Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Fantasy MVPs & LVPs

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Award Ballots


Here are my MVP, Cy Young and ROY ballots for 2013:




1. Mike Trout

2. Miguel Cabrera

3. Chris Davis

4. Josh Donaldson

5. Robinson Cano

6. Evan Longoria

7. Jason Kipnis

8. Adrian Beltre

9. Manny Machado

10. Carlos Santana


Five months into the season, one didn't necessarily need to rely on the postseason argument to pick Cabrera over Trout. And then September happened: a banged up Cabrera hit .278/.395/.333 with one homer and seven RBI in 72 at-bats. Trout was pretty much his usual self, hitting .281/.455/.494 with four homers and 15 RBI in 89 at-bats.


Of course, the Tigers didn't need Cabrera in September (though home-field advantage would have been nice). And Trout's team was an also-ran all season long. So, the MVP discussion again comes down to how one wants to define value, a subject that lost my interest years ago. Trout was the better player, so he's the MVP as far as I'm concerned. YMMV.


After those two, I flip-flopped on Davis and Donaldson a couple of times. WAR prefers Donaldson, but Davis led the circuit in WPA, with Cabrera second, Donaldson third and Trout fourth. WPA (Win Probably Added) can be a pretty sketchy stat, but there's no denying that Davis came up big in a number of situations this year. He ended up hitting .318/.392/.694 with runners on and .343/.433/.759 with RISP.


After the big four -- and it will be a crime if Donaldson finishes lower than fourth -- the rest is a jumble. Cano looks like the fifth best player; he never seems to fall any lower than that. It's odd not having any Red Sox in the top 10 after they finished with the league's best record, but their two best players -- Shane Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury -- played in 122 and 134 games, respectively. They would dominate the 11-20 range on the ballot with those two, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia.



AL Cy Young


I still need to work this one out. In my mind, there are seven possibilities for the five spots on the ballot: Bartolo Colon, Yu Darvish, Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Chris Sale, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer. Nicely enough, those happen to be our seven ERA leaders as well. Here's how they rank according to several stats.


ERA: Sanchez, Colon, Iwakuma, Darvish, Scherzer, Hernandez, Sale

Innings: Iwakuma, Sale/Scherzer, Darvish, Hernandez, Colon, Sanchez

rWAR: Iwakuma, Sale, Scherzer, Sanchez, Darvish, Hernandez, Colon

fWAR: Scherzer, Sanchez, Hernandez, Sale, Darvish, Iwakuma, Colon

K/9 IP: Darvish, Scherzer, Sanchez, Hernandez, Sale, Iwakuma, Colon

SOS: Hernandez, Iwakuma, Colon, Darvish/Sale, Scherzer, Sanchez


Strength of schedule is based on the OPS of opponents faced. That penalizes Sale a bit, since a lot of good lefties sat against him.


So, let's try adding up all six categories; seven points for the top spot, down to one point for the bottom.


Colon: 16

Darvish: 24.5

Hernandez: 23

Iwakuma: 29

Sale: 23

Sanchez: 24

Scherzer: 28.5


Is that anything close to a perfect method? Of course not. But I don't think there's any one method that's going to convince me one of these guys was clearly better than the rest.


A month ago, I thought Hernandez had been the league's best pitcher. And he still might have been, but those three missed starts in September weigh heavily here. In the end, his own teammate, Iwakuma, pitched 15 more innings with an ERA about two-fifths of a run better. FIP still argues for Hernandez -- only Sanchez in his 182 innings had a better FIP -- but the fact is that Iwakuma pitched in front of the same defense as Hernandez and allowed five fewer runs while making two additional starts.


Sale was terrific and, unlike Scherzer and Sanchez, he actually had to face the Tigers, going 3-1 with a 1.83 ERA in five starts against them. But then he made only 30 starts altogether, and he gave up more earned runs and unearned runs than anyone else here.


Darvish should probably get bonus points for leading the league in strikeouts by a whopping 37 over Scherzer. But he also issued the most walks and gave up the most homers of the group.


Sanchez had the quality, but not the quantity.


Colon finished second in ERA and tied for the league lead with three shutouts, but he was helped by pitching in Oakland and he got to make five of his 30 starts against the Astros.


It seems like it really is Iwakuma and Scherzer WARring it out for the top spot. Iwakuma had the tougher assignment of the two, getting the more difficult schedule and pitching for a poor team. Scherzer definitely had run support on his side.


But Scherzer does have 55 strikeouts on Iwakuma, and while there was plenty of luck involved in his 21-3 record, there wasn't any in his 2.90 ERA. FIP puts him at 2.74, compared to 3.44 for Iwakuma. If I had to pick either to start a game for my team, I'd take Scherzer and his strikeouts. I'm still not certain he's been the better pitcher, but I haven't found a good reason to rank anyone over him.


1. Max Scherzer

2. Hisashi Iwakuma

3. Yu Darvish

4. Felix Hernandez

5. Chris Sale



AL Rookie of the Year


1. Jose Iglesias

2. Wil Myers

3. Chris Archer

4. Martin Perez

5. David Lough


Iglesias versus Myers comes down to how one rates Iglesias' glove. The defensive numbers at both Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs weren't overly charitable. I view him as an elite defender, and that propels him over Myers in my picks. Obviously, he was a nice surprise offensively as well, finishing up at .303/.349/.386 in 350 at-bats. Myers hit .293/.354/.478 in his 335 at-bats.





