It’s that time of year again. After months spent grinding things out throughout the baseball season, all leading up to the first World Series title for the Cubs in 108 years, award season is finally here.
Although the winners of the major awards won’t be officially announced until next week, the top three vote-getters were unveiled on Monday evening. For the mot part, I agree with the finalists for the Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and MVP awards, but there were a few I was surprised about.
Here are the top three players still in the running for the major MLB awards:
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR FINALISTS
American League: Tyler Naquin, Gary Sanchez and Michael Fulmer
National League: Kenta Maeda, Trea Turner and Corey Seager
CY YOUNG FINALISTS
American League: Corey Kluber, Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander
National League: Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and Max Scherzer
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER FINALISTS
American League: Mike Trout, Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve
National League: Kris Bryant, Daniel Murphy and Corey Seager
I had David Ortiz and Kris Bryant winning the Most Valuable Player award. However, with Ortiz not being a finalist, I am thinking Mookie Betts will likely take home the award.
The winner of each award will begin being announced next week on MLB Network.
Here’s the schedule:
AL & NL Rookie of the Year: November 14th
AL & NL Cy Young: November 16th
AL & NL Most Valuable Player: November 17th
I plan on posting a recap of each winner, along with a look at how well I did with my predictions, in a blog entry after each award is officially announced. So be sure to check back for that at some point next week.
After falling down three games to one heading into game five of the World Series, the Cubs battled back to win the pivotal game and send the series back to Cleveland down 3-2. Despite having struggled at times this postseason, Chicago looked really good in their final game at Wrigley Field on Sunday night, and would be looking to keep their hot-hitting going into Tuesday.
The starter for the Indians, Josh Tomlin, had been great in his last outing, and he began the night without any struggle, retiring the first two batters without trouble.
However, Kris Bryant ended up taking an 0-2 curveball and promptly depositing it deep into the left field stands. Quickly following was a pair of singles by Anthony Rizzo and Ben Zobrist, setting runners up at first and third with still two outs.
Addison Russell then lifted a simple fly ball to the outfield, which looked to be an easy third out to the inning. But due to miscommunication by Tyler Naquin and Lonnie Chisenhall, the ball dropped in, giving the Cubs another pair of runs, making the score 3-0 Cubs in the first inning.
Jake Arrieta was tabbed with the start for Chicago, but he was far more successful in his first inning than Tomlin had been, getting through the inning without a single hit. With a three-run cushion, and citing the way Arrieta had pitched his last time out, you got the feeling that the Indians had their work cut out for them.
Their struggles would continue in the third inning, when a Kyle Schwarber leadoff walk and a series of hits would result in the bases loaded with just one out, leading to the departure of Josh Tomlin after just 2.1 inning pitched. But things would simply go downhill from there, as Dan Otero, who came on in relief, allowed a grand slam to Addison Russell — just the 19th World Series grand slam in history, and first since Paul Konerko in 2005 –that pushed the score up to 7-0. (In addition, Russell’s slam put him at six RBI’s on the night, tying the all-time record.)
The Indians would finally get to Arrieta in the fourth, when Jason Kipnis led off the inning with a double, later scoring on an RBI-single from Mike Napoli. But despite recording the second out of the inning, Arrieta would struggle for a bit, allowing the bases to become loaded for Tyler Naquin. However, Naquin couldn’t come through, leaving the Indians still trailing by half a dozen runs.
But their quest for a comeback continued in the next inning, with Jason Kipnis launching an opposite-field solo home run to make the score 7-2. Although still trailing by five runs, the Indians appeared to be heating up just a bit in the middle innings, chasing Arrieta from the game just one out shy of six inning pitched in which he struck out nine.
Following a scoreless sixth and seventh by both squads, the eighth inning saw Aroldis Chapman on in relief, who had come in and successfully gotten the final out in the seventh. His appearance in a 7-2 game was greatly questioned around the baseball world, as overuse or an injury on Tuesday night would limit his participation in the all-important game seven. But nonetheless, he did his job and was as dominant as ever.
