One of my favorite things to do with THT Forecasts is to look at how projected end-of-the-year leaders change as real numbers begin to pile up, and projections both evolve and start to play a smaller role. Two months into the season, I thought it would be fun to look at which players are on-pace to capture the MVP and Cy Young awards, using the model I developed in The Hardball Times Annual last year.
Let's start with the National League, because the races there are looking more clear cut at the moment. Remember that the model is on a 1,000 point scale (though players can and do go over that threshold on occasion), and it is exponential, meaning that small differences can sometimes be magnified, as they often are in actual award voting.
1. Albert Pujols, 434 points
2. Ryan Braun, 97
3. Ryan Howard, 90
What else did you expect? With THT Forecasts expecting the Cardinals to easily make the playoffs and Pujols to challenge for the Triple Crown, King Albert currently projects to win his third MVP in a row. I do wonder if we'll get a Michael Jordan type situation with Pujols, where the writers look to vote for anyone but him, but until someone steps up and puts up big numbers for a playoff-bound competitor Pujols once again is the runaway favorite.
NL Cy Young
1. Roy Halladay, 304
2. Ubaldo Jimenez, 181
3. Tim Lincecum, 166
Note that the Cy Young calculations do not quite use the full version of my model, as Oliver does not project shutouts. Still, I don't think any of the results here would materially change, except to extend Halladay's lead even further (and give Jimenez some further separation from Lincecum). Halladay and Jimenez actually project to end the year with very similar numbers, except we think that Halladay will end up pitching around 35 extra innings. Writers love workhorses, and that's where Halladay pulls away in this race.
(Also, I just checked, and note that if we did include shutouts, even without projecting any more for the rest of the season, Halladay would make his mark felt in the MVP race, finishing second with 107 points.)
1. Miguel Cabrera, 324
2. Evan Longoria, 158
3. Justin Morneau, 144
Behold the power of the RBI. We think Cabrera will lead the league by a good bit, and even with the Tigers currently projected to miss the playoffs, that should be enough to win him the MVP. Actually, that's not fair. In the National League, we expect Pujols to challenge for all three Triple Crown categories; in the American League, we expect Cabrera to practically run away with two of them (home runs and RBI), and to challenge for a third (batting average). If he wins the Triple Crown, it's hard to imagine Cabrera not winning the MVP.
Still, provided that the Tigers don't make the playoffs, I still think that Longoria or Morneau will be better bets at season's end. Cabrera probably won't win the Triple Crown, and he isn't that popular with writers after what happened last season, so it's likely they will look elsewhere when crowning the AL MVP.
AL Cy Young
1. Shaun Marcum, 64
2. Rafael Soriano, 54
3. David Price, 44
Usually, at the end of the year, all the projected award winners have somewhere between 500-1,000 points. Since we're only a couple months into the 2010 season, our projected final numbers are still fairly muted, i.e. whoever leads the NL in RBI will probably have around 140 or 150, but, since we don't know who that will be, right now we're projecting the leaders for less than 120. That in turn tones down the point totals here, but still, in the three races we've already covered, the leader had over 300 projected points. Here, no one even comes close to 100.
All this is a fairly long-winded way of saying that we have no clue who will win the AL Cy Young award, or even really who the contenders might be. Someone will surely eventually emerge, but thus far the candidates have been uninspiring.
And that wraps up our first look at how the award races might shape up at season's end. There's still a lot of baseball to play, and new contenders will surely arise as the summer wears on. I'll plan on taking another look in a couple months to see how things have changed.
Read more great baseball stuff at The Hardball Times.