Now that the Major League Baseball season is over, the focus now turns to the regular season awards. Baseball fans everywhere wait patiently to see who will win these awards, and many already have surefire winners.
However, there are a couple of award races that are quite close. While the winners have yet to be announced, I and fellow CSMN baseball analysts held our own ballot.
The results of our voting were announced on the previous episode of Call to the Bullpen, a baseball podcast hosted by CSMN’s David Payne and Bradley Zsampar. I was lucky enough to be a guest on the episode, share my picks, and provide some reasoning as to why I made those picks. In this blog, I will once again share my selections for baseball’s biggest awards, and my rationale for doing so.
AL MVP: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels
While Vlad Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays had an MVP-worthy season, Ohtani was simply historic in 2021. On the mound, he started 23 games, a 9-2 record, and a 3.18 ERA over 130.1 innings pitched. He also had a terrific 1.090 WHIP, and 156 strikeouts. He was even more dominant in the batter’s box, posting a tremendous .965 OPS, with 46 home runs and 100 RBIs. It is no surprise that Shohei won the CSMN AL MVP voting, and it is almost a given that he will be announced the winner of the award on November 18th.
NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies
The NL MVP was a much tighter race, as the leader would change a few times throughout the season. Early in the season, it looked like Braves star outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. would win his first MVP. However, he would only play in 82 games and would miss the remainder of the season due to injury. At the All-Star break, Jacob deGrom was the clear leader in the MVP race, posting a historic 1.08 ERA, over 15 starts. He too would miss the remainder of the season with an injury.
In the latter part of the season, it was a three-man race, between Fernando Tatis Jr. of the Padres, Bryce Harper of the Phillies, and Juan Soto of the Nationals. Though Harper was not considered to be in the running for the MVP for a large chunk of the season, he was terrific in the second half, and now looks like he will edge out Soto, to win his second MVP. He finished the year with an excellent .309/.429/.615/1.044 slash line, with 35 home runs, and a league-leading 42 doubles.
AL Cy Young Award: Robbie Ray, Toronto Blue Jays
While the AL Cy Young race was pretty tight throughout the year, it ended up being a two-man race between Gerrit Cole of the Yankees, and Blue Jays ace Robbie Ray. Down the stretch, neither Ray nor Cole pulled away. Both had some horrendous starts in key outings in September, but Ray was able to hold his own more than Cole. Ray led the AL with a 2.84 ERA, to go along with a 13-7 record. He also led the AL with 193.1 innings pitched, 248 strikeouts, and a 1.045 WHIP. While you would like the ERA to be lower for a Cy Young leader, he was a horse for Toronto, and his numbers were excellent when considering just how durable he was.
NL Cy Young Award: Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers
Out of all the awards on the ballot, the NL Cy Young was by far the toughest pick I had to make. Honestly, I am still going back and forth as to who I believe should win. With that being said, I ultimately went with Buehler. He was the ace of the Dodgers’ staff the entire season, posting a 2.47 ERA, 212 strikeouts, and a 0.968 WHIP.
I voted for Buehler over the other worthy candidates, mainly because of his durability. He led the league with 33 starts and had 207.2 innings pitched. To reach that 200 innings pitched mark is truly significant in the modern game.
Unfortunately, Buehler was not even announced as a finalist for the NL Cy Young, but the CSMN voting was finalized before that was announced. Regardless, Walker still had a Cy Young-worthy season, and I am sure he will win at least once during his career.
AL Rookie of Year: Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles
Before the season even started, I picked Mountcastle to win the AL Rookie of the Year. Though he struggled mightily at the start of the season, he would eventually get it together and put together an excellent season. He led all rookies with 33 home runs and had 89 RBIs.
Adolis Garcia of the Rangers was looking like the clear leader of the AL Rookie of the Year, but he struggled mightily in the second half and finished with a lowly .286 OBP. As was the case with Walker Buehler, Mountcastle is not even a finalist, which is arguably the biggest snub of all of the awards. He put together a terrific season, and will surely be a key part of Baltimore’s offense for many years to come.
