational combination of hitting and pitching were enough to outweigh a couple of goo pitching performances by Shane Bieber and Brad Keller.

For AL Cy Young, here is the table using the same method as I did above for NL. I think that Snell is going to win and he’ll be totally deserving as well, but Verlander has an equally strong case, albeit in more esoteric measures that will be overlooked by many voters.

Where will any D-backs finish?

James: Zack Greinke and Patrick Corbin may both very well pick up a few token points in the Cy Young voting. The same might be said for Paul Goldschmidt in the MVP race. The Diamondbacks don’t have anyone to consider for rookie status, as Jimmie Sherfy spent most of the season in AAA.

Jack I think that Corbin could finish 5th in the NL Cy Young, and Goldy might finish 7th-10th in NL MVP.

Cake or pie?

James: I absolutely love pie. Too bad I have yet to find a place to get great pie anywhere in the metro-Phoenix area. That would probably depress me far more if I wasn’t at heart, actually a cake guy - by a pretty wide margin.

Makakilo: In the past two weeks, I attended two awards dinners with dessert buffets. Because I tasted a small amount of every dessert, I am well-prepared to make my decision. The best cake was fluffy, had intense flavor, and it surprised me with small pieces of fruit in it. I like surprises! And when I walked into a local cupcake shop, I was amazed to see their 100+ flavors of cupcake, with optional super-hero rings! Definitely cake!

Jack: Really? I have to make this choice? I refuse. One slice of each please.