A two-run homer from Anthony Rizzo in the top of the ninth would give the Cubs an even bigger lead heading into the bottom half, ultimately securing them the win to force things to a seventh game, despite the Indians scoring a run in the ninth and making it a final score of 9-3.
Having picked up the win, the Cubs became the first team to force a game seven after trailing 3-1 since the Royals in 1985.
With Chicago’s 3-4-5-6 hitters going a combined 8-9 to begin the game, the Cubs certainly saw their bats heat up in a big way in game six. Only time would reveal if the Cubs would share in the same fate as the ’85 Royals, who went on to win the World Series, but if their bats continued to stay hot, their chances seemed fairly good.
The decisive game seven of the 2016 World Series between the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians saw Kyle Hendricks going up against Corey Kluber, who had both had their share of ups and downs throughout the season. However, with this guaranteed to be the final game of the 2016 baseball season, you knew going into it that they were each going to give it all they had, with neither side wanting to give an inch.
But even with that being the case, Kluber didn’t get off to the start he had been hoping for. The very first batter of the game, Dexter Fowler, cranked a home run over the center field wall, making history as the first leadoff homerun in a game seven of the World Series ever. Following that round-tripper, Kluber would settle down to not allow any more damage in the inning, but the tone was already set.
Taking the mound in the bottom half was Hendricks, who navigated through the inning without any runs being scored upon him. That would change, however, in the third inning, when after a Coco Crisp leadoff double, the Indians tied the game on an RBI-single from Carlos Santana, following a sacrifice bunt that had advanced Crisp to third.
The Cubs would score again in the fourth on a shallow sacrifice fly from who else but Addison Russell, allowing Kris Bryant to score on a terrific slide under the glove of catcher Roberto Perez. Willson Contreras would then double off the top of the outfield wall, giving the Cubs another run and a 3-1 lead over the Indians.
A lot of people made the assumption that with Kluber having started two games of the World Series already, it had a huge impact on him and his effectiveness in this game. That theory received more evidence in the fifth inning when Javier Baez hit a solo-homer to lead off the inning and increase the Cubs’ score yet again, causing the departure of Kluber for reliever Andrew Miller. But not even Miller could keep the Cubs quiet, as Chicago once again scored a run on an Anthony Rizzo RBI-double and appeared to be putting the game away.
But the Indians wouldn’t go away quietly. Jon Lester would come on in relief in the fifth inning for the first time in his postseason career since 2007, but quickly give up two runs on a wild pitch. With the score back to just a two-run lead, this was anyone’s game yet again.
The sixth inning saw the Cubs adding on another run, with a David Ross homer giving them a 6-3 lead. That homer made Ross the oldest player ever to hit a home run in game seven of the Fall Classic, dating back to its inaugural season in 1903.
After Ross’s home run made it 6-3, Aroldis Chapman would come on in the eighth, but would allow an RBI-double to Brandon Guyer, putting the Indians back just two runs. The lead then completely dissolved, as a Rajai Davis home run tied the game at six apiece. Game seven was certainly living up to the hype.
The ninth inning would quickly get interesting, as a stolen base attempt by Jason Heyward resulted in him winding up at third with just one out following an errant throw down to second. But a questionable decision to bunt by Javier Baez with two strikes that was unsuccessful, and a terrific play by Francisco Lindor, kept the Cubs from doing anything in the inning.
The skies would then open up after regulation play, leading to a rain delay that would last around twenty minutes before the game resumed. Upon the restart, the Cubs wasted no time in retaking the lead, with Ben Zobrist notching an RBI-double, putting runners at second and third with just one out. The next batter would be intentionally walked to get to Miguel Montero, who would come through, allowing another run to score and make the Cubs lead two runs heading into the bottom half.
Carl Edwards Jr. was given the task of closing out the game, but he couldn’t complete the task. Despite getting the first two outs, Edwards would allow an RBI-single to Rajai Davis, making it just a one run game. Mike Montgomery would subsequently come into the game, looking to do what Edwards couldn’t. Montgomery would get the final out, winning the Cubs its first championship in over a century.
The World Series Most Valuable Player award went to Ben Zobrist, who came up big with what would be the game winning hit in the tenth inning. Though this team had their highs and lows, Zobrist was tremendous throughout the World Series, and truly deserved to take home the MVP honors.
