Be­yond MVPs and NL rookie, it’s tough to pick

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY BARRY SVRLUGA barry.svrluga@wash­post.com

It’s the fi­nal week­end of the sea­son, and I don’t want to choose award win­ners in all these im­por­tant cat­e­gories.

Yes, there are layups (hello, Na­tional League MVP). But man, how to de­cide on so many of these? Here goes. NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Na­tion­als

Through Fri­day, Harper led the Na­tional League in old-school stats (bat­ting av­er­age at .331, runs at 117, tied in homers at 41) and those more pro­gres­sive (tied in on-base per­cent­age at .461, lead­ing slug­ging per­cent­age at .646 and on-base-plus-slug­ging at 1.107). Yes, Yoe­nis Ce­s­pedes had an enor­mous im­pact on the di­vi­sion win­ning Mets. Sure, the Na­tion­als’ sea­son didn’t work out as ex­pected. Ab­so­lutely, Joey Votto’s sec­ond half for the Reds (.368 bat­ting av­er­age/.543 on-base per­cent­age/ .632 slug­ging per­cent­age) is stag­ger­ing. But there’s re­ally only one vi­able can­di­date here, and it’s Harper.

NL Cy Young: Zack Greinke, Dodgers

You could put Greinke and team­mate Clay­ton Ker­shaw in a bag with Jake Ar­ri­eta of the Cubs, reach in and pick one and not be wrong. Through Fri­day, they rank 1-2-3 in the NL in ERA (Greinke at 1.68, Ar­ri­eta at 1.77, Ker­shaw at 2.16), walks and hits per in­nings pitched (Greinke at 0.852, Ar­ri­eta at 0.865, Ker­shaw at 0.886) and op­po­nents’ bat­ting av­er­age (Ar­ri­eta at .184, Greinke at .187 and Ker­shaw at .194). Those num­bers might give Greinke the slight ad­van­tage. But Ker­shaw’s 294 strike­outs are the most for any pitcher since 2002. Ar­ri­eta’s best ar­gu­ments are old school: He leads base­ball with 22 wins, and his sec­ond half (12-1, 0.75 ERA, a no­hit­ter) helped push the Cubs into the post­sea­son. Ker­shaw’s best ar­gu­ments are new school: He led the NL in FIP (field­ing in­de­pen­dent pitch­ing) and xFIP (ex­pected field­ing in­de­pen­dent pitch­ing. So I’ll go with Greinke be­cause of ERA and WHIP and be­cause I’m not ready to is­sue Cy Young awards on FIP and xFIP.

NL rookie of the year: Kris Bryant, Cubs

Ah, a breather. Through Fri­day, the third base­man led all rook­ies in homers (26), runs scored (86) and RBI (99), and he has done it in the heart of the lineup, bat­ting sec­ond, third, fourth or fifth. His .368 on-base per­cent­age and .492 slug­ging per­cent­age are bet­ter than any NL rook­ies with more than 300 plate ap­pear­ances. It’s Bryant.

AL MVP: Josh Don­ald­son, Blue Jays

Ad­vanced met­rics, par­tic­u­larly wins above re­place­ment ( WAR), love Don­ald­son, but there’s no con­sen­sus this sea­son: FanGraphs (fWAR) has it as a dead heat through Fri­day at 8.8, while base­ball-ref­er­ence (bWAR) takes the An­gels’ Mike Trout (9.1-8.9). Both have 41 homers. Don­ald­son’s 123 RBI are 10morethan the next-best AL player. (Trout, in the An­gels’ less-po­tent lineup, has 89). But Toronto is end­ing the long­est post­sea­son drought in the ma­jors, and it’s im­pos­si­ble to think the Blue Jays would have done the same with­out the ev­ery­day in­ten­sity of their new third base­man.

AL Cy Young: Dal­las Keuchel, Astros

Another im­pos­si­bly close race, this one be­tween Keuchel and David Price of the Blue Jays (and pre­vi­ously the Tigers). In mid-Septem­ber, as Hous­ton seemed to be gag­ging away a post­sea­son berth — Keuchel al­lowed nine earned runs in 4 2/3 in­nings in a loss at Texas — Price seemed like he wouldbe the choice. In11 starts for Toronto, to whom he was dealt on July 30, he went 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA, 1.009 WHIP with 87 strike­outs in 74 2/3 in­nings. He’s the ace that staff needed, and his 2.45ERA over his en­tire sea­son leads the AL. But Keuchel has been es­sen­tial to the Astros’ turn­around, and since that start against Texas, he has put Hous­ton back on track. He won each of his three starts since and al­lowed hit­ters a .192 av­er­age along the way. His ERA (2.48) is neg­li­gi­bly be­hind Price’s, his WHIP (1.017) the best in the league, and his in­nings to­tal (232) the high­est in base­ball. The Astros aren’t in the play­offs— yet. If they make it, Keuchel’s role will have been as im­por­tant as any­body’s.

AL rookie of the year: Fran­cisco Lindor, In­di­ans

It would be so easy to write in Car­los Cor­rea of the Astros and just walk away. We’re talk­ing about the two most promis­ing young short­stops in the game, both 21. What has Cor­rea done to lose this ti­tle, any­way? He had hit 22 homers and slugged .520 through Fri­day, bet­ter than Lindor (12and.487), and driven in 67 runs (to Lindor’s 51) in roughly the same num­ber of plate ap­pear­ances. Lindor has Cor­rea in bat­ting av­er­age (.317 to .282) and OBP (.357 to .348) but not OPS (.868 to .844). And look at how much a good game from these two meant to their teams. In the 49 wins in which he ap­peared, Lindor hit .365 with a .601 and 1.011 OPS; in the 48 losses, those num­bers were .263, .358 and .650, re­spec­tively. In the 48 wins in which Cor­rea ap­peared, he hit .328, slugged .605 and had a 1.005 OPS; those dropped to .235, .422 and .727 in losses. But we’ll lean to­ward Lindor — slightly — be­cause of his de­fense, which is both spec­tac­u­lar and con­sis­tent. Inthe end, though, it’s yet another cat­e­gory in which there’s no wrong choice.

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