Reacting to B/R MLB Community's MVP, Cy Young Picks for 2021 Season

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2021

Reacting to B/R MLB Community's MVP, Cy Young Picks for 2021 Season

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    Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

    Welcome to the Bleacher Report MLB community article.

    For this week's topic, we asked app users to give us their picks for AL MVP, NL MVP, AL Cy Young and NL Cy Young as the 2021 regular season winds to a close.

    The AL MVP battle between Shohei Ohtani and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was tight as expected, while the NL Cy Young race was also fairly split. The other two awards had a runaway winner, though there's no telling how the final few weeks of the season could impact things.

    We've highlighted the top two vote-getters for each of the four awards, as well as a quick look at others receiving votes, before slapping a bow on things with my own picks for who deserves each award as things stand today.

    Let's get started!

Others Receiving Cy Young Votes

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    Lance Lynn
    Lance LynnRon Vesely/Getty Images

    AL Cy Young

    • Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox (1 vote)

    With 146 innings pitched this season, Lance Lynn is just short of qualifying for the ERA title. Otherwise, his 2.47 ERA would slot ahead of both Robbie Ray (2.72) and Gerrit Cole (3.03), though his WHIP and strikeout numbers lag behind the two current AL front-runners. The 34-year-old should at least improve on his career-best fifth-place finish in the balloting two years ago.


    NL Cy Young

    • Adam Wainwright, St. Louis Cardinals (2 votes)
    • Julio Urias, Los Angeles Dodgers (1 vote)
    • Zack Wheeler, Philadelphia Phillies (1 vote)

    Behind the clear-cut duo atop the NL Cy Young race, there seems to be a second tier of candidates made up of Brandon Woodruff, Walker Buehler and Zack Wheeler. It's a bit surprising to see Adam Wainwright (2.89 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 169 K, 196.1 IP) and Julio Urias (3.10 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 185 K, 174.1 IP) garner votes, but they are certainly part of the conversation as well.

NL Cy Young Runner-Up: Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Justin Casterline/Getty Images

    Votes: 13

    Corbin Burnes has come a long way since struggling to an impossibly bad 8.82 ERA in 49 innings during the 2019 season. After finishing sixth in NL Cy Young balloting last season, he has continued his ascent as one of baseball's elite pitchers.

    The 26-year-old began the season by tallying an MLB-record 58 strikeouts before issuing his first walk. His 221-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 158 innings speaks volumes to the strides he has made with his once-spotty command.

    Burnes has 17 quality starts in 26 appearances, and he has allowed zero earned runs in eight of his starts while limiting opposing hitters to a .200 average and .517 OPS.

    Beyond his impressive surface-level numbers, Burnes' advanced metrics have been elite across the board. His 1.57 FIP is the best in baseball among qualified pitchers by more than a full run.

    He tossed eight no-hit innings against Cleveland on Sept. 11, combining with closer Josh Hader on the ninth no-hitter of the MLB season, and he's a threat to blank the opponent every time he takes the ball.

NL Cy Young Front-Runner: Max Scherzer, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

    Votes: 22

    Max Scherzer is already one of only six pitchers to win a Cy Young Award in both leagues. He has a chance to join Roger Clemens as the only pitcher to ever take home the honor with more than two different teams.

    The 37-year-old was already having an All-Star-caliber season when the Washington Nationals sent him to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline. He's been even better since moving to a World Series contender.

    In nine starts since the trade, Scherzer has gone 7-0 with a 0.78 ERA, 0.66 WHIP and a 79-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 58 innings. He's already racked up 3.3 WAR during his short time with the team.

    That performance vaulted him to the front of the NL Cy Young race. He's now the Dodgers' staff ace ahead of rising star Walker Buehler for the club's upcoming postseason push.

    Scherzer has not allowed an earned run in his last 37 innings of work, and he is the NL leader in ERA (2.08), WHIP (0.81) and ERA+ (194) while holding opposing hitters to a .171/.229/.307 batting line on the year.