This win by the Chicago Cubs means the world to countless people around the baseball world. For Cubs fans who have been hopeful for a century that each season was finally the one, only to have disappointment arise time and time again, they finally have their title. For a fan of any team around baseball, though, this is still a very special and historic moment.
Although the Cleveland Indians now take over as the MLB team with the longest World Series Championship drought, their time will inevitably come, as it finally did for the Cubs. Whether that comes next season or in another 40 years like the Cubs, the only thing that mattered to baseball fans on Wednesday night was this: The Chicago Cubs are officially your World Series Champions of 2016.
Next stop, 2017 . . .
After witnessing the Indians dominating game one of the World Series and the Cubs coming back to take control of game two, you knew game three was bound to be exciting.
With the series tied at a game apiece, each team would come out wanting to take control of the series and give them the advantage of heading into game four of the first World Series games to be played at Wrigley Field since 1945.
That was certainly the case from the first pitch on Friday night, as the two starters — Josh Tomlin for the Indians and Kyle Hendricks for the Cubs — were absolutely terrific the first time through the opposing team’s order, despite neither being power-pitchers and the disadvantage of having the wind blowing out.
While games one and two failed to live up to the billing of a pitcher’s dual, game three turned out to be the game everyone had been waiting for, as neither starting pitcher allowed a single run over the first four innings and essentially were breezing through every batter they faced.
The first struggles of the game for Hendricks came in the fifth inning, when the bases became loaded with just one out. Due to the situation, Hendricks was removed from the game, and was replaced by Justin Grimm, who promptly got Francisco Lindor to ground into a double play; despite having gone 5-9 previously in the postseason, and being the first player age 22 or younger to start a World Series 5-9 since Mickey Mantle.
Tomlin was replaced in the sixth inning by Andrew Miller, who once again was untouchable, doing his part in keeping the game scoreless through the seventh inning, and punching the new record for scoreless innings by a reliever in the postseason, with 15 straight. It was also in that inning when the Indians would finally put something together.
A pinch-hit single from Coco Crisp, who had previously gone 3-18 in the playoffs, scored pinch-runner Michael Martinez from third, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead in the late innings. With the way this game was going, you quickly got the feeling that it was going to be difficult for the Cubs to rally back.
Although Bill Murray attempted to get the Cubs motivated before their at-bats in the seventh with his Daffy-Duck-edition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, it wouldn’t do much good in the end, despite getting the crowd in a lightened mood late in the ballgame.
The Cubs would set themselves up nicely in that very inning, as well as several more times in the game — including the ninth inning, where they had runner on second and third with two outs — but they weren’t able to come through and ended up losing the close game and falling behind the Indians two games to one in the series.
With the win, the Indians marked their fifth shutout pitching performance of their postseason thus far (a new MLB record), and also secured just the 25th time in the 649-game history of the World Series that a game ended with a final score of 1-0. In addition, the last time the Cubs were shutout in the World Series 1-0 came way back in 1918, seeing Babe Ruth throw a shutout against Chicago, leaving little doubt that this series is something historic.
Although the game was thrilling for baseball fans, it was obviously a disappointing loss for the Cubs and their fan base, as it guaranteed they could no longer win the series at Wrigley Field in front of their home crowd. Furthermore, falling one game further away from finally breaking their 108-year World Series championship drought, the Cubs would have to come back the next night and even up the score if they wanted to avoid sitting just one loss away from elimination altogether. You began to get the feeling that game four was going to be another absolute battle.
Game four began just that way, with John Lackey going up against Corey Kluber, who had been terrific in game one. But this time around, it was Lackey who began strong, with Kluber giving up a run in the first, after allowing a drop-in double to Dexter Fowler, and a single up the middle from Anthony Rizzo, making the score 1-0 Cubs.
But before the Cubs fans were able to settle back into their seats, Lackey gave up a run of his own via a solo home run to Carlos Santana in the second, marking the first home run by a first baseman in the World Series at Wrigley Field since Lou Gehrig in 1932. Then, following an error by Bryant which allowed Lonnie Chisenhall to reach first — he was moved to second by Perez with two outs — the next batter, Tyler Naquin, was walked to get to the pitcher.
