As the season carries on, we are approaching the point where the small sample size argument no longer holds water. Let’s make some critical assessments as teams approach the one-quarter portion of the regular season.
National League MVP
Ronald Acuña Jr.
.302 BA, 12 HR, 24 RBI, 33 runs, 6 SB, .399 OBP, .651 SLG, 1.050 OPS, 1.65 WAR
Where would the Braves be without Acuña? While many of the hitters they were counting on have struggled coming out of the gate (Freddie Freeman, Marcell Ozuna, and Dansby Swanson), Acuña has been on fire since Opening Day. He’s filling up the stat sheet for Atlanta, just as we all expected he would.
In The Running
Trea Turner (.308 BA, 8 HR, 7 SB, .903 OPS, 1.7 WAR)
Bryce Harper (.306 BA, 7 HR, .427 OBP, .992 OPS, 1.2 WAR)
Kris Bryant (.308 BA, 9 HR, .400 OBP, .650 SLG, 1.050 OPS, 1.7 WAR)
Jesus Aguilar (.291 BA, 9 HR, 32 RBI, .385 OBP, .590 SLG, .975 OPS, 1.2 WAR)
The National League has been dominated by pitching up to this point. All players listed are having very nice seasons, though there has been a surprisingly low amount players with staggering home run or RBI paces. Nobody is busting out to that extent this year.
American League MVP
Hitting: .257 BA, 10 HR, 26 RBI, 26 runs, 6 SB
Pitching: 25.2 IP, 2.10 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 40 K
Several players outpace Ohtani if we’re only considering hitting. However, he’s been a force on the mound, too. The big criticism against Ohtani has been how careful the Angels have been with him throughout his career. This has limited the balance of his pitching and hitting duties. That’s not the case this year, though, as he’s been the talk of baseball with his monstrous home runs and stunning strikeout numbers.
In The Running
Mike Trout (.355 BA, 8 HR, .477 OBP, .673 SLG, 1.150 OPS, 2.1 WAR)
Byron Buxton (.370 BA, 9 HR, .408 OBP, .772 SLG, 1.180 OPS, 2.7 WAR)
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.307 BA, 8 HR, 26 RBI, .432 OBP, .543 SLG, .976 OPS, 1.6 WAR)
J.D. Martinez (.340 BA, 10 HR, 33 RBI, 32 runs, .420 OBP, .624 SLG, 1.044 OPS, 2.1 WAR)
Yordan Alvarez (.350 BA, 7 HR, 22 RBI, .379 OBP, .618 SLG, .997 OPS, 1.3 WAR)
This is a better crop of MVP contenders than the National League. Trout has been as good as ever (close to a .500 on-base percentage). Buxton would have been the winner if he didn’t go down with a fairly serious hip injury a week ago. Guerrero has broken out and Martinez is bouncing back to serve as a huge boost for Boston. The Red Sox also have two other players in Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, who could be considered for the award. Alvarez’s knees seem to be holding up; his presence makes the Astros’ lineup quite lethal.
National League Cy Young
3–2, 0.68 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 14.6 K/9, 1.8 WAR
It’s tempting to give the distinction to one of the others listed here due to his injury and win-loss record, but just look at the ERA, WHIP, and strikeout rate. They are incredible. He’s had a couple of medical scares, but they’ve only been minor so far. His lack of run support is baffling; you would think at some point that has to change.
In The Running
Corbin Burnes (2–3, 1.57 ERA, 0.64 WHIP, 15.3 K/9, 1.8 WAR)
Jack Flaherty (7–0, 2.47 ERA, 0,95 WHIP, 9.1 K/9, 0.9 WAR)
Brandon Woodruff (2–1, 1.64 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 11.1 K/9, 2.4 WAR)
Kevin Gausman (3–0, 1.97 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 2.0 WAR)
Max Scherzer (2–2, 2.33 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 11.8 K/9, 1.2 WAR)
Zack Wheeler (3–2, 2.86 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 1.7 WAR)
Burnes has one walk in 34 innings this year. He’s been brilliant alongside Woodruff. Flaherty has seven wins already but his other stats don’t quite stack up to the others. Gausman, Scherzer, and Wheeler have all been the ace their clubs need, too.
American League Cy Young
5–0, 0.58 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 12.8 K/9, 2.1 WAR
Rodon doesn’t have quite the innings pitched as the others listed here because he came into the season as the White Sox’ No. 5 starter. Of course, he had a no-hitter a couple of weeks back, but the rest of his starts have been similarly stellar. He came out of college as a highly-touted prospect but it’s been a rough road to the success he’s achieving this year. The White Sox have three starters (Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, and Dallas Keuchel) who were in the top seven in Cy Young voting in 2020. Rodon, on the other hand, was released by the White Sox but later signed back. He’s an amazing story that will be fascinating to follow throughout the season.
In The Running
John Means (4–0, 1.21 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 2.7 WAR)
Gerrit Cole (5–1, 1.37 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 13.3 K/9, 2.4 WAR)
Aroldis Chapman (2-0, 9 saves, 0.00 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 18.6 K/9, 1.2 WAR)
Shane Bieber (4–2, 2.95 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 13.9 K/9, 1.8 WAR)
Tyler Glasnow (4–2, 2.37 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 13.7 K/9, 1.4 WAR)
National League Most Pleasant Surprise
Hitter: Carson Kelly
.338 BA, 6 HR, 19 RBI, .491 OBP, .613 SLG, 1.104 OPS
Kelly was a strong prospect a few years back, so while his start to the 2021 season hasn’t come completely out of nowhere, nobody expected this type of production. It’s a huge step forward for someone who was a part-time starter to begin the year.
Pitcher: Trevor Rogers
5-2, 1.84 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 11.7 K/9
Rogers was hyped up as a possible breakout pitcher. However, nobody could have predicted just how good he’s been. To most people’s surprise, the Marlins have been competitive thus far and Rogers has been the reason why on the pitching side for Miami.
Other Surprises: Buster Posey, Ryan McMahon, Tyler Naquin, Jesse Winker, Adam Frazier, Taijuan Walker, Jon Gray, Freddy Peralta, Huascar Ynoa, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, Mark Melancon, Rich Rodriguez, Alex Reyes, and Jake McGee.
American League Most Pleasant Surprise
Mercedes wouldn’t have made the White Sox roster if Eloy Jimenez hadn’t gotten hurt at the end of spring training. He’s carried Chicago to the best record in baseball six weeks into the season. Walsh has been the bat the Angels needed to pair with Mike Trout as Anthony Rendon has been in and out of the lineup all season. His minor league numbers showed a lot of strikeouts and a much lower batting average but he was legit in 32 games in the big leagues in 2020 and has carried that over this season.
Pitcher: Danny Duffy
4-3, 1.94 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 10.4 K/9
Until a week ago, the Royals were the surprise of the American League. Duffy was the main reason for this success. The 32-year-old looked to be in the waning years of his career (4.95, 4.34, and 4.88 ERAs over the last three seasons, respectively) but has turned it all around through the quarter point in 2021.
Follow John Keller on Twitter @johnkeller2009
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