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Advanced predictions on MLB awards

By Louis Berger

Section: Sports

September 16, 2011

As teams approach their magic numbers and the playoff races cool down, the races for Most Valuable Player, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year awards are just heating up. Some awards have clear front-runners while others are filled with superstar hopefuls, all seeking to polish that final resume before the Baseball Writers of America cast their votes. If I were a highly qualified sportswriter, these would be my votes:

AL Cy Young: This category should be the easiest to decide, as Justin Verlander has clearly been the best pitcher in the American League and perhaps in all of baseball. Verlander is first in the AL in wins, strikeouts, innings pitched, win percentage and WHIP (a measurement of a pitcher’s ability to prevent batters from reaching base). He is second in the AL in ERA with a 2.44, and his four complete games put him at third in the AL. C.C. Sabathia and Jered Weaver seemed like Cy Young favorites earlier in the year, but their win and strikeout totals are not at Verlander’s level.

AL MVP: At the moment, many would agree that Curtis Granderson of the Yankees leads the pack of MVP candidates. He leads the league in RBIs and runs scored, and is second in home runs with 39, but Granderson’s .265 batting average could deter voters. Jose Bautista is another favorite to win the award. He leads the AL in homeruns (41), walks, slugging percentage and OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging). His batting average of .305 is much more appealing to voters than Granderson’s but the RBI and runs scored numbers are not as impressive. Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox also has MVP potential. He leads the league in batting average (.339), is second in RBIs, and is fourth in runs scored and OPS. I think Curtis Granderson has the edge over Gonzalez’s numbers and will earn more votes than Bautista because his Jays will not make the playoffs this year.

AL Rookie of the Year: Mark Trumbo of the Angels leads AL rookies with 26 HRs, 28 doubles, 80 RBIs, and a slugging percentage of .476, and he plays for a team that is in the middle of a tight division race. The Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson has a solid 12-10 record, and leads AL rookies with a 2.96 ERA and 170 innings pitched. Ivan Nova of the Yankees has a better record at 15-4, but many would attribute that to the generous run support he receives (Nova has a run support average of 9.5 while Hellickson’s has just 6.29). This category is up in the air, but I have to give the edge to Mark Trumbo because nothing catches voters’ eyes more than home runs and RBIs.

NL Cy Young: To be respectful to last year’s winner, I’ll start with Roy Halladay. He leads the NL in complete games (seven) and ranks third in ERA, win percentage and wins. Clayton Kershaw is another obvious candidate; he leads the NL in strikeouts, innings pitched and ERA. He ranks second in the NL in wins and WHIP, and he has pitched five complete games. Cliff Lee could also garner some votes, as he is second in the NL in strikeouts, innings pitched and complete games, and is third in ERA (tied with Halladay). While some voters might want to hand the award to the entire Phillies pitching staff, I’m going to have to give the Cy Young to the big lefty on the Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw.

NL MVP: We’ll start with Ryan Braun: The Brewer’s slugger leads the NL in slugging percentage, and ranks second in batting average, runs scored and OPS. He is in the top five in RBIs, plays an exceptional left field and plays for a team that will be in the playoffs. Ryan Howard of the Phillies could also make a case for MVP, as he leads the league in RBI (112) and is second in the NL home-run race. Dodgers’ superstar Matt Kemp has put together a fantastic season. He has the third most RBIs and runs scored in the NL, and ranks fourth in batting average and home runs. His 38 stolen bases and .561 slugging percentage are each second in the NL. I’m taking Ryan Braun because of his impressive numbers and playoff-bound team (just don’t trip over yourself rounding third base again).

NL Rookie of the Year: The pool for NL Rookie of the Year is a strong one this year, but I think Craig Kimbrel rises above them all. He leads the NL in saves with 43 and has 116 strikeouts in just 70.2 innings. His teammate Freddie Freeman will also likely receive some votes. He leads NL rookies in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage and RBIs, and is tied for first place in rookie home runs and runs scored. Voters, however, would expect better power numbers from a first baseman. The last rookie worth taking a look at is starting pitcher Vance Worley of the Phillies (big surprise, it’s the Phils again). He is 11-2 with a 2.92 ERA and has 103 strikeouts in 117 innings. I think the star-studded Phillies’ rotation overshadows Worley’s success. I’ll take Craig Kimbrel for this one.

I may have swung and missed on a few or possibly all of these picks, but that’s the best part about baseball—anything can happen.

*Records and stats are valid as of Sept. 12.

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