1. Andrew McCutchen

2. Paul Goldschmidt

3. Clayton Kershaw

4. Yadier Molina

5. Carlos Gomez

6. Andrelton Simmons

7. Matt Carpenter

8. Shin-Soo Choo

9. Hunter Pence

10. Ian Desmond


The injuries make a real mess of this list. I think Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki and Molina were the NL's three best players when they were on the field this year. Alas, only Molina played enough to be included in the top 10. David Wright and Carlos Gonzalez also would have cracked the list had they put in full seasons.


I picked Molina over Buster Posey last year, and I had him on top again this year until his 15-day DL stint in August. That was enough to drop him behind McCutchen, who ranked first in FanGraphs WAR and was in a dead heat with Gomez atop the Baseball-Reference WAR list. I have fairly limited faith in WAR, but it follows my own reasoning in this case. It's not even as though McCutchen is getting a lot of credit for his defense in either system; he's rated as a bit above average in both, but not as anything special. Which is pretty much how I view him. While McCutchen should and will get the MVP award, it's Gomez who deserves the Gold Glove.


Goldschmidt was the league's best hitter, but not by enough of a margin to make up for McCutchen's defensive value. Kershaw had a wonderful season, posting the lowest ERA of any pitcher since 2000, but the Dodgers were a mere 19-14 in his starts. It puts quite a dent in his MVP argument that the Dodgers were just as good when he wasn't on the mound.


I don't think I've ever put anyone on an MVP ballot strictly for defense before, but Simmons deserves it. He's the Braves' MVP, though Freddie Freeman and Craig Kimbrel will get more support in the actual vote. And if he takes the same sort of step forward offensively that he did this season, he may well be the NL's best player next year.


Choo over Joey Votto further down the ballot may seem an odd choice for a stathead to make -- Votto does have the better numbers -- but Votto was surprisingly crummy on defense both according to my eyes and the stats. Choo may have been, too, but the Reds knew that going in; he's a corner outfielder miscast in center. Choo improved considerably out there after a rocky start and wasn't nearly as much of a liability as expected. I'm not sure what Votto's excuse was.



NL Cy Young


1. Clayton Kershaw

2. Adam Wainwright

3. Cliff Lee

4. Matt Harvey

5. Jose Fernandez


There isn't much explanation needed for first place here; Kershaw led the league in everything except wins. Lee's late charge made it close for second place; B-Ref WAR says he was the clear No. 2, while FanGraphs much prefers Wainwright. Wainwright threw 20 more innings with essentially the same ERA and allowed seven fewer homers. That's good enough for the No. 2 spot in my book.


After the top three, the three best pitchers were clearly Harvey, Fernandez and Zack Greinke, with the caveat that those guys all finished in the 170-180 IP range. None of the 200-inning starters really compare, though Mat Latos was closest.



NL Rookie of the Year


1. Jose Fernandez

2. Yasiel Puig

3. Hyun-Jin Ryu

4. Julio Teheran

5. Shelby Miller


The Marlins' original plan was for Fernandez to throw 150-170 innings. That they let him hit and slightly exceed the high end there just barely gets him the nod over Puig here. He ended up second in the NL with a 2.19 ERA and third with a 0.979 WHIP. Puig never stopped making an impact in his 104 games, but his recklessness on the basepaths and with his big arm did cost the Dodgers and take away some of his value.



Previous Selections




2000: Pedro Martinez

2001: Jason Giambi

2002: Alex Rodriguez

2003: Alex Rodriguez

2004: Vladimir Guerrero

2005: Alex Rodriguez

2006: Derek Jeter

2007: Alex Rodriguez

2008: Dustin Pedroia

2009: Joe Mauer

2010: Josh Hamilton

2011: Justin Verlander

2012: Mike Trout


AL Cy Young


2000: Pedro Martinez

2001: Mark Mulder

2002: Pedro Martinez

2003: Pedro Martinez

2004: Johan Santana

2005: Johan Santana

2006: Johan Santana

2007: CC Sabathia

2008: Roy Halladay

2009: Zack Greinke

2010: Felix Hernandez

2011: Justin Verlander

2012: Justin Verlander


AL Rookie of the Year


2000: Terrence Long

2001: Ichiro Suzuki

2002: Eric Hinske

2003: Angel Berroa

2004: Bobby Crosby

2005: Huston Street

2006: Justin Verlander

2007: Dustin Pedroia

2008: Evan Longoria

2009: Andrew Bailey

2010: Neftali Feliz

2011: Jeremy Hellickson

2012: Mike Trout




2000: Barry Bonds

2001: Barry Bonds

2002: Barry Bonds

2003: Barry Bonds

2004: Barry Bonds

2005: Derrek Lee

2006: Albert Pujols

2007: Jake Peavy

2008: Albert Pujols

2009: Albert Pujols

2010: Joey Votto

2011: Matt Kemp

2012: Yadier Molina


NL Cy Young


2000: Randy Johnson

2001: Randy Johnson

2002: Randy Johnson

2003: Mark Prior

2004: Randy Johnson

2005: Roger Clemens

2006: Brandon Webb

2007: Jake Peavy

2008: Tim Lincecum

2009: Adam Wainwright

2010: Roy Halladay

2011: Roy Halladay

2012: Clayton Kershaw


NL Rookie of the Year


2000: Rick Ankiel

2001: Albert Pujols

2002: Austin Kearns

2003: Brandon Webb

2004: Khalil Greene

2005: Ryan Howard

2006: Hanley Ramirez

2007: Troy Tulowitzki

2008: Geovany Soto

2009: J.A. Happ

2010: Jason Heyward

2011: Craig Kimbrel

2012: Bryce Harper

Matthew Pouliot is the Executive Editor of and has been doing the site's baseball projections for the last 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @matthewpouliot.
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