But Kluber proceeded to hit a weak tapper that was thrown wildly by Bryant for his second error of the game, allowing Chisenhall to score and give the Indians a one-run lead. Once again, the next inning, after a leadoff double by Kipnis, the Indians would score when Lindor singled him home, giving the Indians a 3-1 lead.
Neither team would score again for the next two innings, but the Indians were back at it again in the sixth. Mike Montgomery, the reliever for Lackey, gave up a leadoff walk to Lindor, a single to Santana, and a ground out that made it first and third with one out. The next batter Chisenhall then blasted a ball deep enough into the outfield to allow Lindor to score and make it 4-1.
The Cubs would attempt to answer back in the bottom half when a leadoff double from Rizzo got the crowd amped up, but yet again the Cubs couldn’t make it count, failing to get another hit in the inning.
The Indians, however, couldn’t stop hitting all night long. Leading off the seventh with a double was Coco Crisp, who advanced to third on a wild pitch with no outs. Rajai Davis was then drilled with the next pitch, and Jason Kipnis ended up launching a three-run bomb to push the lead to six runs.
With that hit, the fans went absolutely silent, especially with Andrew Miller entering the game. But Miller proved that he was in fact human, giving up a homer to Fowler in the eighth inning. Still, the Cubs weren’t able to get anywhere close to threatening the Indians 7-2 lead, as Cleveland was victorious for the second straight night and moved just one win away from winning it all.
Down 3-1 in the series, Sunday night’s game was a win or go home game for the Cubs. If they had any shot at extending their season, they would quite simply have to start getting big hits in game five or they wouldn’t stand a chance against the Indians. Though the odds were against them, the majority of the baseball world was with them, hoping they could find a way to keep the season going just a little while longer.
Jon Lester certainly gave the Cubs’ fans plenty to cheer about in the very first inning, looking sharp and striking out the side to begin the game — the first National League pitcher to do so since John Smoltz in 1996. Equally sharp, however, was Trevor Bauer, who kept the Cubs off the board as well to begin the ballgame.
The second inning was deja vu for the Cubs, as it saw the Indians once again taking an early lead off of a Jose Ramirez solo shot — the youngest player to hit a World Series homer at Wrigley Field since Joe DiMaggio in 1938. Citing the fact that the Indians had won their last fifteen games in which they had hit a home run, going back to the regular season, the odds were slowly falling away from a Cubs victory.
But then the fourth inning happened. Despite Bauer being terrific through the first three innings, his second time through the order proved troublesome. The Cubs bats absolutely came alive, as following a Kris Bryant leadoff home run, Anthony Rizzo proceeded to double off the outfield wall and later scored after a couple of well-placed singles. The bases would quickly become loaded after an out was recorded, and the veteran David Ross would deliver a sacrifice fly, scoring the Cubs’ third run of the inning, making it 3-1.
Despite Wrigley Field hopping following the breakout inning, the Indians would cool things down a bit, leading off the fifth inning with a double from Carlos Santana, who was moved to third with just one out. But a terrific job of pitching by Lester kept the Indians from scoring a single run.
That would only last through the sixth inning, however, when a two-out drop-in single by Francisco Lindor scored the second run of the contest for the Indians. After finishing out that inning, Lester’s night was done. His replacement, Carl Edwards Jr., was shaky to begin, giving up a single to Mike Napoli and allowing him to advance to second with no outs on a passed ball. But Chapman was brought on, who kept things from getting out of hand.
Chapman would stay in for the eighth inning, and although he would allow a runner to make it all the way to third with two outs, a 102 mile-per-hour heater got the strikeout he needed to escape the inning untouched. After little getting through the eighth, Chapman was entrusted with the ninth inning as well, getting the job done in quick fashion, and securing the victory for Chicago with a lengthy eight-out save performance.
With the win, the Cubs move to 3-2 in the series. Although still at a disadvantage heading back into enemy territory down a game, you know the Cubs are at the very least going to be very competitive and not go down without a fight. History is still in the process of being made. After 108 years of disappointment, the Cubs are by no means done in their attempt at achieving baseball glory.
