The 2021 IBWAA Awards (My Ballot): AL MVP (1 of 2)
It’s week two of my releasing my ballots for the various end-of-the-season awards across Major League Baseball. These are the same ballots/players that I submitted to the IBWAA before the postseason began.
This week we will go through all the American League Awards, continuing with the bottom 5 of the NL MVP.
For the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America), voters get to vote for the Top-10 players for the MVP, the Top-5 pitchers for the Cy Young, the Top-3 players for the Rookie of the Year, Reliever of the Year, and the Top-3 managers for the Manager of the Year awards.
Name: Kyle Tucker
Team: Houston Astros
Hitting Line: 140 Games, .294/.359/.557 (.917 OPS/147 OPS+), 30 HR’s, 92 RBI’s, +5.7 bWAR/+4.8 fWAR
Tied for 10th among all players in the AL for bWAR (and 13th in fWAR among hitters), Tucker had the leagues 9th best AVG, 3rd best SLG, 3rd best OPS, and the 5th best OPS+. His defense isn’t going to play favorably for him, which is why there is a sizable difference between his bWAR (they rated him slightly positive) and fWAR (they rated him negative), but it’s hard to ignore his power output. While he wasn’t even in the Top-10 for AL Home Runs (he was tied for 22nd), his ISO of .263 ranked 8th in the league. It also helps that he was tied for the 5th most doubles with 37 and tied for 10th with extra-base hits (70). Tucker goes to show that being a great hitter can be more than just hitting Home Runs.Embed from Getty Images
Name: Matt Olson
Team: Oakland Athletics
Hitting Line: 156 Games, .271/.371/.540 (.911 OPS/153 OPS+), 39 HR’s, 88 RBI’s, +5.8 bWAR/+5.0 fWAR
Olson, who had the 6th best SLG, 5th best OPS, 3rd best OPS+ in the AL this past season, shows that being a great hitter can be done with hitting lots of Home Runs (he was tied for 5th in the AL)…though, it also requires patience (he had the 6th best OBP). Similar to Kyle Tucker, Matt Olson lost some value from his defense rating negatively by both Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs, though his offense clearly helps his case. I also liked the fact that Olson played in 156 games this year (tied for 16th most in the AL), which brings me to…Embed from Getty Images
Name: Cedric Mullins Jr.
Team: Baltimore Orioles
Hitting Line: 159 Games, .291/.360/.518 (.878 OPS/135 OPS+), 30 HR’s, 59 RBI’s, +5.7 bWAR/+5.3 fWAR
Cedric Mullins played in 159 games in 2021, which was tied for 6th most in the AL. Mullins also pretty much single-handedly played himself to his value as he also did so while on the worst team in baseball with the Baltimore Orioles. Did you know that this was Mullins’ 4th year playing in the MLB? He was never considered a Top-100 prospect (though he was the 5th best Orioles prospect after 2017) and he played 115 games between 2018 and 2020. Talking about 2021, Mullins had the AL’s 10th best bWAR and 6th best fWAR (among hitters) while also posting the leagues 8th best OPS and 10th best OPS+…both without being Top-10 in any of AVG, OPB, or SLG. He’s a complete all-around hitter and deserves love for what he did given what was around him (there’s a reason he had just 59 RBI’s even with 30 of those being himself via Home Run).
I also almost forgot to mention Mullins had a 30-30 (HR-SB) season this year. He was the only player in the MLB to do so.Embed from Getty Images
Name: Aaron Judge
Team: New York Yankees
Hitting Line: 148 Games, .287/.373/.544 (.916 OPS/149 OPS+), 39 HR’s, 98 RBI’s, +5.9 bWAR/+5.5 fWAR
ALERT! This is my “of course I’m going to give a Yankee an MVP vote” pick. (Spoiler Alert: Cole is not going to be found on this list.) However, while this is my “homer” pick, Judge did clearly play himself into some mid-ballot MVP votes. He had the AL’s 8th best bWAR, 5th best fWAR (among hitters), 4th best OBP, 4th best SLG, 4th best OPS, 4th best OPS+, and 5th most Home Runs. And while I wish he played more than 148 games, that was tied for 33rd in the AL this year. Like many players who I voted for this year, Judge’s defense wasn’t graded as anything better than average.Embed from Getty Images
Name: Carlos Correa
Team: Houston Astros
Hitting Line: 148 Games, .279/.366/.485 (.850 OPS/131 OPS+), 26 HR’s, 92 RBI’s, +7.2 bWAR/+5.8 fWAR
Carlos Correa on the other hand was the AL’s top defensive player (according to dWAR from Baseball-Reference), or the 7th best defensive player (according to DEF from Fangraphs). Either way, he was one of the best on that side of the ball. And to be fair to Correa, he was also one of the best on the other (offensive) side of the ball too as he ranked 8th best with oWAR and 13th best with OFF. Overall, he was either the AL’s 2nd best (bWAR) or 4th best (fWAR) player. So, why is he 6th on my list? Well, outside of WAR metrics, his only Top-10 statistics on Baseball-Reference were OBP, runs scored, double-plays grounded into, and cWPA. It also doesn’t help his case that he’s a jerk (though I do slightly-respect that he’s leaned into it), I don’t like him, and he still hasn’t shown any sign of remorse for 2017. I’m not above being petty, and hey, I placed him above Judge (who had many better statistics).Embed from Getty Images