What a year it has been. The 2018 Major League Baseball season has produced some memorable moments and incredible storylines. The Atlanta Braves came out of nowhere to capture the NL East while the Washington Nationals never found traction in the last season before Bryce Harper‘s free agency. The Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros all dominated stretches of the season in the AL, but the Oakland A’s are one of the best stories in all of baseball after clinching a post-season appearance.
There’s still a lot of baseball left to be played before the World Series, but the time has come to announce the Last Word on Baseball picks for the 2018 MLB award winners.
Last Word on Baseball’s 2018 MLB Award Winners
AL MVP – Mookie Betts (6 of 12 votes)
Trying to determine between Betts and teammate J.D. Martinez for MVP may be the toughest decision on the awards ballot. Both have been phenomenal and instrumental to Boston’s success, but Betts is the heart and soul of the lineup. He leads all of baseball in bWAR (10.7), batting average (.343), slugging (.639), and runs scored (125). Betts is also second in OBP at .434.
Betts has been remarkable this season, all while establishing a new standard for leadoff hitters to follow. No longer is it enough to produce a high average and OBP with speed at the top of the order. Betts can truly do it all with 32 home runs and 29 steals, proving that a team can, and quite possibly should, function with its best hitter in the No. 1 spot of the order.
NL MVP – Christian Yelich (7 of 12 votes)
It’s safe to say Yelich is no longer getting overlooked when discussing the best outfielders in baseball. Hitting for the cycle twice in a season seems to have that effect on people. In all seriousness, Yelich has been an imposing force in his first season with the Brewers. He was selected to his first all-star game after a solid first half, but he has turned things up even higher after the break.
Yelich has slashed .359/.425/.743 with 22 home runs and 50 runs scored in the second half of the year. For the season, he has numbers of .321/.390/.583 with 33 home runs, 21 steals, 110 runs scored, 104 RBI, and 6.6 bWAR. As a result, Milwaukee is on track to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2011. The Brewers even have a shot at catching the Chicago Cubs for the NL Central title in the last week of the season. There’s no denying Yelich is a large part of the team and the driving force in the middle of the lineup.
AL Cy Young Award – Chris Sale (6 of 12 votes)
In what turned out to be one of the closest votes on the ballot, our writers went with the veteran Sale in what would be Sale’s first career Cy Young Award. Sale has finished in the top five for the award in five consecutive seasons and faces tough competition once again in Tampa Bay lefty Blake Snell.
In fact, Snell leads Sale in a number of categories. He has a record of 21-5 on the year with a 1.90 ERA, 216 ERA+, and 211 strikeouts in 175.2 innings pitched. Where Sale does shine through is in total strikeouts, WHIP, and FIP. Sale is 12-4 on the year with a 2.00 ERA, an identical 216 ERA+, 229 strikeouts in 153.1 innings pitched. He trumps Snell in WHIP (0.854 to 0.962) and FIP (1.98 to 2.98). Additionally, Sale has done more damage in fewer starts, but that should not necessarily be held against Snell. In the end, this race remains tough to call. Both pitchers are more than deserving, but only one can take home the award.
Others receiving votes: Snell (5), Corey Kluber
NL Cy Young Award – Jacob deGrom (9 of 12 votes)
In an interesting turn of events, a number of the top candidates for the NL Cy Young hail from the NL East. deGrom, Aaron Nola with Philadelphia, and Max Scherzer with Washington all received votes on our ballot, but it is the ace of the New York Mets that dominated the voting. It is hard to argue against the numbers the former Stetson star has put up this season.
deGrom has more strikeouts (259 to 216) and innings (209 to 205.1) than Nola and fewer walks (46 to 51) and a lower ERA (1.77 to 2.53) than Scherzer. The only knock against deGrom comes with his win-loss record of 9-9, but that can be attributed more to the struggles of the Mets than on deGrom’s pitching. There’s no denying deGrom has been one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball this season.
AL Rookie of the Year – Gleyber Torres & Miguel Andujar (5 of 12 votes each)
It is not often you see a tie for a major award, but that’s exactly what happened with New York’s young duo. Torres has appeared in 118 games between SS and 2B while Andujar has appeared in 144 games, serving as the team’s primary 3B for much of the season. When a team is forced to rely on young players, it is always hard to predict the outcome. However, Andujar and Torres have performed exceptionally well for the Yankees this year.
