Matthew Pouliot

Strike Zone

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Fantasy MVPs & LVPs

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Award Ballots
Here are my MVP, Cy Young and ROY ballots for 2017:

AL Rookie of the Year

1. Aaron Judge
2. Matt Chapman
3. Chad Green

There were plenty of solid rookies behind Judge, but no obvious No. 2 and No. 3 here. I imagine that Andrew Benintendi will finish second in the official balloting, by virtue of his 20 homers, 90 RBI and 20 steals, but he was really pretty average as a rookie. Chapman, Mitch Haniger and Matt Olson were more valuable players while in the lineup, with the obvious caveat that Benintendi played a whole lot more than any of them.

I think Green qualifies as a rookie, though I’m still looking for something definitive there. He slipped in under the 50-inning limit, finishing at 45 2/3 innings in 2016. The other qualification is no more than 45 non-September days on the active roster. My count there was 43, but that’s up for interpretation. The Yankees say he’s a rookie, so I’m going with that. If not, then he’d get bumped in favor of fellow Yankees hurler Jordan Montgomery.

AL Cy Young

1. Corey Kluber
2. Chris Sale
3. Luis Severino
4. Justin Verlander
5. Carlos Carrasco

What was shaping up as an excellent race came undone in the end, as Sale turned in just two quality starts in five tries in September. Sale still had the slightly better FIP while pitching 11 more innings than Kluber, but Kluber allowed 17 fewer runs while facing essentially the same quality of opponents as Sale.

There’s not a lot separating the other three pitchers here. Verlander and Carrasco had modest inning advantages over Severino, but Severino faced better competition; among pitchers to throw 190 innings, only Chris Archer had tougher opponents.


As usual, Mike Trout was the AL’s best player. If he had played in 130-135 games this year, I would have picked him here. At 114, though, he was 40 behind the other two contenders for the award. I don’t think his superior play quite makes up for that.

So, it’s Jose Altuve versus Aaron Judge. Judge has the extra 12 points of OPS and 80 points of slugging, but the difference in position and ballparks wipes out a lot of that. Baseball-Reference WAR gives Altuve the edge because it graded him out as a slightly above average defensive second baseman. FanGraphs WAR prefers Judge, since it rates Altuve a bit below average with the glove. I’ve never been a big fan of Altuve’s defense, but I think he’s better now than when he entered the league.

Interestingly, neither had very good “clutch” stats. Judge had an .861 OPS in what B-Ref termed high-leverage situations, which is fine for a mortal, but not good for someone who was at 1.049 overall. He had a .760 OPS in 100 plate appearances in situations deemed “late & close.” Altuve had an .859 OPS in high-leverage situations, compared to a .957 OPS overall. But he was at 1.190 in 70 plate appearances “late & close.” We expect the league as a whole to be worse in these situations, since this is often when top relievers come out to play. That Altuve fared better is a point in his favor. “Clutch” is such a loaded term that I hate using it, but while I don’t believe in clutch hitters, there’s certainly value in past “clutch” performance.

One thing many don’t realize is how pitcher friendly Minute Maid has played lately. Altuve did all of his best work on the road this year, hitting .381/.449/.633 with 15 homers. His road OPS was 247 points higher than his home mark. Judge had an OPS 230 points higher at home than on the road. Judge was still the better hitter, but I don’t think it was by a big enough margin to give him the edge here. I wouldn’t have a problem with it if he ends up with the actual hardware, but I’m going with Altuve as my pick.

1. Jose Altuve
2. Aaron Judge
3. Mike Trout
4. Corey Kluber
5. Francisco Lindor
6. Jose Ramirez
7. Mookie Betts
8. Andrelton Simmons
9. Chris Sale
10. Carlos Correa

NL Rookie of the Year

1. Cody Bellinger
2. Paul DeJong
3. German Marquez

Bellinger has had this sewn up for months, and the other two spots on the ballot were pretty easy to fill, too. I’m not sold on DeJong for the long haul just yet, but he was excellent offensively and solid defensively in 108 games this year. Marquez started 29 games with a 114 OPS+ for the Rockies, allowing him to overtake teammate Kyle Freeland, who faded and was demoted to the bullpen in September.

NL Cy Young

1. Max Scherzer
2. Stephen Strasburg
3. Zack Greinke
4. Clayton Kershaw
5. Jimmy Nelson

Scherzer kept leaving games with injuries and his last month seemed like such a disappointment, but he still runs away with the crown here. It kind of feels like his 2016 was more dominant, but his 2.51 ERA this year was quite a bit better than last year’s 2.96 mark and was a new personal best. He finished at just 201 innings after coming in at 228 in both 2015 and 2016, but since no one in the NL threw more than 208 innings this year and only seven hit the 200-inning mark at all, he doesn’t lose any points there.

