By: Jack Carter
As the MLB season winds down and the playoffs are quickly getting underway, teams are gearing up either for an intense and highly contested postseason or entering a time of deep reflection, wondering what exactly went wrong. While this period in baseball can look drastically different for each team, there’s one thing teams on either end of the spectrum can get excited about- the award races. Keep in mind that, as the MLB is broken down into the National and American Leagues, so are the awards. Let’s take a look at some of the top candidates for MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year Awards.
This award speaks for itself. The player who provides the most value, day in and day out, to his team. Most players in consideration for this award- while their stat lines are always very good- make contributions that can’t be quantified or shown on some stat sheet. Just their presence is enough to completely change the way their team and their opponent handles the situation.
NL MVP- Fernando Tatis, Jr, Shortstop, San Diego Padres
While this race was incredibly close, Fernando Tatis gets the edge for the win. Quickly becoming one of the league’s most electric young guys, Tatis was able to put up incredible numbers, despite a 10 game slump where he hit .162 with 0 home runs in a very shortened season. He’s just that good. Contributing Gold Glove-caliber defense and tied for the fourth-most home runs in the MLB, it’s hard to not be excited watching Tatis play. While his numbers may be impressive, his biggest impacts are things you simply can’t find on a stat sheet. It’s in the way he energizes the team. The way he can change the flow and momentum of the game with a single swing. The way he fights through adversity and the raw emotion and power he plays with. These are the traits that make a true MVP.
2020 Regular Season Stat Line: “AVG .277 (56th) HR 17 (Tied-4th) RBI 45 (8th) OPS .937 (18th)”
2nd Place- Freddie Freeman, First Baseman, Atlanta Braves
Hot on the heels of Tatis is Freddie Freeman. While not as flashy or energizing as Tatis, Freeman gets the job done without the recognition he deserves. He managed to finish in the top three in batting average, RBIs, and on-base percentage this year. His strong defensive play and considerable power with his bat led his team to the number 2 seeding in a very competitive NL. While he wasn’t able to edge out the play of Tatis this year, if he can continue to play at this level through an entire season next year, this award could very well be Freddie’s come the end of the 2021 season.
2020 Regular Season Stat Line: “AVG .341 (3rd) HR 13 (Tied-24th) RBI 53 (3rd) OPS 1.102 (2nd)”
3rd Place- Mookie Betts, Right Fielder, Los Angeles Dodgers
While he absolutely had a terrific season, Mookie simply didn’t stand out enough to be the MVP this year. MVPs, while really good, are also supposed to be the most valuable to their team, and with the studs on the Dodgers like Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, and Justin Tuner as teammates, Betts failed to separate himself as the best on his own team. He put up his usual numbers, and has been a model of consistency. He just hasn’t done enough to justify the mantle of MVP this season given the vast firepower around him.
2020 Regular Season Stat Line: “AVG .292 (Tied-30th) HR 16 (Tied-7th) RBI 39 (22nd) OPS .927 (20th)”
AL MVP- Mike Trout, Center Fielder, Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout is one of the best players in the MLB. It’s not a question. The man has won Rookie of the Year, 7 Silver Sluggers, and has made 8 All-Star Games. He has been first or second in MVP voting 7 out of his 8 years playing in the majors so far, winning 3 of those awards. One of the only true talents on his team, Trout has been the lone reason the Angels have been remotely competitive year in and year out since his debut in 2012. His insane 73.4 Wins Above Replacement is by far the best in the league through his first 9 seasons, and the clearest indication of exactly how much he means to his team. In short, nobody in the MLB has done more with less around him than Mike Trout, making his MVP case pretty open and shut.
2020 Regular Season Stat Line: “AVG .281 (46th) HR 17 (Tied-4th) RBI 46 (Tied-6th) OPS .993 (6th)”
2nd Place- Tim Anderson, Shortstop, Chicago White Sox
If anyone could give Trout a run for his MVP-money, it’s Tim Anderson. One of the more dynamic and exciting young players in the league, Anderson has already demonstrated in his short career that he knows how to handle the pressure and come up clutch in big situations. He helped lead the White Socks from below-.500 season in a weak division last year to a strong 35-25 record and playoff berth this year. Anderson’s offensive and defensive impact has been key for the White Sox, and one should not be surprised to see his name on a list like this for years to come.
2020 Regular Season Stat Line: “AVG .322 (8th) HR 10 (Tied-53rd) RBI 21 (150+) OPS .886 (31st)”
3rd Place- Luke Voit, First Baseman, New York Yankees
If last year was Luke Voit’s breakout season, this year he made the jump from good to great. Voit managed to achieve an almost-identical stat line to his last season in less than one third as many games. Hitting a league-leading 22 home runs this year, Voit’s power was on full display throughout the very short year. Leading the MLB in home runs is enough to earn MVP consideration on it’s own, but managing 22 in ⅓ of a normal season is worth even more thought as a true candidate.
