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Predicting the BBWAA award winners


Predicting the BBWAA award winners

They've handed out the Gold Gloves and the Silver Sluggers and the Players Choices and awards named for Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente and Marvin Miller. Now come the most prestigious of baseball's end-of-season honors: the BBWAA awards.

MLB's eight major awards — MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year in each league — will be announced over the next four nights. Local fans will have to wait until 6 p.m. Thursday for the big prize: Bryce Harper's all-but-certain NL MVP. There's not much drama with that one, aside from the question of whether Harper will be a unanimous choice or not.

But several of the other awards are wide open, with legitimate cases to be made for several candidates. Let's attempt to predict all eight of them, keeping in mind that it's never easy trying to find consensus when you're polling two members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America from each major-league city.

(Remember: All of these votes were submitted at the end of the regular season, so postseason performance did not figure into any of the awards.) ...

Announcement: Monday, 6 p.m. EST
Predicted NL winner: This was a fantastic season for rookies across baseball, but one easily stood above the rest in the NL: Kris Bryant. The Cubs third baseman was everything he was expected to be, hitting 26 homers with 99 RBI, a .275 batting average and .858 OPS in 151 games. On a team loaded with young talent, Bryant really was something special. He should win this award in convincing fashion, ahead of fellow finalists Matt Duffy and Jung Ho Kang.
Predicted AL winner: Speaking of special rookies, the AL had a couple of them in Carlos Correa and Francisco Lindor. (Third finalist Miguel Sano wasn't too shabby, either.) Correa had 22 homers and 68 RBI in only 99 games for the Astros, posting an .857 OPS and a 4.1 WAR that would've ranked among the league's best had he simply been in the big leagues all season. Lindor didn't garner as much attention playing for a lesser Indians team, but in 99 games himself he hit 12 homers, drove in 51, hit .313 with an .835 OPS and actually posted a better WAR (4.6) than Correa. You could go either way here, but we'll predict Correa gets the nod based on his contributions to Houston club that made its first postseason appearance in a decade.

Announcement: Tuesday, 6 p.m. EST
Predicted NL winner: These are always so tough to pick, because who truly knows what difference a manager makes on his club. This tends to end up going to the manager of the team that surprised the most, which would give Joe Maddon and Terry Collins a leg up on Mike Matheny (even though the Cardinals skipper did a fantastic job guiding an injured-decimated roster to an MLB-best 100 wins). Collins, managing with no job security beyond 2015, had the perfect mentality to lead the Mets through a wild season that culminated with their first division title since 2006 and ultimately a World Series berth (though remember that doesn't figure into this award). But Maddon gets credit for changing the culture in Chicago. Yes, the Cubs have tons of young talent. But it was Maddon who gave them instant credibility when he was hired and who used his experience to help that young group to 97 wins much sooner than most thought that could happen.
Predicted AL winner: All three finalists (Jeff Banister, A.J. Hinch, Paul Molitor) were inexperienced managers who led teams that weren't predicted to win anything in 2015 into a pennant race (with the Rangers and Astros ultimately reaching the postseason while the Twins fell just short). Any would be deserving of this award, but we'll say Banister gets the trophy after leading an injury-plagued Texas team through a stunning second-half turnaround that culminated with an unlikely AL West title.

Announcement: Wednesday, 6 p.m. EST
Predicted NL winner: Man oh man, it's simply not fair that only one NL pitcher can win this award this season. Any of the three finalists (Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw) would be a runaway Cy Young choice in just about any other season. Shoot, Max Scherzer probably would've won it in plenty of previous seasons but won't finish any better than fourth this year. This one comes down to an epic battle between Arrieta and Greinke, whose stats are nearly identical. Arrieta: 22-6, 1.77 ERA, 229 IP, 236 K, 48 BB, 0.865 WHIP. Greinke: 19-3, 1.66 ERA, 222.2 IP, 200 K, 40 BB, 0.844 WHIP. What's the deciding factor between these two? I'll say it's performance down the stretch. Over his final 12 starts, Arrieta wasn't human: 11-0, 0.41, with an opponents' OPS of .354. That's insane. And so, the guess here is that Arrieta will barely nudge out Greinke in one of the closest Cy Young votes we've ever seen.
Predicted AL winner: This one is no cakewalk, either. David Price was outstanding (18-5, 2.45, 225 K, 47 BB in 220.1 IP). So was Dallas Keuchel (20-8, 2.48, 216 K, 51 BB in 232 IP). What separates the two? We'll say it's Keuchel by a nose based on a few more innings pitched, a slightly better WHIP (1.02 to 1.08) and the fact he faced 23 more batters than Price. But that's victory by the slimmest of margins.

