Second Thoughts: Sizing up the AL Cy Young and MVP races
Where do Kluber and Brantley stack up in the upcoming AL awards voting
With the MLB regular season about to close up shop this weekend, debate and discussion has intensified regarding who should take home the hardware this year as far as the major player awards go. In the American League, the races for the Cy Young and MVP awards have sparked many conversations among fans and analysts on how the voting should go.
Despite the Indians' playoff hopes currently running on fumes, they are fortunate to have a horse in both races in Corey Kluber and Michael Brantley, who each have put together historical seasons by franchise standards. The question now is will they each have a legitimate shot at winning?
AL Cy Young Award
This may be the award that the Indians have the best chance of bringing home this season via Corey Kluber just because the field of candidates is so narrow. In many ways, it's actually just a two man race between Kluber and Felix Hernandez in Seattle. Chris Sale does deserve to be brought up in the conversation, however, because of the type of numbers he's put up, but an earlier DL stint and recent struggles may keep him in the third slot in the voting.
- Felix Hernandez (33 G, 14-6, 2.34 ERA, 230.2 IP, 68/60 R/ER, 170 H, 46 BB, 241 K)
- Corey Kluber (33 G, 17-9, 2.53 ERA, 227.2 IP, 72/64 R/ER, 202 H, 49 BB, 258 K)
- Chris Sale (26 G, 12-4, 2.17 ERA, 174 IP, 48/42 R/ER, 129 H, 39 BB, 208 K)
There's no denying that Chris Sale has had another dominant season and many wonder if he should be penalized for an injury which landed him on the disabled list earlier in the year. He has the lowest ERA and the highest strikeout rate of the three candidates, but some struggles in recent starts plus the White Sox finishing in the cellar of the AL Central, will likely hold him to just honorable mention status this year.
As far as the race between Kluber and Hernandez, there are some writers saying it's so close, it could be decided by their final regular season starts this weekend. Both have started in 33 games and both are fairly close in innings pitched and walks allowed. Kluber, though, has more wins, more strikeouts and a lower FIP while Hernandez has the advantage in ERA, hits allowed and opposing batting average.
What also may work in Hernandez's favor is the fact that he has a much longer track record, including a previous Cy Young award already under his belt, which has given him more national exposure and more clout among peers. Kluber is still in the early stages of establishing a name for himself throughout the league. They know who he is and what he brings to the table now, but he still has nowhere near the pedigree of Hernandez.
But, who knows, maybe pedigree won't carry that much weight this time around. Kluber has definitely made some noise since the All-Star Break and has struck out more batters in that timeframe than some of the league's more prominent pitchers have fanned all season. We'll find out on Friday and Sunday.
AL MVP Award
Over the past two seasons, we've seen primarily a two-man race in the American League between Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout and with it, a never-ending debate of old school vs. new school player analysis. This year, while Cabrera has put up another productive season for the Tigers, he may be the fifth most qualified MVP candidate on the docket this year as several players, including teammate Victor Martinez have ascended in the award discussion.
This season is unique in the AL because not only do we have the old vs. new school in play, we have just about all the schools of thought that often go into deciding these awards. We have guys with the sexiest numbers, guys who are of the utmost value to their team and guys who do just about everything well.
- Mike Trout (154 G, .290 AVG, 114 R, 171 H, 35 HR, 39 2B, 9 3B, 110 RBI, 16/2 SB/CS)
- Victor Martinez (148 G, .337 AVG, 87 R, 183 H, 31 HR, 33 2B, 0 3B, 102 RBI, 3/2 SB/CS)
- Michael Brantley (154 G, .329 AVG, 94 R, 20 HR, 45 2B, 2 3B, 97 RBI, 23/1 SB/CS)
- Nelson Cruz (157 G, .273 AVG, 86 R, 40 HR, 32 2B, 1 3B, 108 RBI, 4/5 SB/CS)
This could actually be considered a "down year" for Mike Trout in several ways as he is not hitting for as high an average and not stealing as many bases, but the Angels star outfielder has once again played an integral part in sparking the Angels offense, which is finally firing on all cylinders after two years of adding big names to the lineup card. With Miguel Cabrera posing a lesser threat of taking the MVP crown this year, some may say this is finally Trout's year, but he still has to deal with guys like Victor Martinez and Nelson Cruz.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who fantasizes about Victor Martinez donning a Tribe uniform again next year, especially after the career year he has had with the Tigers this season. Who would've thought that after trading away Prince Fielder in the offseason, Martinez would not only step up and be able to protect Miggy just as well, if not better, but also put up the best numbers of his career? He passes the sexy-numbers test with his .337 batting average, 32 home runs and 102 RBI. Plus, his placement in the lineup between Cabrera and J.D. Martinez will make any opposing pitcher nervous.
Baltimore, by far, got the steal of the offseason by signing Nelson Cruz to a one-year deal. Between his suspension in relation to the Biogenesis steroid scandal last season and the qualifying offer extended to him by the Rangers, Cruz had a more difficult time than expected finding a team willing to cut him a big paycheck. He finally settled on a much lesser deal with the Orioles, a deal which began paying off dividends almost immediately.
This is an O's team that has lost a lot of offense throughout the season between Matt Wieters and Manny Machado's seasons ending early due to injury and now Chris Davis sitting out at least until the World Series to serve out a drug suspension. Through it all, Cruz has motored on crushing a career-high 40 homers while driving in 108 runs. More sexy stats, but he also fits the bill of being arguably the most valuable player to his respective team.
So where does that leave Michael Brantley, who has certainly put up the numbers to be worthy of being mentioned in the MVP discussion? The oddsmakers at online betting site MyTopSportsbooks.com has Brantley at 20/1 odds to win the MVP title this year. Like Cruz, a strong case could be made for Brantley being the most valuable player to his team, if not moreso given all the inconsistency that has plagued the Tribe offense this season. He is currently third in baseball in batting average and on the verge of becoming only the second player to eclipse 200 hits this season. He has also hit the most doubles of the group, had the lowest strikeout rate and stolen the most bases.
Do I think he can win the MVP? Probably not, but I think he has a good chance of finishing third, or maybe even second in the voting. He'll just have a hard time beating out Trout and Martinez, who while their overall production this season may not be all that much better than Brantley, they have more history and, unfortunately, have had more exposure on a nationwide scale, which will help their case.
Up Next: Rays (76-83) vs. Indians (83-76) @ Progressive Field. First pitch at 7:05 pm ET.
Corey Kluber will make his final push for the Cy Young award on Friday against the Rays. While he has already made the top 10 as far as most strikeouts in franchise history, he can climb even further up the list with just a handful more as he vies for his 18th win. In his last matchup against Tampa Bay back in May, Kluber pitched six and two-thirds innings of two-run ball with nine strikeouts, earning him the win.
Chris Archer comes in having pitched very well in his last three starts going 2-0 with only four runs allowed in 19 and two-thirds innings of work with his last start coming against the White Sox, where he handcuffed them for six and a third innings holding them to just two hits. He did walk four batters against only three strikeouts in that outing, though. He took a loss in his lone start against the Tribe this year where he surrendered four runs over five innings.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.
Sale has pitched 60 fewer innings than the other two. I think that takes him out of the conversation.
Interesting point on Chris Sale, though. He's like the third party candidate who has no chance of winning, but could still get enough votes to affect the vote total of one or both of the two major party candidates.