By ZACH GILLELAND
As September sees its finals days, it means only one thing—the most wonderful time of the year is approaching—postseason baseball.
The year of the homerun has tantalized fans throughout the season, but before the final postseason tickets have been punched, The Flyer takes a look at the 2017 season and predicts which players will take home hardware.
Probably the most wide-open of all awards, the National League Most Valuable Player Award has no clear front-runner, with players such as Marlins’ outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, Reds’ first baseman Joey Votto, Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado and Diamondbacks’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt as viable options.
Sure, fans and the media point to Stanton’s historic home run pace—56 at the time of this writing and tied for a record 18 in the month of August. The outfielder averages an unprecedented 417 feet per homerun, an ode to his sheer power.
But in this day and age of advanced statistics and analytics, it’s just not enough to win the MVP. Stanton’s .279 batting average is the key. The last player to win an MVP with a batting average under .280 was Johnny Bench, who averaged .270 in 1972.
Among MVP hopefuls, only Goldschmidt and Arenado are on teams with a winning record.
PREDICTION: Paul Goldschmidt
The most important player on a surprising Diamondback’s that looks to lock up the top Wild Card spot, Goldschmidt is having one of his finest seasons. The 30-year-old holds a .305 average, hitting 35 home runs, driving in 117 RBIs and stealing 18 bases. His 6.0 wins above replacement (or WAR, which judges a player’s value over a replacement player) is good for fourth in the National League.
Yankees’ outfielder Aaron Judge had been the popular pick throughout the season, but with a declining batting average and record-setting strikeout totals—his 199 strikeouts are tied for most all-time for a rookie—it pulls him out of the MVP race.
Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout, a two-time MVP of his own, was another popular pick. But after missing more than a month of action, it’s not enough to garner the award.
Another option is Indians’ third baseman Jose Ramirez. The extra-base hit machine has hit 27 home runs and an MLB-leading 51 doubles this season.
PREDICTION: Jose Altuve
The Astros’ second baseman has solidified himself as one of the top players in the game, leading the MLB with an 8.0 WAR. Altuve boasts an MLB-leading .345 average to go along with 24 home runs, 80 RBIs and 31 stolen bases.
NL CY YOUNG
An award that has been dominated by two names in recent years, Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Nationals’ Max Scherzer have won a combined five Cy Young Awards in the past six seasons.
And it looks to be down to the two aces again.
Surprisingly enough, neither pitcher leads the NL in WAR. That honor goes to Nationals’ pitcher Gio Gonzalez, who is having his best season in recent years.
But it is difficult to deny that the duo are among the top, if not the top-two pitchers in all of baseball. Both pitchers reached the 2,000 strikeout mark earlier this season and show no signs of slowing down.
PREDICTION: Max Scherzer
The Nats’ ace continues to prove why he’s one of the game’s most elite. The right-hander holds a 15-6 record with a 2.59 ERA and is first in the NL with 253 strikeouts.
AL CY YOUNG
Like the NL Cy Young race, the AL Cy Young race has essentially been a two-man race during the second half of the season.
The sexier pick among the media throughout the season has been Red Sox left-hander Chris Sale. Sale joined elite company, becoming the first Boston pitcher to reach 300 strikeouts since Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez in 1999.
Sale has enjoyed a stellar first season for the Red Sox, holding a 17-7 record with a 2.75 ERA and an even 300 strikeouts.
Even though Sale’s numbers are great, there is someone that has pitched even better.
PREDICTION: Corey Kluber
The Indian’s right-hander is on a tear in the month of September, allowing just three runs in 31 innings pitched. Kluber leads the AL with a 2.35 ERA and is first in the MLB with a 7.6 WAR.
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
For those unfamiliar with the game of baseball, 2017 is the year of the home run. The record for home runs in a season was shattered with over a week to play.
Rookies have showcased their power as well, with nine rookies blasting 20 or more home runs including five in the NL.
PREDICTION: Cody Bellinger
One of the safest picks, Bellinger set the Dodgers’ record for home runs in a season by a rookie, surpassing Mike Piazza’s mark of 35 in 1993. The first baseman sports a .275 average while hitting 39 home runs and 94 RBIs.
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
The easiest pick to make, no player has made his name more this season. Hitting home runs at an incredible rate this season, this player had been in the MVP conversation.
PREDICTION: Aaron Judge
Physically daunting at 6 feet 7 inches and 280 pounds, Judge’s season is one of the best all time for a rookie. With 45 home runs, Judge trails only Mark McGwire for home runs in a season by a rookie.
The strikeouts are a problem, with Judge setting a record for most consecutive games with a strikeout. But his plate discipline is impressive, walking 116 times for an on base percentage of .412.
For the season Judge holds a .277 average, hitting 45 home runs and driving in 101 RBIs.