Announcement: Thursday, 6 p.m. EST
Predicted NL winner: I had an MVP vote this year, and while we're not allowed to reveal our selections until the announcement is made Thursday evening, you shouldn't have to spend much time guessing who I picked. Bryce Harper had a season for the ages, only the ninth player in history to hit .330 with 42 homers and a .460 on-base percentage. And to anyone who thinks his performance shouldn't be rewarded because he didn't play for a team that reached the postseason, remember this: Harper played more than five months of the season in a pennant race, carrying a Nationals lineup that had only one other consistent bat (Yunel Escobar). He didn't put up big numbers in meaningless situations. Actually, he cooled off in the season's final week, at which point the Nats had very little at stake. He absolutely is deserving of the MVP honor, and the only real question now is whether he'll be a unanimous pick over fellow finalists Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto.
Predicted AL winner: If we're discussing the AL MVP race, Mike Trout must be involved. He always is, and this year is no different. And as has been the case most seasons, Trout is engaged in a tight battle with another worthy candidate. This year, that's Josh Donaldson. Trout gets the edge in WAR (9.4 to 8.8) and OPS (.991 to .939). Donaldson gets the edge in runs (122 to 104) and total bases (352 to 339). What's the deciding factor? Here's a case where voters might just give the nod to the guy whose team made the playoffs. They've shown in recent years that matters less and less, but when a race is this close, team performance can serve as something of a tiebreaker. It'll be close, but the guess here is that Donaldson narrowly tops Trout, who winds up second in the MVP vote for the third time in four years.

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Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

Nationals look to avoid sweep against Phillies on Sunday night

WASHINGTON -- Having already won their first series at Nationals Park since April 2016, the Philadelphia Phillies will go for the sweep of Washington on Sunday night.

Phillies right-hander Nick Pivetta (4-6, 4.08 ERA) faces Nationals right-hander Jefry Rodriguez (0-0, 4.66).

Pivetta was drafted by the Nationals in 2013 and went to the Phillies in 2015 as part of the Jonathan Papelbon trade.

After struggling for three straight starts -- giving up 13 runs in 14 innings -- Pivetta allowed two runs and four hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision against the St. Louis Cardinals last time out, striking out a career-high 13 batters.

"That's some of the best stuff I've seen him have all year," catcher Andrew Knapp told "The curveball was electric."

Pivetta got 11 swings and misses with the curveball.

"It was nice to have it back," Pivetta told "It all started with my delivery. I was staying up through it, not trying to rush too much and it worked out."

It his first start -- and second big-league appearance -- the 24-year-old Rodriguez picked up a win against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday. He allowed five runs, four hits and three walks in five innings.

Rodriguez and Satuday's losing pitcher, Erick Fedde, are filling in for injured starters Stephen Strasburg and Jeremy Hellickson.

The Phillies have outscored the Nationals 17-5 in the fist two games of the series. On Saturday, Maikel Franco had four hits and Carlos Santana homered to back Aaron Nola in a 5-3 victory.

"That was just a tremendous all-around baseball game," Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said of Franco. "It's so interesting how we've been looking for him to be not just a hitter but a defender and a baserunner and an all-around athlete."

Franco drove in a run and scored twice, including the go-ahead run when he scored just ahead of the tag on Jesmuel Valentin's sacrifice fly.

The Phillies, who have won six of seven, pounded out double-digit hits for the second day in a row in Washington.

"They have a lot of patient hitters," Fedde said of the Phillies. "I think that's what makes it tough. Guys aren't swinging at bunch of junk, so you have to attack them."

The Phillies have now won four straight series for the first time since May 2016 and are 2-0 in what will be a stretch of 10 games against the Nationals and the New York Yankees.

Anthony Rendon homered and Daniel Murphy had a two-run single for Washington, which has lost three of four while scoring nine runs.

"Look, I've got all the confidence in the world we're going to start hitting," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We'll start scoring some runs. Right now, the bullpen is a little beat up. We've got to get them going again."

Rendon is doing his part. In his las 15 games, he is batting .382 with seven doubles, two homers and 12 RBIs.

Hellickson (right groin strain) will make a rehab start Sunday for Class A Potomac and then is expected to rejoin the Nationals' rotation.

Hernandez said first baseman Ryan Zimmerman (right oblique strain) is about a week from beginning a rehab assignment.

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.