One of the things that makes the World Series great each and every year is a quality matchup between two great teams in which it’s a true toss-up as to which team will come out on top. This season has that playing out once again.
Although the Cubs are a better team on paper, the Indians have repeatedly proven people wrong all season long, making it truly impossible to predict the winner when all is said and done.
But there’s an added element to the 2016 Fall Classic that makes this one far more exciting and interesting, and it’s the fact that the Cubs and Indians — the two teams in the World Series — haven’t won a World Title in a combined 176 years (the last titles coming in 1948 for the Indians and 1908 for the Cubs). To say the fans of these squads have been waiting for the feeling of having won it all for quite some time would be a vast understatement.
The first game in a race to four wins and an end to a generational drought for both teams began on Tuesday night in Cleveland, with Corey Kluber and his 0.98 postseason ERA going up against Jon Lester and his October mark of an 0.86 ERA. For many, a pitchers dual was all but guaranteed to happen, but it quickly became evident that things wouldn’t turn out that way.
Kluber began the game strong, striking out two of the first three batters he retired and looked like the Kluber of old who has become known as one of the game’s best pitchers, despite some rust at times this season. However, on the other side, Lester was a bit shaky out of the gate, allowing a hit to Francisco Lindor (his first of what would be three on the night) as well as a subsequent stolen base in the very first inning — a steal which earned everyone in America a free taco from Taco Bell on November 2nd.
Lester proceeded to walk the next two batters and load the bases for Jose Ramirez, who would hit a weak tapper that was unable to be fielded, allowing the first run of the series to score. Soon after, Lester hurt his cause even further, hitting Brandon Guyer to force in a run and make the score 2-0.
Although Lester was able to work out of further trouble, thanks to David Ross making a great play behind home plate, the Cubs didn’t do anything to capitalize on it. To make matters worse for the Cubs, Kluber was absolutely on top of his game, striking out eight batters through the first three innings, setting the all-time record in the 1,503-game history of the postseason for the most batters struck out by a pitcher in the first three innings.
The Indians would rally once again in the next inning, as Roberto Perez launched a line-drive homer to give the Indians a 3-0 lead. Having previously won 60 straight games when leading by three or more runs, things were getting late early for the Cubs.
One of the first bright spots for the Cubs came in the seventh inning, when Corey Kluber was removed from the game after allowing a hit to the first batter of the inning. Normally his replacement Andrew Miller would strike fear into the hearts of the opposing team, but things didn’t begin that way upon his arrival. The bases quickly became loaded against Miller with no outs, giving the Cubs their best scoring opportunity of the night. But once again they failed to record a run-scoring hit, letting Miller off the hook without a single runner crossing the plate.
The Cubs would continue to give things a valiant effort into the late-innings, but in going 1-11 with runners in scoring position, they simply couldn’t get the job done. The death-blow came in the eighth inning, when Roberto Perez blasted his second home run, giving the Indians a 6-0 lead, and making Perez just the third player in Indians postseason history to hit multiple homers in a single game, joining him with Jim Thome and Manny Ramirez.
That 6-0 lead would turn out to be the final score, and marked the first game one shutout in a World Series since the A’s failed to tally a run in the 1990 series.
With such a commanding win by the Indians, you began to wonder whether or not the Cubs simply weren’t able to do much of anything against a masterful pitching performance or if their bats were once again falling cold, as they had earlier in the postseason. After all, this is the time of year when every single out counts, and low production absolutely can’t be afforded.
Citing that the team to win game one has won 12 of the last 13 World Series, the Cubs needed to make a statement in game two to get the momentum back on their side, and you had to figure they would come out trying to make something happen very early the next night.
Heading into game two, which had its start time moved up an hour due to the threat of rain, Trevor Bauer was set to face off against Jake Arrieta, both of whom had been back and forth all season long in terms of their quality of pitching. You didn’t really know what you were going to get out of them on Wednesday night, but you got the feeling each would be on top of their game.