    He's peaking at the perfect time to take home the hardware.

AL Cy Young Runner-Up: Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Votes: 5

    With the Chicago White Sox duo of Lance Lynn (146.0 IP) and Carlos Rodon (127.2 IP) both missing time, the AL Cy Young race has turned into a two-man race.

    Despite a midseason hiccup, New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole has once again been one of baseball's most overpowering pitchers. He has a 3.03 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 231 strikeouts in 169.1 innings for an AL-leading 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings.

    He was knocked around in his most recent start, allowing 10 hits and seven earned runs in 5.2 innings against Cleveland on Sept. 19. But in his previous six starts, he had a 1.35 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 33.1 innings of work.

    The Yankees have had nine different pitchers start at least five games this season, but only Cole has eclipsed the 150-inning plateau as the anchor of the starting staff.

    Where would the Yankees be without the 31-year-old fronting their rotation?

AL Cy Young Front-Runner: Robbie Ray, Toronto Blue Jays

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    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    Votes: 33

    A one-year, $8 million contract was all it cost the Toronto Blue Jays to bring back Robbie Ray during the offseason after he struggled to a 6.62 ERA with 45 walks in 51.2 innings during the 2020 season.

    The 29-year-old has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, but he has also flashed this sort of potential in the past. He was an All-Star in 2017 when he finished seventh in NL Cy Young voting, and he had an impressive career rate of 11.1 strikeouts per nine innings heading into this season.

    His difference this year is command, though. He entered the season with a less-than-stellar rate of 4.3 walks per nine innings, including last year's 7.8 BB/9 debacle, but he has slashed it to 2.2 BB/9 this season.

    The result has been nothing short of brilliant, as he leads the AL in ERA (2.72), WHIP (1.03), strikeouts (238), innings pitched (182) and ERA+ (161).

    Other than "I'm a biased Yankees fan," there is no viable justification for going with Gerrit Cole over Ray.

Others Receiving MVP Votes

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    Salvador Perez
    Salvador PerezRon Schwane/Getty Images

    AL MVP

    • Salvador Perez, KC (1 vote)

    The AL leader in home runs (46) and RBI (115) and the new single-season record-holder for home runs in a season by a catcher, Salvador Perez is having a season worthy of recognition. The top two spots in the AL MVP race seem rather clear-cut, leaving him jockeying for position with Matt Olson, Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, Cedric Mullins and Marcus Semien for the No. 3 position.


    NL MVP

    • Trea Turner, LAD (1 vote)

    The NL leader in batting average (.318), hits (175) and stolen bases (30), Trea Turner is going to receive plenty of down-ballot MVP support. It would be surprising to see him walk away with any first-place votes, though, and Juan Soto seems like a better bet to finish third in balloting and steal a few top votes.

NL MVP Runner-Up: Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Votes: 4

    The San Diego Padres' tailspin down the NL West and wild-card standings will likely have a direct impact on how voters assess the season that Fernando Tatis Jr. has put together this year.

    Although shoulder issues have limited him to 118 games, he leads the NL with 39 home runs, and his 6.3 WAR trails only Juan Soto (6.7) among all NL position players.

    Tatis' 170 OPS+ is fourth in the majors among hitters with at least 500 plate appearances, and he has swiped 25 bases in 29 attempts while continuing to show the electric mix of power and speed that has made him an MLB superstar at an age when many players are still in the minors.

    However, the Padres are 10-25 in their last 35 games. Regardless of whether team performance should be factored into a player's MVP case, it's hard to ignore the way the wheels have fallen off for a squad that entered the year with legitimate World Series aspirations.

    Tatis figures to win an MVP before his career is over. It just might not be this year.

NL MVP Front-Runner: Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Votes: 34

    Bryce Harper is hitting .350/.483/.743 with 25 doubles, 18 home runs and 46 RBI in 62 games since the All-Star break. In the process, he's stormed into the lead in the NL MVP race.