It feels weird to have Kershaw fourth, given that he led the NL in both ERA and wins. Kershaw, though, made just the 27 starts, and they simply weren’t as dominant as usual. His FIP ballooned to 3.07 after coming in under 2.00 each of the previous three seasons. That’s because he allowed 23 homers in 175 innings, matching his total surrendered in 382 innings between 2015 and 2016. He’s also the one guy here working in a pitcher friendly ballpark, and he got one of the easiest schedules among contenders. I think Strasburg and Greinke had better seasons.


At least the difficult call for AL MVP was just between two players. FanGraphs has five National Leaguers within a modest margin of error for the NL WAR lead:

Anthony Rendon: 6.9
Giancarlo Stanton: 6.9
Kris Bryant: 6.7
Joey Votto: 6.6
Charlie Blackmon: 6.5

There’s more separation at the top at Baseball-Reference… but not all of the same names:

Giancarlo Stanton: 7.6
Joey Votto: 7.5
Nolan Arenado: 7.2
Tommy Pham: 6.4
Kris Bryant: 6.1

Still unmentioned is Paul Goldschmidt, who might have won the award had the season ended a month early and who still has a good shot at a top-five finish.

My first instinct is that it comes down to Votto and Stanton, and that while Votto’s 80-point OBP advantage is huge, Stanton had just about as much offensive value after accounting for ballparks and his defense gives him at least a slight edge on Votto. Still, I don’t want to dismiss the other contenders.

Rendon? I think he was quite possibly the NL’s best player this year, but his 147 games are fewer than most of the competition and because he spent half of his time hitting sixth, he just couldn’t be quite as valuable as some of the other stars. In part because he hit lower in the lineup, he came to the plate 100 fewer times than Votto and 85 fewer times than Stanton. Rendon had a 1.165 OPS with RISP this year, but he had 166 plate appearances in those situations, compared to 205 for Goldschmidt.

Bryant ended this year with a 143 OPS+, barely off his MVP mark of 146 from last year, but we can’t just wave away the modest RBI total because he was hitting second. He batted .237/.373/.458 with RISP compared to .305/.408/.573 with the bases empty.

Arenado hit .336/.392/.644 at Coors and .283/.355/.531 elsewhere. Blackmon hit .391/.466/.773 at Coors and .276/.337/.437 elsewhere. By OPS+, Arenado was the NL’s 16th-best hitter among batting-title qualifiers. Blackmon was eighth. They were both very valuable players and both belong on the ballot, but I don’t think they’re contenders for the top spot.

Goldschmidt is another guy who benefits from a hitter friendly ballpark; he hit .321/.443/.639 at home and .275/.363/.489 on the road.

Pham, Bryce Harper, Justin Turner, Freddie Freeman and Zack Cozart all performed like MVP contenders, but none played in more than 130 games. I don’t hold it against Pham quite as much as the others, since he did stay in the lineup once the Cardinals gave him a chance.

Then there’s J.D. Martinez, who I expect will show up on more than a few ballots after hitting 29 homers in 62 games for the Diamondbacks. It’s rather like in 2008, when Manny Ramirez finished fourth in the NL MVP balloting after playing in 53 games for the Dodgers. Martinez wasn’t quite as awesome as Ramirez, though, and the Diamondbacks were already in solid playoff position when he was acquired. It’s no fault of Martinez’s that he wasn’t in the NL all year, but I’d rather fill up my ballot with players that were.

1. Giancarlo Stanton
2. Joey Votto
3. Anthony Rendon
4. Nolan Arenado
5. Charlie Blackmon
6. Tommy Pham
7. Max Scherzer
8. Kris Bryant
9. Paul Goldschmidt
10. Buster Posey

Previous selection

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
2013: Mike Trout
2014: Mike Trout
2015: Mike Trout
2016: 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
2013: Max Scherzer
2014: Corey Kluber
2015: Dallas Keuchel
2016: Corey Kluber

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
2013: Jose Iglesias
2014: Jose Abreu
2015: Francisco Lindor
2016: Michael Fulmer

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
2013: Andrew McCutchen
2014: Clayton Kershaw
2015: Bryce Harper
2016: Kris Bryant

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
2013: Clayton Kershaw
2014: Clayton Kershaw
2015: Zack Greinke
2016: Max Scherzer

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
2013: Jose Fernandez
2014: Jacob deGrom
2015: Kris Bryant
2016: Corey Seager

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.
Email :Matthew Pouliot

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