Picking our MLB National League award winners

Picking our MLB National League award winners

The choices in the Senior Circuit weren't as clear cut as the AL this year

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Yesterday, we gave you our picks for the American League awards. Today, we move to the Senior Circuit. While the National League didn’t have anyone hit 60 home runs or pitch and hit, it did have a multitude of strong, MVP-caliber performances. Aside from Sandy Alcantara most likely securing the Cy Young Award, there isn’t a sure-fire winner in any category. That makes the BBWAA’s job much harder. Here’s who we’d pick.

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MVP — Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals

MVP — Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals

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As much as we love to talk about Aaron Judge and his close encounter with the American League Triple Crown, Paul Goldschmidt was pretty close too, finishing top-five in the National League in home runs (35), RBI (115), and batting average (.317). Goldschmidt also finished top ten in runs scored (106), walk rate (12.1 percent), on-base percentage (.404), slugging percentage (.578), OPS (.981), weighted runs created-plus (177), fWAR (7.1), and rWAR (7.8).

The only categories that Goldschmidt led the National League in were slugging percentage and OPS. Still, despite not being the top of the class in too many categories, he was damn close in every one that mattered. While his defense did take a step back in 2022 based on advanced metrics like Defensive Runs Saved (2) and Total Zone Fielding Runs Above Average (3) — which were arguably Goldschmidt’s worst ratings since 2012 — he was still a valued infielder and batsman.

The biggest argument against Goldschmidt is that, despite tailing off toward the end of the season, the Cardinals were playing their best baseball of the year. They continued to pull away from the Brewers in the NL Central even when Goldschmidt wasn’t raking. Voters with that mentality would likely give their votes to San Diego’s Manny Machado. After all, the Padres clinched a postseason berth without Fernando Tatís Jr. down the stretch, Juan Soto playing the worst baseball of his career, Josh Hader pitching like a little leaguer, and Josh Bell playing more like Josh Peck (more on that later). However, anybody with eyes can compare both players’ stats and realize who deserves the award. Goldschmidt was continually snubbed as a member of the Diamondbacks. After a few years on a legitimately good team, he’ll get the hardware he always deserved.

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LVP — Josh Bell, San Diego Padres

LVP — Josh Bell, San Diego Padres

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When the Padres traded for Juan Soto, everybody believed San Diego won that trade. They were getting a generational talent on a relatively team-friendly contract for the next few years. Then, everyone realized that Josh Bell was also a part of that trade, and the fans went wild! “WOW! The Padres acquired TWO All-Star-caliber players?! Their lineup just became unstoppable.”

That didn’t happen. Soto was still solid. Despite his poor power numbers and low average, he was still doing what he does best: Drawing walks. His OPS-plus with the Padres (130) was still well over the league average 100, although he didn’t become the lineup-altering X-factor that Friars’ fans were hoping for. Josh Bell wasn’t so solid.

After slashing .301/.384/.493 and being snubbed for an All-Star bid with the Nationals, Bell came to San Diego and stunk up the place worse than bioluminescent waves. In 53 games and 210 plate appearances with the Padres, Bell hit under the Mendoza line (.196), had just eight extra-base hits, posted the worst slugging percentage of his career (.271), and had an OPS-plus of 75, making him 25 percent worse than an average hitter in MLB.

Even the guy who Bell was supposed to replace, Eric Hosmer, did better than Bell in the second half. Sure, Hosmer only played in 14 games, but he still posted a 77 OPS-plus and .311 slugging percentage with the Red Sox before being sidelined with back inflammation for all of September. Bell was supposed to be the cherry on top, the icing on the proverbial cake in the Soto deal. He ended up being the worst part.

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Cy Young — Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins

Cy Young — Sandy Alcantara, Miami Marlins

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So Alcantara led the league in complete games and innings pitched? Unless he’s got some great numbers to back those innings up, he ain’t getting my vote. As Shania Twain once said, “That don’t impress me much.”

Alcantara also had a 2.28 ERA? Oh, okay, yeah that settles it.

The Marlins’ ace wasn’t the strikeout monster you’d expect from a Cy Young favorite, but his ability to eat innings, generate weak contact, and prevent home runs were all near the top of the National League. Only 26.5 percent of balls hit off him were considered hard contact. That was third-best in the NL.

The Miami Marlins had the ninth-worst bullpen ERA in all of baseball (4.15). Yet the Marlins also never had to worry about going to their abysmal bullpen with Alcantara on the bump. Not a single starting pitcher on that team had more wins than losses, except Alcantara, and he was tied for the seventh-most wins in the National League. That’s a testament to Alcantara’s dominance. As great as Atlanta’s Max Fried and Los Angeles’ Julio Urías were, they were the benefactors of playing on terrific offenses, and that gives Alcantara a slight edge in my eyes.

