We are still a couple months away from handing out the hardware, but everyone and their mother is talking about the Cy Young and the MVP. Rather than just pick my favorites, I’m doing something a little different. I am creating an entirely new award. I’ve touched on the subject briefly when discussing a pitcher as an MVP. Here’s the gist; I believe a pitcher should be able to win the MVP and the Cy Young as long as there is an overall best position player award.
So, in that vein, I created The Ripken Award. Cal Ripken Jr. spent much of his career playing for bad teams. But he was always great. The Ripken Award will go to the best overall position player in each league without concern about that player’s team’s record. This is truly an individual award for the best position player. We will still discuss the MVP and Cy Young awards as well. So, here we go:
Justin Verlander – Let’s face it, the Tigers would not be anywhere near the top of the division without Justin Verlander. They would probably be under .500, looking up at the Indians and White Sox. His 21 wins so far blows away the competition and his WAR leads all pitchers. If you are truly picking a player who has performed amazingly well and been the key to his team’s success, Verlander is that player.
A.L. Cy Young:
Justin Verlander – Wins still mean something among baseball enthusiasts. I understand the argument that a pitcher only controls 50% of the outcome of a game (clearly that percentage fluctuates based on different situations, but 50% is pretty easy to use for this example). Runs are produced by the offense and runs are saved by the defense. The pitcher makes up a big part of the defense, but a small part of the offense. Therefore, the value of the wins stat is often minimized. But 130 years of baseball keeps wins as an important gauge to a pitcher’s season.
We already know Verlander leads the league in wins, so let’s focus on what else he has done. At 7.7 WAR, he leads Halladay by a full 1.3 WAR. Verlander also leads the league in hits per 9 by a wide margin at 6.215. Finally, his 224 strikeouts leads all of baseball by 12. And it gives him a decent shot at 250 on the year. All said, Verlander is the clear A.L. Cy Young winner.
A.L. Ripken Award:
Jose Bautista – Among position players, Bautista is dominating the WAR category at 8.1. The next closest in the American League is Dustin Pedroia with 6.7. His .449 OBP ranks number one and 19 points better than the next American Leaguer. His 39 home runs and 109 walks also put him tops in the A.L.
Ryan Braun – His team has a death grip on first place, and he has been a major reason. He’d working on a 30/30 season. He just needs 5 more home runs to reach 30. He’s already got 31 stolen bases. Braun’s .987 OPS ranks him number one in the National League. So do his 93 runs scored. Finally, his 6.7 WAR puts him right behind Matt Kemp (we’ll get to him in a minute).
N.L. Cy Young:
Cliff Lee – This was a close race with Clayton Kershaw. Lee’s June and his August give him the edge though. Two undefeated months in any year will put you on the fast track to a CY Young. Lee is an outlier in an awards season picked by straightforward statistics. Lee only leads one category, shutouts with 5. But he ranks near the top in almost every other pitcher ranking. He’s second in pitcher WAR with 5.7, sixth in ERA at 2.59, fourth in WHIP at 1.053, and fifth in K/9 at 9.15. Cliff Lee is as complete an all-around pitcher as we have seen in a long time. My apologies to Clayton Kershaw, but Cliff Lee gets my pick.
N.L. Ripken Award:
Matt Kemp – Kemp leads all of baseball with 8.4 WAR. The next closest in the National League is Ryan Braun, a whopping 1.9 WAR behind. Matt Kemp’s triple slash is admirable by itself: .321/.399/.568. He is third in the N.L. in hits with 163, and has a legitimate shot at 200. He is tied for second in home runs with 31 and third in RBI’s with 103. If not for Ryan Braun and Jose Reyes, we’d be talking about Kemp pushing towards a triple crown. Kemp is by far the best position player in the league, but he plays for the Dodgers. They are only better than the Padres in the West and can barely draw any fans. That’s why he won’t win the MVP, but he’s a lock for the first annual Ripken Award.
There you have it. The awards have been handed out. I highly doubt we will see much change over the last month of the season. I left out Rookie of the Year because the award has little meaning. To be the best rookie simply means you play better than everyone else on a reduced scale. An award that is presented to someone for less contribution would make no sense if not awarded to rookies. So we’ll leave that one to the voters.