Last Updated on September 29, 2020 by Jason A. Churchill
So, the 2020 MLB season has come to an end. The expanded playoffs are about to start. In a month we’ll learn the results of the official voting, but let’s talk about MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year.
But first, a couple of notes about the way I look these awards.
The MVP, for me, is the best player in the league that year. If, after studying the players’ performances, it’s really close between two or more, his place and value to his team’s winning, or lack thereof, can be a deciding factor, but isn’t part of it until and unless.
Not unlike MVP, the Cy Young is more of a Pitcher of the Year for me, and has nothing to do with value to a winning team unless the race is so close I can use that as a tiebreaker.
It’s not that when these players perform and how much it means in general aren’t part of my process, but looking at team win-loss to quantify it is shallow and close to meaningless.
Rookie of the Year is no different than MVP or Cy Young, but I tend to add a little extra credit if the player is especially young and inexperienced. That, however, isn’t the case in 2020 in either league.
And for the record, I don’t do Manager of the Year. It’s a ridiculous award that shouldn’t be voted on by media. How can a reporter possibly have enough info to vote on such an award? Too many of the things one would need to know are intentionally kept secret, and even if one had all the info it would be impossible to quantify it in comparison to the rest of the league’s skippers and their own secret info.
Anyway, here are my picks for both leagues.
National League MVP: Freddie Freeman, 1B — Atlanta Braves
Freeman is a solid defensive first baseman, but a first baseman nonetheless, meaning to be the MVP he’d have to produce special offensive numbers.
He did just that in 2020.
Freeman finished No. 2 in all of baseball in on-base percentage (.465), slugging percentage (.648), and wRC+ (190), finishing behind Juan Soto in all three categories.
Freeman batted .343, No. 3 in MLB and No. 2 in the NL, again behind Soto, and finished No. 1 in runs scored and No. 3 in RBI — No. 2 in the NL behind teammate Marcell Ozuna.
Freeman, who posted a 225 wRC+ in high-leverage situations, played all 60 games and led all of baseball with a 3.4 fWAR.
So why not Soto?
The phenom played in 13 fewer games, which is 21.6% of the season — than did Freeman and wasn’t as valuable with the glove. Had he played a full slate, Soto might very well be the pick here, despite the Washington Nationals sleeping until noon this season.
American League MVP: Jose Ramirez, 3B — Cleveland Indians
Ramirez won this award in September by batting .354/.440/.823 with 10 home runs and a 229 wRC+. He was helped by the struggles of others, but his underrated all-around game and red-hot final month was overwhelming in the end.
Ramirez batted .287/.380/.597 for the season, posting 10 stolen bases and another great year on the bases, not to mention the above-average defense at third base.
Ramirez’s 158 wRC+ was No. 5 in the AL and he led the circuit with 3.2 fWAR.
National League Cy Young: Jacob deGrom, RHP — New York Mets
Darvish got the nod as the top pitcher in my MVP rankings but deGrom edges the Cubs’ ace and Reds right-hander Trevor Bauer because, well, he had a better year.
The Mets star led the NL in xFIP (2.46) and K/9 (13.76), and was second in FIP (2.26 to Darvish’s 2.23). DeGrom struck out 10 or more in five of 12 starts, and beat Atlanta twice, the Rays once, and Philadelphia twice. All three opponents ranked in the Top 10 in wRC+.
Darvish faced just one of the Top 15 offenses in baseball (White Sox twice). Bauer, who won the Nl ERA title, finished No. 5 in both FIP (2.88) and xFIP (3.26), and while he’d use the total number of playoff teams he faced to boost his candidacy, let’s top off the argument against Bauer with a closer look at how he put up the great numbers.
Bauer faced Detroit twice — No. 24 offense in MLB — Pittsburgh twice (No. 29), Milwaukee (No. 25) three times, and both Kansas City (No. 20) and Chicago-NL (No. 21) once. Bauer faced one team with a top-19 lineup, the 6th-ranked White Sox.
American League Cy Young: Shane Bieber, RHP — Cleveland Indians
Bieber had this wrapped up before September. The ace led all starting pitchers in K/9 (14.2), fWAR (3.2), ERA (1.63), FIP (2.07), xFIP (2.07), K% (41.1), SIERA (2.52), and he did it against the White Sox (No. 6) twice, and the No. 16 Minnesota Twins three times.
He fanned 10 or more eight times in 12 starts and allowed more than two runs in a game just three times.
National League Rookie of the Year: Jake Cronenworth, 2B — San Diego Padres
There’s a lot of beat-reporter chatter about Brewers reliever Devin Williams, but Cronenworth was the best NL rookie in 2020, despite a late fade at the plate.
His .285/.354/.477 triple-slash says a lot, but he was also versatile defensively, playing 47 adequate innings at shortstop as well as 78 very good innings at first base and the bulk of his time as an above-average second base glove.
He hit just four home runs, but tripled three times and logged 15 doubles in 54 games.
American League Rookie of the Year: Kyle Lewis, CF — Seattle Mariners
Lewis struggled in September, but finished the year a .262/.364/.437 with 11 home runs and a rookie-best 1.7 fWAR. He played a more-than-adequate center field and is an above-average baserunner.
Furthermore, Lewis served as an anchor in the Mariners lineup with as little ‘protection’ as any ROY contender in either league.
2020 All-MLB Team
|1B||Freddie Freeman||Atlanta Braves||187 wRC+, 3.3 fWAR|
|2B||DJ LeMahieu||New York Yankees||177 wRC+, 2.7 fWAR|
|3B||Jose Ramirez||Cleveland Indians||163 wRC+, 3.4 fWAR|
|SS||Fernando Tatis Jr.||San Diego Padres||149 wRC+, 3.0 fWAR|
|C||J.T. Realmuto||Philadelphia Phillies||125 WRC+, 1.5 fWAR|
|OF||Mookie Betts||Los Angeles Dodgers||149 wRC+, 2.9 fWAR|
|OF||Mike Trout||Los Angeles Angels||164 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR|
|OF||Juan Soto||Washington Nationals||200 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR|
|DH||Marcell Ozuna||Atlanta Braves||179 wRC+, 2.5 fWAR|
|SP||Shane Bieber||Cleveland Indians||2.04 xFIP, 3.2 fWAR|
|SP||Jacob deGrom||New York Mets||2.46 xFIP, 2.6 fWAR|
|SP||Yu Darvish||Chicago Cubs||2.82 xFIP, 3.0 fWAR|
|SP||Trevor Bauer||Cincinnati Reds||3.26 xFIP, 2.5 fWAR|
|SP||Dinelson Lamet||San Diego Padres||3.30 xFIP, 2.4 fWAR|
|RP||Devin Williams||Milwaukee Brewers||1.09 xFIP, 1.4 fWAR|
|RP||Liam Hendriks||Oakland Athletics||207 xFIP, 1.4 fWAR|