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Anti-Cy Young — Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals

Anti-Cy Young — Patrick Corbin, Washington Nationals

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My how Corbin has fallen. The lefty hurler was in serious contention for the LVP award too, given that he posted a 6.31 ERA while earning nearly $23.5 million. However, much like the BBWAA, I decided that the MVP/LVP should be restricted solely to position players. Corbin gets his moment in the limelight here though. After an atrocious 2021 campaign, nobody thought Corbin could fall any lower. In 2022, Corbin grabbed a shovel and went straight to the Earth’s core.

Corbin led MLB in losses in 2021 with 16. He lost 19 games in 2022. Corbin only managed 171.2 innings in 2021. He pitched nearly 50 fewer in 2022. Corbin allowed the most earned runs in baseball in 2021 (111). He followed that up by leading the league in both earned runs allowed (107) and hits allowed (210). Corbin did perform much better in some statistics like home runs allowed per nine, strikeout-to-walk ratio, and FIP, but those improvements pale in comparison to how hard he got hit. He literally led the National League in hard-hit percentage among pitchers with at least 150 innings pitched (39.9 percent). Corbin’s ERA-plus was an abysmal 62, eight points lower than his mark in 2021. If that doesn’t make you throw up in your mouth a little, I don’t know what will.

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Rookie of the Year — Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves

Rookie of the Year — Spencer Strider, Atlanta Braves

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This is a two-horse race, and while Atlanta’s Michael Harris is the favorite to win the award currently (-320 odds), I’m giving the edge to Spencer Strider. Strider’s impeccable mustache is the main reason I’m leaning in his favor, but aside from the gorgeous facial hair, Strider led all National League rookie pitchers (min. 70 innings pitched) in ERA by nearly a full point. (Strider: 2.67; CIN’s Nick Lodolo: 3.66). His expected ERA was even lower (2.39). Strider’s 4.9 fWAR was more than three points higher than Lodolo’s (1.8). Strider is so far and away the best rookie pitcher in the National League it’s not even close.

There are two factors going against Strider though. For one, he suffered an oblique injury in September which forced him to miss time. While he was out, the Braves overtook the Mets in the NL East and won the division. That’s not good for Strider’s case. Still, before going down, Strider had a 5-1 record and a 1.71 ERA over his previous seven starts. He was absolutely dominating opposing lineups and probably would’ve had a sub-2.50 ERA if he hadn’t gotten hurt. Second, Strider only became a starting pitcher at the end of May. Strider’s first 11 appearances in 2022 were as a reliever. He was great in that role, but because of that limited time as a starter, Striders’ cumulative statistics like strikeouts and innings pitched aren’t where voters would like them to be. Strider’s history as a reliever also made it difficult for him to go deep into games. Throughout 20 games started, Strider only had two games where he went deeper than six innings. That lack of endurance could play a factor in voters’ decisions.

Still, Harris only played in 114 games this season. While he racked up a decent line, and nearly joined the 20-20 club in his rookie season, finishing one home run short, his plate discipline was a little lacking. If Harris simply took more pitches, he could’ve easily had an OPS in the .870s. That’s something he’ll have to work on in the future. I also feel as though Harris’s incredible power numbers are unsustainable. 49 of Harris’s 123 hits this season went for extra bases, giving Harris a .217 ISO, 18th-best in the National League. His BABIP was also .361, the second-highest in the National League. That implies a lot of luck went Harris’s way in 2022. Thus, I’m giving the edge to Strider. Oh, and Harris’s OPS-plus was 135. Strider’s ERA-plus was 153.

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Manager of the Year — Oliver Mármol, St. Louis Cardinals

Manager of the Year — Oliver Mármol, St. Louis Cardinals

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Paul Goldschmidt is 35 years old. Nolan Arenado is 31. Albert Pujols is 42. Yadier Molina is 40. Adam Wainwright is 41. At least four of these guys were pivotal parts of the Cardinals’ success, and Mármol made the most of them. Despite having no real superstars in their starting rotation, the Cardinals were top-ten in ERA this season. Despite their three best hitters being over 30 years old, the Cardinals were top 10 in slugging percentage. Despite everybody in the world thinking Pujols and Molina were washed. Mármol took a shot on both at the beginning of the season and found a way to get both players in the record books.

The Manager of the Year Award has always been an award identifying the team that took the league by storm more than it has actually been an award to give recognition to the best manager in the league. If that were the case, we’d see the same people winning over and over and over again. With that in mind, there isn’t really a single team in the National League that shocked fans with their outstanding play. The case could be made for Buck Showalter of the New York Mets, but after acquiring Chris Bassitt, Max Scherzer, and Starling Marte, people expected the Mets to compete for the NL East crown. The case could be made for the Dodgers’ Dave Roberts. I mean, 111 wins are nothing to scoff at. Still, it was sort of expected of the Dodgers.

While the Cardinals had made the postseason in three consecutive seasons, their 50-44 record at the All-Star break indicated that the team was still good, but they weren’t an elite team in the National League, and still hadn’t overtaken the Milwaukee Brewers as the best team in the NL Central. Then, the second half started and the Cardinals pulled away, going 43-25 after the Midsummer Classic, right up there with the Braves and Dodgers for the best record in the National League in that span. Mármol deserves the award.

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