Now the season has ended, I figure it is time to give out my awards. None of the awards this year are no-brainers; strong cases can be made for multiple guys. So let’s get to the first categories.
Most Valuable Player Award
The 2021 National League MVP for me is Bryce Harper. I am willing to concede Trea Turner had higher Fangraphs WAR than Harper (6.9 to 6.6), however, the thing which ultimately undermined Turner’s candidacy for me is he was traded from the Washington Nationals to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the July 30 trade deadline. The Dodgers were in second in the National League West when the deal was consummated and finished second in the division when all was said and done. Therefore, the deal did not change their position at all. Turner may help the Dodgers win the World Series, but the MVP is a regular-season award. This brings me back to Bryce Harper. Harper slashed .309/.429/.615, with 35 home runs, 84 RBI, 101 runs scored, and 13 steals. The Phillies underperformed again, but that should not fall at the feet of Harper. Harper led the league in weighted runs created plus with a 170 wRC+. His consistent production gets the nod from me.
The 2021 American League MVP is Shohei Ohtani. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. led the American League in offensive WAR (6.7) and that is a key distinction. Per Fangraphs, Shohei Ohtani was 10th in the junior circuit in offensive WAR (5.1). He batted .257/.372/.592 with 46 home runs, 100 RBI, 103 runs scored, with an additional 26 stolen bases. That is only part of the story though. Ohtani was 17th in pitching WAR (3.0). Over 130.1 innings, he compiled a 3.18 earned run average (ERA), which was in line with his 3.51 fielding independent pitching (FIP). He struck out 156 batters, for 10.77 strikeouts per nine innings pitched (k/9). Opponents hit .205 against him. The two-way nature of what Ohtani accomplished this season has not been seen since the days of Bullet Rogan or Babe Ruth.
Cy Young Award
The 2021 National League Cy Young award was maybe the toughest of the major awards. Candidates such as Walker Buehler, Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Julio Urias, and Zack Wheeler. The winner for me is Max Scherzer. His combined record of 15-4 with 236 strikeouts in 179.1 innings. His 2.46 earned run average is backed up by a 2.97 FIP. Scherzer’s 11.84 k/9 was right in line with his career numbers. He was part of the same deal which brought Trea Turner to Los Angeles, however, the Cy Young award is not tied to team success as I see it. Scherzer was in the mix for the award before the deal, His 7-0, 1.98 ERA, 89 strikeouts, and 11.13 k/9 in Los Angeles seals the deal for me.
The 2021 American League Cy Young goes to Robbie Ray. This was a two-horse race between Ray and Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees. Robbie Ray’s 13-7 win doesn’t seem like it is too impressive, but it is fronting a 2.84 ERA with a 3.69 FIP. He lowered his walks per nine from 7.84 to 2.47. The strikeouts have always been there as evidenced by his 11.54 k/9, which is in line with the 11.21 over his career. This may be a bit of a most improved award, but Ray was good all season, whereas Cole was inconsistent through the season (the post sticky stuff struggles didn’t help his cause).
Rookie Of The Year
The 2021 National League Rookie of The Year is Jonathan India. Patrick Wisdom, Dylan Carlson, Daulton Varsho, and Tyler Stephenson are all good choices. India has been doing it all year. .269/.376/.459 with 21 home runs, 69 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases is a strong first season in any year. One underrated aspect of his game is seen in his 11.3% walk rate, the plate discipline is something that portends future success. He is a bit of an indifferent fielder at second base, but the bat more than offsets any defensive shortcomings.
The 2021 American League Rookie of The Year is Randy Arozarena. His teammate Wander Franco may be the future superstar, but this award is for this season only; Franco only played 70 games. The 2020 postseason hero batted .274/.356/.459 with 20 home runs, 69 RBI, 94 runs scored, with 20 stolen bases. His 3.3 WAR was second to National League winner Jonathan India’s 3.9. Arozarena led all American League rookies with a 128 wRC+. He is far from a plus fielder, but as long as he hits, he won’t sit.
Hank Aaron Award
The 2021 National League Hank Aaron Award winner is Juan Soto. Winning doesn’t matter for this award; it is for the top offensive player. Soto hit .313/.465/.534 with 29 home runs, 95 RBI, 111 runs scored, and 9 stolen bases. His 22.2% walk rate is simply Bonds-lite. All this and Soto doesn’t turn 23 for another two weeks.
The 2021 American League Hank Aaron Award winner is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. There was one clear winner here. Guerrero hit .311/.401/.601 with 48 home runs, 111 RBI, 123 runs scored and even stole 4 bases. Clearly, the move to first base and the slimmed-down body has worked for him. This is the guy everyone had rated as the best prospect in baseball a couple of years ago.
Manager of The Year
The 2021 National League Manager of The Year is Gabe Kapler. He shepherded the Giants to 107 wins, which led all of Major League Baseball. This Giants team projected to be around .500, so seeing them holding off the Dodgers was a job well done. This was the easiest choice of all of the awards.
The 2021 American League Manager of The Year is Kevin Cash. The Rays managed to win 100 games to win an American League East, which had three playoff teams. The Rays are maybe the smartest team in the league, and Cash managed to use all of the various pieces in order to cobble together another winner on a budget.
There you go. No one way played off stage during this awards ceremony. The World Series winner is yet to be decided, so the best picture of the year has not been decided.