As it would turn out, however, it wasn’t Bauer’s night at all, as the Cubs got off to the aforementioned hot start they needed, scoring a run via an Anthony Rizzo RBI-double in the first inning.
The Cubs would score again in the third off a couple of singles that advanced Rizzo all the way home, giving the Cubs an early 2-0 lead. Due to the runs allowed, Bauer wouldn’t last even four innings, getting pulled in the third for a reliever — vastly different than Kluber’s outing some 24 hours prior.
However, the switch didn’t cool down the bats of the Cubs by any means. If anything, it energized them even further, as they proceeded to score three more runs in the fifth inning, off of a Ben Zobrist RBI-triple (helped in large part to Lonnie Chisenhall falling down while in pursuit of the ball), yet another RBI from Kyle Schwarber and a bases-loaded-walk of Addison Russell that forced in a run.
Up 5-0 with still half the game to play, things were virtually flipped from the game before in terms of the team who had control of the game.
Equally swapped was the teams’ pitching dominance, as following the Indians’ Corey Kluber dominating in game one, the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta was even better, failing to allow a hit through 5.1 innings pitched, setting the longest such streak in World Series play since back in 1969.
The double that broke up the no-hitter was notched by Jason Kipnis who proceeded to advance down to third before a wild pitch by Arrieta allowed him to jog home for Cleveland’s first run of the game.
Mike Montgomery would come on in relief to settle things down, and he was absolutely terrific, giving the Cubs two strong innings, before being replaced by the flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman. As per usual, Chapman slammed the door on the Indians, hitting 104 on the gun and evening up the series at a game apiece.
The World Series now heads to Wrigley Field where the next three games will be played. Although a three-game sweep would win either of the teams the World Series, such an occurrence isn’t all that likely. Given, this is the postseason, and anything can and usually does happen. But from the back and forth dominance we’ve seen to this point, this series has all the makings of a six or seven game affair.
You would think that after years of unsuccessful predictions I would get the message that I’m absolutely no good at foreseeing baseball future. But despite the countless hours spent trying to analyze a team’s roster and correctly select which would win any given series only to pick the wrong team — I’ve only made a handful of correct predictions to date — I’m going to give it a go once again.
Originally, I had the World Series being the Red Sox taking on the Cubs in my postseason predictions. With the Red Sox getting beaten out by the Indians in the first round of the playoffs, that prediction obviously didn’t come true, but getting the Cubs correct wasn’t half bad, considering they hadn’t been to the World Series since 1945. I now have a fifty/fifty shot at correctly getting the World Series right, but I’ll probably find a way to mess that up, too.
Game one takes place Tuesday night, with Jon Lester set to face off against Corey Kluber. It has all the makings of a great pitchers dual, but you never know what to expect with playoff baseball. In the end, I have the Cubs taking game one by the slightest of margins. Game two in Cleveland is another tossup, but I feel the Indians will have the crowd behind them and will be able to get to Jake Arrieta, who has been a bit shaky as of late.
Heading into Chicago for game three, I have the series tied at a game each. I think Kyle Hendricks will pick up right where he left off, earning the Cubs their second win of the series. Not wanting to see things slip away, I feel the Indians will even things up again in game four, with the final game of 2016 at Wrigley Field having the Cubs sent off with a victory. That would force them back to Cleveland up 3-2 on the Indians.
Following that, I don’t think the Cubs will waste any time in Cleveland, winning game six of the series, and earning their first World Series title since way back in 1908.
No matter what happens, this is set to be a remarkable series. With both teams facing generational droughts, either one would be bringing joy to their respective fan bases who haven’t seen a World Series Championship in decades. But despite the fact that the team with home-field advantage has won the last 24 out of 30 titles, I think the team celebrating when all is said and done will indeed be the Chicago Cubs.
Any doubt the baseball world had about the Cubs throughout the entirety of the NLDS against the Giants and the first three games of the NLCS against the Dodgers is slowly beginning to fade away. Despite their offense all but shutting down over the course of the playoffs to this point, the Cubs have been able to post 18 combined runs over their last two games, once again making them the heavy favorites in this postseason.