Torres has slashed .276/.345/.484 with 23 home runs, 51 runs scored, and 73 RBI. For Andujar, he has displayed a bit more power with a line of .298/.329/.525 with 26 home runs, 79 runs scored, and 87 RBI. In terms of bWAR, Torres has been worth 2.9 with Andujar at 2.1. There’s no denying guys like Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton will steal the headlines for the Yankees. However, Andujar and Torres have provided some steady contribution for a Yankees team that has clinched a spot in the playoffs.
Others receiving votes: Shohei Ohtani (2)
NL Rookie of the Year – Ronald Acuña Jr. (9 of 12 votes)
Acuña was the heavy favorite for the award heading into the season, but the emergence of Juan Soto turned the ROTY race into a two-horse competition. Acuña struggled with strikeouts over his first 29 games, recording 37 to just 31 hits in that stretch. Then a nasty knee injury sidelined him for a month while Soto stole the spotlight. From May 20-June 30, Soto slashed .322/.433/.576 with seven home runs, nine doubles, 24 runs scored, and 23 walks to 27 strikeouts. He displayed impressive power and patience at the plate, all while playing at just 19-years old.
Both rookies turned heads with eye-popping numbers and performances beyond their years this season. However, Acuña’s run after returning from injury put him back on top for the award. In 76 games since June 29, Acuña is slashing .299/.380/.605 with 21 home runs, 18 doubles, four triples, 58 runs scored, and 45 RBI. He has rejuvenated Atlanta’s lineup from the leadoff spot and even became the youngest player in MLB history to homer in five straight games. For the year, Acuña is worth 4.1 bWAR to Soto’s 2.9 while hitting 26 home runs and stealing 15 bases. By comparison, Soto has 21 home runs but just five steals on the base paths. Only one player can win the award, and Acuña shined just a bit brighter than Soto in a special year.
Others receiving votes: Soto (2), Brian Anderson
AL Manager of the Year – Bob Melvin (8 of 12 votes)
What a year it has been for the Oakland A’s. A team not expected to do much this season, the A’s have somehow won 95 games while competing in the AL West. They pushed the Astros for much of the year but fell short of capturing the division title. Still, no one could have expected Oakland to put forth the kind of season it has in 2018. For that, Melvin gets a lot of credit.
The A’s do have some star power but not the likes seen in Boston, Houston, or New York. Matt Chapman is a bona fide star with an 8.4 bWAR season. Jed Lowrie has had another solid year while Khris Davis hit 40+ home runs once again. However, how Oakland has been successful with its current pitching staff remains a mystery. Only two starters have 20+ starts on the season. Those pitchers are journeyman Trevor Cahill and lefty Sean Manaea. Obviously, the front office will receive a large amount of credit for keeping the team competitive on a budget, but Melvin should receive his fair share for guiding this team into the playoffs. Can he guide them deep into October?
NL Manager of the Year – Brian Snitker (8 of 12 votes)
It’s safe to say the Atlanta Braves are the biggest surprise in MLB and an even bigger one than Oakland. Pre-season projections were not kind to the team with many experts predicting another losing season in the rebuild. “Don’t expect this team to make the playoffs,” said Athlon Sports in February. Gabe Lacques with USA TODAY wrote that “at a time when so few teams are trying to win, the chance that a ‘surprise team’ messes up the calculus is greatly diminished,” with projections pointing towards Atlanta finishing 10 games below .500 at 76-86.
To be fair, no one could have expected a playoff appearance and NL East title for the Braves. The rebuild was still ongoing, and too many young players left a number of unknown variables heading into 2018. Yet Atlanta went out and won its first division title since 2013 in convincing fashion. For Snitker, he is certainly not well-known as a tactically proficient manager. What he is known for is having the support of his players, and that goes a long way in a 162-game season. The team certainly plays hard for Snitker, and he should at least get some credit for moving Acuña to the leadoff spot mid-season. He may not be the best in the league at in-game moves, but Snitker kept his team together and focused through the ups and downs of 2018.
Others receiving votes: Craig Counsell (2), Mike Shildt (2)
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