    The 28-year-old currently leads the majors in OPS+ (182). He isn't far off the 190 OPS+ he logged during his 2015 NL MVP run with the Washington Nationals, when he took home the hardware unanimously for a team that missed the playoffs.

    Along with a career-high 39 doubles and 33 home runs in a 5.5 WAR season, Harper is also hitting an impressive .325/.474/.530 with runners in scoring position.

    Even if the Philadelphia Phillieswho entered Wednesday three games back in the NL East and 4.5 back in the NL wild-card racemiss the postseason, Harper has emerged as the clear front-runner in the NL MVP race thanks to his huge second-half performance.

    Where would this Phillies team be without him?

AL MVP Runner-Up: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays

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    Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

    Votes: 12

    In almost any other year, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would be a no-brainer for AL MVP honors.

    The 22-year-old leads the American League in batting average (.321), on-base percentage (.411), slugging (.615), OPS+ (177), hits (180), runs scored (119) and total bases (345).

    He is tied with Salvador Perez for the home run lead with 46 long balls, and his 105 RBI are tied for fourth behind Perez (115), Jose Abreu (113) and teammate Teoscar Hernandez (108). He still has an outside shot at a Triple Crown run if he can stay hot down the stretch.

    The Toronto Blue Jays have clawed back into the postseason picture with a 16-4 record in September, and Guerrero is hitting .372/.443/.692 with seven home runs and 21 runs scored in 20 games during that climb up the standings.

    He just happens to be doing all of that opposite a historic two-way season the likes of which we've never seen before.

AL MVP Front-Runner: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

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    Shohei Ohtani
    Shohei OhtaniMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Votes: 26

    Shohei Ohtani has a strong case for being the most productive designated hitter in baseball this season. He has a 154 OPS+ with 25 doubles, five triples, 45 home runs, 95 RBI and 95 runs scored, and he has even added 23 steals for good measure.

    That offensive production alone has been worth 4.5 WAR, a total that ranks 14th among AL position players this season. It's also 34th all-time among players who spent at least 51 percent of their time as a designated hitter.

    If he were just a hitter, he'd have a solid case for some back-of-the-ballot support. But he isn't just a hitter.

    As a pitcher, he's tossed 123.1 innings over 22 starts, going 9-2 with a 3.28 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 146 strikeouts in 123.1 innings. His 136 ERA+ ranks ninth among AL pitchers with at least 120 innings pitched, just ahead of Boston Red Sox standout Nathan Eovaldi and Oakland Athletics ace Chris Bassitt.

    He might be one of the 10 best hitters and one of the 10 best pitchers in the American League this year. That puts him in another stratosphere in terms of the impact he's made for his team.

    His 8.2 WAR overall is tops in the majors, ahead of Carlos Correa (7.2), Zack Wheeler (7.0), Marcus Semien (6.9) and fellow AL MVP candidate Vladimir Guerrero (6.8).

My Picks

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    Bryce Harper
    Bryce HarperMitchell Leff/Getty Images

    AL MVP: Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels

    There is no faster way to look like you have zero idea what you're talking about than to call Ohtani overrated. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is having a fantastic year, but Ohtani is having a season we're still going to be talking about 50 years from now. No one comes close to his impact on the game right now.


    NL MVP: Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies

    The NL MVP race was wide open until Harper caught fire after the All-Star break. He'll always have his detractors, and the Phillies might again be on the outside looking in this October, but he deserves to add a second MVP award to his trophy case this winter.


    AL Cy Young: Robbie Ray, Toronto Blue Jays

    He's the AL leader in ERA, WHIP, strikeouts and innings pitched. What more can you ask from the Cy Young winner than to lead his league in those stats? The more compelling question is how much he's going to earn in free agency this winter, and whether the Blue Jays will be the ones to pony up.


    NL Cy Young: Max Scherzer, Los Angeles Dodgers

    We aren't talking enough about how utterly dominant Scherzer has been since joining the Dodgers at the trade deadline. The NL is loaded with elite starting pitching right now, but he still deserves to win the award unanimously in his age-37 season.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs, and accurate through Tuesday's games.