It's award season on SB Nation, and this time, we've narrowed it down to five categories.
First, the minor stuff:
- Hitter of the Year
- Pitcher of the Year
- Defensive Play of the Year
And then the really important ones:
- Bat Flip / Celebration of the Year
- Best Breakage of the Unwritten Rules
So here's how it works. You all, the readers, will be voting for the best hitter and pitcher in all of baseball--we're starting with hitters today. The Defensive Play and Bat Flip categories are limited to our Red Sox here, acting more as nominations, then we're back to the league-at-large for the breaking of the unwritten rules.
For today, though, let's stick to hitters. Here are the (realistic) options:
You may have heard of Bryce Harper. He's one of the best young players the game has seen in a long time, and in 2015, playing in his fourth major league season at the old age of 23, he finally put it all together. .330/.460/.649. 172 hits, 42 home runs. The highest wRC+ that MLB has seen (197) since Barry Bonds put up an otherworldly 233(!!!) in 2004.
How was he on defense? It depends on who you ask. DRS loves him, UZR isn't as fond. Do we even care? Defense is important, but we'd even have lived with Hanley Ramirez in left field had he been putting up these types of numbers. Bryce Harper did horrible, horrible things to baseballs this year. One has to wonder what he's capable of once he's actually in his prime.
Of course, you can't have a discussion like this without mentioning Mike Trout. It's been that way for four years now, and will probably be that way for many more to come. His numbers--.299/.402/.590--only look pedestrian in comparison to the aforementioned Harper. He does have a few legs up on the Nationals wunderkind, though, in the form of 30 more plate appearances and, reasonably speaking, the edge on defense.
It's almost a shame these two aren't in the same leage. It would be fun to have a yearly debate of who should take the MVP title this year. Instead, they seem likely as not to come away with more of those titles than the rest of the league combined in the near future. Woe be to variety.
Interestingly enough, though, Trout faces some competition for that MVP title right off the bat in the form of Donaldson. Fans of any and all teams with a farm system worth a damn have spent the last year wondering how on Earth they let this trade get away. Players this good just don't get traded away with four years of team control left. But here's Josh Donaldson, playing for the Blue Jays instead of the Athletics, leading them to within a couple games of the World Series.
Donaldson's numbers don't match up offensively. He hit "just" .297/.371/.568. One of the best marks in the game, yes, but well shy of Trout, much less Harper. For all that, though, Donaldson earns a spot in the vote for two reasons:
- He's an exceptional defender
- His team made the playoffs, if that's your thing