Sitting now just one win away from their first World Series appearance since 1945, the Cubs are on the verge of a season not seen in over seven decades. With the team to win game five of the NLCS going on to the World Series nine out of the last ten seasons, it’s all but assured — baring another Steve Bartman incident — that the Cubs will be celebrating big time come either Saturday or Sunday night.
But in order to make the World Series and have any amount of success in it, the Cubs will obviously need to continue hitting. Their pitching has been only decent to this point — other than Jon Lester, who has been phenomenal — and their offense has been far worse. Javier Baez has been tremendous to this point, as has Kris Bryant, but their other stars during the season of Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell are all hitting well under .200 thus far.
However, despite their struggles, I am with the majority of baseball fans who still believe in the Cubs and their ability to get the job done. Perhaps the past two games of the NLCS have given them enough confidence to keep the hit-parade going in the next dozen days or so. Although they must face Clayton Kershaw on Saturday, having to win just one of the final two games at home, the Cubs should make the World Series when all is said and done, even if it takes a full seven games.
How far beyond that they go is yet to be seen, but the Cubs have come much too far to stop now. Even if their pitching and offense aren’t on the levels they were over the length of the 162-game season, they still stand a good chance of giving the overachieving Indians a run for their money.
We very well could be just days away from it being 1908 all over again.
Over the past week, or so, I’ve been typing up individual posts on who I feel most deserves the awards of American League and National League Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. I decided to post them in pairs, with Rookie of the Year coming back-to-back (A.L. then N.L.), followed by the same for Cy Young and MVP.
Some of the choices were easy, while others took a great deal of debate. But in the end, I went with my gut of who I feel deserves each award the most.
In case you missed a few (or all) of my Major League Baseball award posts, I wanted to do a brief recap of each of my picks. Although there are a couple of selections that people will likely disagree with, this is just the way I would vote if my vote had any say.
Here are my picks that I made for each category:
American League Rookie of the Year: Gary Sanchez
National League Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager
American League Cy Young: Justin Verlander
National League Cy Young: Max Scherzer
American League MVP: David Ortiz
National League MVP: Kris Bryant
Feel free to click the links associated with each award to be taken to my post on it, giving the full reasoning behind my picks. I’m planning to post a blog entry covering the winners of each award when they’re announced towards the middle of next month, comparing my original picks to the winners and giving my overall thoughts, so be sure to check back for that when the time arrives.
As I stated in my American League post, choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can usually look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.
With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rizzo were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the National League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.
Joey Votto had a somewhat under-the-radar superstar season, after getting off to a horribly slow start. When all was said and done this season, Votto wound up hitting .326 with 29 home runs and a .440 OBP. Playing for a sparsely talented Reds club, it’s easy for Votto to get overlooked, but he was in fact very valuable.
Equally as valuable was Daniel Murphy. This season for the Nationals, Murphy hit a staggering .347, virtually getting a hit every night. Also hitting a career high 25 homers to go along with 104 RBI’s, the year Murphy had is certainly one to remember, but not one to award with the MVP.
One of the brightest stars in baseball at the moment, Anthony Rizzo, also placed in the running for MVP in the National League. With his 32 homers and .385 OBP, Rizzo helped propel the Cubs to the postseason for the second straight season. But regardless, the numbers simply aren’t there for him to win the award.
Once again, I made the very difficult decision of placing Nolan Arenado as runner up in the voting for MVP. Despite him having hit 41 homers with a mammoth 133 RBI’s on the season, I find it hard to give him my vote. Even so, there should be nothing taken away from the season he had. Arenado is in a class all his own.
With the second-place finish of Nolan Arenado, that leaves Kris Bryant on top for the Most Valuable Player in all of the National League. Although he recorded 31 fewer runs batted in than Arenado on the year, his performance day in and day out, including two five-for-five performances, helped cement the Cubs with the best record in all of baseball, subsequently giving Bryant the edge in the MVP voting.
Choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can usually look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.
With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, David Ortiz and Mark Trumbo, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the American League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.
The first player I’m forced to knock from this group is Mark Trumbo, who lead all of baseball in home runs this season but won’t lead them all in MVP voting. Despite smacking 47 big flies for the O’s and driving in 108 runs, helping to keep the Orioles in contention, Trumbo didn’t quite do enough to earn the honor.