NL Rookie of the Year: Jonathan India, Cincinnati Reds
For a significant part of the season, Miami Marlins lefty Trevor Rogers was the front-runner for this award. However, he had to step away from baseball for the entire month of August, due to family emergencies. Rogers is one of the nicest players in baseball and is always happy to interact and sign autographs for his fans. I wish him all the best, and he is looking like he will be the ace in Miami as they are in the midst of a rebuild.
When Rogers came back, Reds shortstop Jonathan India took the lead for NL Rookie of the Year. He would not give up that spot, as he finished with 143 hits and 21 home runs. His .376 OPS and .835 OPS are terrific, especially for a rookie. India was a key piece for the Reds in 2021, and it looks like the first-rounder will continue to have a blast playing in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park.
AL Manager of the Year: Alex Cora, Boston Red Sox
In the shortened 2020 season, the Boston Red Sox were simply atrocious. They finished last in the AL East, with a 24-36 record under manager Ron Roenicke. Cora led the Red Sox to a World Series Championship in 2018, in just his first year as manager. He was suspended for the entire 2020 season, after an investigation into the infamous 2017 Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal, as he was the bench coach.
After his suspension was over, Boston brought him back to his old role as manager. Cora missed no time coming back from where he left off, leading the Red Sox to a 92-70 record, and an AL Wild Card berth. They would win the Wild Card game, and make it all the way to the ALCS.
Ironically, they would lose to the Houston Astros, but they still had a remarkable season. Going from a last-place finish in 2020 under Roenicke, to an ALCS appearance in the next season shows how good of a manager Cora is, and how deserving he is of the award. However, he missed the cut as a finalist for 2021 AL Manager of the Year, which honestly comes as no surprise to me, given Cora’s past with the Houston Astros scandal.
NL Manager of the Year: Gabe Kapler, San Francisco Giants
While there are other managers that are worthy of this award, none are as deserving as Giants skipper Gabe Kapler. In just his second season in San Francisco, he turned the Giants around from a third place, sub-.500 team in 2020, to the NL West Champions. At the start of the 2021 season, it was expected that it would be a two-team race in that division, between the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. No one would’ve thought the Giants would end up winning 107 games, and end up clinching the NL West.
Though they would eventually lose to the Dodgers in the NLDS in five games, the Giants put together a memorable season. At the young age of 46, Kapler has already established himself as a premier manager in all of baseball.
AL Comeback Player of the Year: Trey Mancini, Baltimore Orioles
After it was announced that Mancini would return to baseball after missing the entire 2020 season with Stage 3 colon cancer, it was clear that he would win this award. Trey is one of the more likable players in baseball, and he handled his diagnosis and fight with cancer with great integrity and optimism.
While the baseball world was excited to see Mancini back in an O’s uniform, not many expected him to have as good of a comeback season as he did. In 147 games, he compiled 142 hits, 21 home runs, and 71 RBIs. The fact that he was able to not only return to baseball but play in 147 games after what happened to him, shows how much he loves the game.
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
After opting out of the 2020 season due to COVID concerns, the expectations for Buster were quite mediocre. The veteran catcher saw his power numbers dwindle in 2018, and his 2019 season was the worst of his career. However, Posey put together a vintage Buster Posey season in 2021, returning to the All-Star Game, and posting a terrific .304/.390/.889 slash. As always, he was a key piece in the Giants’ success, which has been the ongoing theme in his Hall of Fame-worthy career.
Posey announced his retirement last week after 12 seasons, which came as a surprise to many. Though he did not compile the stats of a typical Hall of Fame player, he was the centerpiece of the Giants’ dynasty, which won three World Series Championships in a five-year span, between 2010 and 2014. He won an MVP, the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year, a Gold Glove award, a Batting Title, four Silver Slugger awards, and was a 7-time All-Star. There will certainly be a spot in Cooperstown waiting for him, and I wish him the best in his retirement.