The Houston Astros won the 2022 World Series and, unsurprisingly, have a couple of award finalists on their roster. The official winners will be announced beginning on Monday, so there’s plenty of time to place a bet online (or two) on your favorite. To get you going in that direction, read on for our analysis of the situation in the American League.
Rookie of the Year
If the postseason was ever taken into account in MLB awards, Jeremy Pena would win over a lot of voters. Alas, the World Series MVP wasn’t named a finalist and we’ll have to see who comes out on top between Steven Kwan, Julio Rodriguez and Adley Rutschman.
This has been a runaway win for several players in recent years, including 2019 and 2020 when Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Lewis – respectively – got all 30 first-place votes. In fact, there hasn’t been a close vote since 2015, when Carlos Correa edged out Francisco Lindor.
It figures to be a rout once again. Rodriguez led AL rookies in home runs (28) and OPS (.854) while leading Seattle back to the postseason for the first time since 2001. He was an All-Star and, if not for some late injuries, might’ve become the first rookie to post a 30-30 campaign since Mike Trout in 2012.
Kwan hit .298 and scored 89 runs to lead all AL rookies. He was solid in the ALDS against the New York Yankees and will be a fixture for the Cleveland Guardians for years to come. Rutschman hit 13 homers and played 92 games at catcher for the Baltimore Orioles.
Manager of the Year
Cleveland’s Terry Francona, Baltimore’s Brandon Hyde, and Seattle’s Scott Servais are the finalists in this one. Francona lasted longer than any of the others (well, a few days longer than Servais), and he’s our pick to take this award home for the third time in his career.
With players like Kwan, the Guardians put together a young, scrappy, pain-in-the-butt kind of team that needed a seasoned hand to help guide it to an unexpected AL Central crown. Francona so often gets the best out of his team, and this was one of his finest efforts. Cleveland often defied the MLB lines at the sportsbook, going 89-80 against the runline.
Hyde will get some first-place votes for lifting the Orioles off the mat. Servais had a sub-.500 team in early July that caught fire on its way to the playoffs.
It feels like we’ve been talking about Justin Verlander for weeks now and that will continue to be the case after he beats out fellow finalists Dylan Cease and Alek Manoah to claim his third Cy Young.
Verlander led all qualified hurlers in ERA by a wide margin (1.75 – Julio Urias was second at 2.16), won WHIP by a wide margin (0.83 – Zac Gallen was second at 0.91) and topped the AL in wins (18). The fact that he did it one year after missing all of 2021 due to Tommy John surgery makes it one of the more remarkable pitching campaigns we’ve seen, and that alone might sway a voter or two.
Cease and Manoah were excellent but will have to wait another year.
Most Valuable Player
Given what Shohei Ohtani does for the Los Angeles Angels makes him worthy of this honor every year. Frankly, his 2022 season – with the exception of a drop in home runs – was a better all-around campaign than his 2021 MVP year. Ohtani made five more starts than he did last year, won six more games and saw his ERA drop nearly a run to 2.33 – fourth in the AL.
In literally any other year, it’s Ohtani in a runaway win. He just so happened to have his electric season overshadowed by Aaron Judge’s pursuit of the AL home run record.
Judge was so far ahead of his colleagues in so many key categories, falling just shy of a Triple Crown. The fact that he had 82 more total bases than the next player and scored 30 more runs than anyone else shows the massive gulf between him and the rest of the pack.
The MVP often goes to a player on a good team, as that player’s value is sometimes a bit easier to note. If that prevents some voters from latching onto Ohtani (as silly as that may seem), perhaps they can look to the third finalist in Houston’s Yordan Alvarez.
But Alvarez fell off in the second half of the season and even though he was second to Judge in the AL in WAR, the gap was so large (11.4 to 6.6) that it’s hard to justify even considering him.
So, in the end, Judge’s head and shoulders kind of year at the plate puts him just ahead of Ohtani, although it could be a close vote.