Next off the list for me is Jose Altuve. For such a small player, Altuve has huge impacts each and every season, and this year saw more of the same. Playing in all but one game this season, Altuve hit a career high 24 homers and came up just shy of 100 RBI’s, all while batting .338. Even so, he didn’t do enough to make him the most valuable.
Also not the most valuable in my mind is Mookie Betts, but it’s not because the stats weren’t there. Betts hit .318 for the Red Sox and slugged 31 homers in addition to scoring 122 runs. If not for a couple of other players who had superstar-level seasons, Betts would be the easy pick for MVP. But he’s not this season.
Finishing second in MVP voting for the fourth time in his five year career is Mike Trout, as I’m seeing things now. He had the highest WAR — if that’s a stat you like — yet again of any player around baseball, coming from his great defense and .315/.441/.550 slash line. He was the most valuable Angels player by far, but not quite the most valuable American Leaguer.
That distinction goes to Boston’s David Ortiz. In this his final season in Major League Baseball, Ortiz posted stats never before seen by any player age forty or older. Hitting .315 while slugging a superb .660, Ortiz was able to record a 38 home run and 127 RBI season, pushing the Red Sox to another division title. With this being David Ortiz’s final campaign, it would be fitting to see him go out in style with the Most Valuable Player award.
As I stated in my American League Cy Young post, each season there are usually several pitchers from each league who have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year was no different. Max Scherzer, Jose Fernandez, Tanner Roark, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, Noah Syndergaard, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks all had years worthy of recognition, but in the end only one can with the National League Cy Young award.
Admittedly, there are a few others with unbelievable stats from 2016 in the National League not included on my list, but I decided to begin the discussion with Tanner Roark, who is one of the eight pitchers in the NL with an ERA below 3.00. Roark’s 2.83 ERA over the course of this season is quite remarkable, but with so much competition, it quickly leaves him on the outside looking in.
Another pitcher in Roark’s position is Johnny Cueto, who had an unbelievable year but still didn’t do enough to earn the Cy Young. Even so, Cueto’s 18-5 record with a 2.79 ERA helped get the Giants into the postseason once again, despite some offensive struggles, and he will be a big part in their success moving forward.
Jose Fernandez is the next pitcher I’m taking off the list, which is truly unfortunate. With the stunning news of his untimely death coming back in September, it would be fantastic to see him win the award. However, while I’m all for honoring his memory, there are other candidates who deserve the award more when you take a close look at the stats.
Despite getting the Mets into the postseason for the second straight season, Noah Syndergaard won’t wind up with the Cy Young award when all is said and done. But his 2.60 ERA and 218 strikeouts certainly stand out on a pitching staff that saw a plethora of injuries, and Syndergaard will likely continue to be the ace of Queens.
Three-thousand miles away, out in San Francisco, Madison Bumgarner had yet another great season of what has become a great career to this point. Bumgarner managed to strike out 251 batters over the span of 34 starts this season, and combined with Johnny Cueto to make on of the best one-two punches in all of baseball, but won’t take home the award when the voting is revealed.
Speaking of one-two punches, John Lester made up one half of perhaps the best duo in all of baseball for the Cubs. His 2.44 ERA was second best in all of baseball, and his .211 opponent batting average definitely jumps out, but so does Lester’s less than one strikeout-per-inning, making him fall short of the Cy Young award.
It came down to a couple of aces this season. But while Kyle Hendricks and his MLB-best 2.13 ERA initially makes him the heavy favorite, I couldn’t select him to pick up the award. His strikeout numbers are subpar at best, and while that isn’t always a deciding factor in the voting process, it is in this case.
For that reason, I went with Max Scherzer to win the National League Cy Young. He has the worst ERA of all the players on my list, at a dismal 2.96, but it’s his strikeout numbers that give him the edge in my mind. The Cy Young award is about utter dominance, and Scherzer’s 284 K’s (including a 20-strikeout performance this season) makes him the number one choice. Striking out 114 more batters than my runner up Kyle Hendricks, I made the tough but correct decision for the award this season.