2020 Regular Season Stat Line: “AVG .277 (55th) HR 22 (1st) RBI 52 (4th) OPS .948 (16th)”
Named after one of the best pitchers of all time, the Cy Young award is essentially the MVP of pitchers- the award for the most impactful and impressive pitcher this year. Due to the shortened season, starters didn’t get nearly as many chances to show off this year, meaning that real contenders couldn’t afford a down stretch- consistency is key to winning in this peculiar season.
NL Cy Young Winner- Yu Darvish, Pitcher, Chicago Cubs
In perhaps the closest of all the award races this year, Yu Darvish is the pick for NL Cy Young award by a fraction of an inch. Darvish was one of the most consistent pitchers in the league this year, and his stats speak for itself. Darvish was a force to be reckoned with this season, and anyone who doesn’t consider him one of baseball’s best needs to watch just one of his starts and see for themselves.
2020 Regular Season Stat Line: “W-L 8-3 (Tied-1st) ERA 2.01 (4th)K 93 (Tied-7th) WHIP 0.96 (33rd)”
Runner Up- Trevor Bauer, Pitcher , Cincinnati Reds
Trevor Bauer has been nothing short of dominant this season for the Cincinnati Reds. Finishing in the top 3 of the league for both ERA and strikeouts in a home stadium as hitter-friendly as Great American Ballpark is no easy feat, but Bauer managed just that. Unfortunately, he also had a three start stretch where he just didn’t look like his usual self, giving up 11 runs in three starts and earning three out of his four losses this year. As mentioned earlier, consistency is key this year, and unfortunately for Trevor Bauer, he simply wasn’t able to maintain his dominance throughout the entire year.
2020 Regular Season Stat Line: “W-L 5-4 (Tied-19th) ERA 1.73 (2nd) K 100 (3rd) WHIP 0.79 (39th)”
AL Cy Young Winner- Shane Bieber, Pitcher, Cleveland Indians
Shane Bieber had an insanely great season. He led the MLB in record, ERA, and strikeouts and only had one loss this entire season. He had 14 Ks without giving up any runs in the season opener against the Royals this year, which is a new MLB record. Bieber was electrifying to watch as he utterly destroyed his opponents this year, and any fan of baseball is on the edge of their seats anticipating what he can do for an encore next year.
2020 Regular Season Stat Line: “W-L 8-1 (Tied-1st) ERA 1.63 (1st) K 122 (1st) WHIP 0.87 (37th)”
Runner Up- Lucas Giolito, Pitcher, Chicago White Sox
Throwing the only no-hitter of the pandemic-ridden season is no easy feat. Lucas Giolito managed just that. While that performance definitely turned some heads, that’s not what got him on this list. Giolito consistently turned in great performances on the mound and helped the White Sox earn a playoff spot. He certainly flashed his potential to be the White Sox ace for a long time.
2020 Regular Season Stat Line “W-L 4-3 (Tied-37th) ERA 3.48 (24th) K 97 (4th) WHIP 1.04 (29th)”
Rookie of the Year
Simply put, this award goes to the first-year player who made the biggest impact for his team, regardless of position.
NL ROY- Alec Bohm, Third Baseman, Philadelphia Phillies
Bohm had a monster rookie year after finally getting called up this year. In his much-anticipated debut season Bohm hit for a top-5 .338 average and had an impressive 54 hits in a very shortened season. In a race much regarded to be between Bohm and Padre Jake Cronenworth, Bohm edges out the competition by providing slightly more production to a team that truly needed spark. While the Phillies were unable to make the postseason, look for Bohm’s clutch hitting to come into play next year if they can get in.
2020 Regular Season Stat Line: “AVG .338 (5th) HR 4 (150+) RBI 23 (Tied-130th) OPS .881 (34th)”
AL ROY- Kyle Lewis, Center Fielder, Seattle Mariners
This award was a race between Lewis and White Sox center fielder Luis Roberts for most of the year, but when Roberts had a slump at the end of September, Lewis was able to clearly pull ahead and secure his place as the AL’s top rookie. Putting together a solid season of quiet but impressive production, Lewis is definitely someone to keep an eye on heading into next year as the Mariners look to continue a long rebuild. Look for him to establish himself as a Mariners franchise cornerstone.
2020 Regular Season Stat Line “AVG .259 (79th) HR 11 (Tied-40th) RBI 28 (Tied-76th) OPS .801 (69th)”
Regardless of who wins or loses these awards, players around the league made games competitive and exciting to watch despite a COVID-ridden season. The 2020 regular season provided a beacon of hope and normalcy to an otherwise abnormal year, and these players in particular gave fans something to get excited about in an otherwise dark time. With plenty of young stars competing at a very high level, next year’s awards are bound to be even closer. Appreciate the great baseball we all witnessed this year, and get excited for the 2021 season!