It’s nearly awards season in baseball, and the San Francisco Giants figure to get some love on the ballots. And by love I don’t mean a 10th-place MVP vote for Kevin Pillar from Henry Schulman, which is what happened a year ago.
I mean honest to goodness love. The Giants are unlikely to bring home any hardware, but Mike Yastrzemski will show up on a lot of MVP ballots. Gabe Kapler will possibly get some votes for Manager of the Year. There will probably be a Gold Glove nominee or two.
But what if, instead of there being MLB awards, there were just Giants awards? Who would win then?
Let’s find out.
Most Valuable Player
The Giant who will appear on league MVP ballots is, not surprisingly, the Giant who wins the San Francisco MVP award.
Mike Yastrzemski led the Giants in Wins Above Replacement (2.7 fWAR and 2.5 rWAR), and he led them all year. Among Giants hitters with at least 50 plate appearances he was fourth in batting average (.297), third in on-base percentage (.400), third in slugging percentage (.568), and second in OPS (.968). And he did it all while providing good defense in the outfield, and stellar leadership in the clubhouse.
He was the team’s MVP, and I don’t think anyone in the organization would argue otherwise.
Runner-up: Brandon Belt
Yastrzemski may be the obvious choice for MVP, but Belt was a lot closer than he’s given credit for. Belt was worth 2.0 rWAR and 1.9 fWAR, despite having 46 fewer plate appearances than Yastrzemski. He was far and away the Giants best hitter, finishing second on the team in average (.309), and first in on-base percentage (.425), slugging percentage (.591), and OPS (1.015).
Belt became the first Giant since Barry Bonds to have at least 100 plate appearances and an OPS north of 1.000.
Cy Young Award
Kevin Gausman was exactly what the Giants hoped for when the signed the veteran right-hander over the offseason. He was good enough to be a staple of the rotation if the Giants were in contention, or to return a nice prospect if they hit the sell button.
It ended up being the former, and between his success and Johnny Cueto’s rough year, Gausman became the team’s ace. His fastball hit velocities that Giants fans were not used to seeing from starters, and his changeup was on a string all year long. He finished with 79 strikeouts to just 16 walks in 59.2 innings, with a 3.62 ERA, a 3.09 FIP, and a 1.106 WHIP.
More importantly, he moved to the front of the Giants free agency wishlist. Along with this guy...
Runner-up: Drew Smyly
On a per-inning basis, Drew Smyly was the Giants best pitcher, by far. Despite pitching primarily as a starter, Smyly led the team in FIP by more than a run, and had a whopping 2.5 more strikeouts per 9 innings than the next-closest Giant.
As a sidenote, Gausman was second in both categories, and it’s a pretty severe indictment of the Giants bullpen that two starters were leading these fields.
Smyly’s raw stats were mesmerizing: 26.1 innings, 20 hits, 2 home runs, 9 walks, 42 strikeouts. Injuries kept him from pitching much, but had he sustained those numbers while playing a full season he wouldn’t have just been the Giants Cy Young winner; he might have been the NL Cy Young winner.
Rookie of the Year
I was halfway through this portion of the article before realizing that Mauricio Dubón was probably still eligible as a rookie, and indeed, he was. And that made him an easy choice.
Dubón had a slow start to the year, and looked potentially in danger of being optioned after a week or two. But then he turned things around, and quickly became an everyday player. He was essentially a league-average offensive player, while proving to be a defensive asset in his first year in centerfield. He proved that he can play any of the three up-the-middle positions, making him a highly versatile player.
He entered the year hoping to prove that he belonged in the Majors. And he finished the year as a key part of the Giants core.
Runner-up: Caleb Baragar
Baragar had one of the more unique seasons I can remember. He wasn’t invited to Spring Training but then ... he was invited to Summer Camp. And then he made the Opening Day roster. And then he stayed on the roster all year. And then he was given the ball in some of the most important moments of the season.
His numbers were rather average, though average in the Giants bullpen was a huge asset. He looks like he could be a part of the bullpen for years to come.
Manager of the Year
It’s easy to win a one-person race.