The wildly small sample sizes of the 2020 MLB season mean we could see some remarkable accomplishments play out over a “full” year, such as a .400 hitter or a starting pitcher with a sub-1.00 ERA.
There would be asterisks on those feats, of course, which take away a bit of the shine. But what about awards like MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year? Do they need the asterisk treatment in 2020, too?
No matter how you feel about that, the hardware will be awarded. So we might as well see who the frontrunners are, at what is roughly the midpoint of the season.
2020 stats: 33 games, .282/.378/.632, 10 home runs, 173 OPS+
You might be wondering who Lowe is, given that the 25-year-old hasn’t played a full season yet. Last year, he was third in AL Rookie of the Year voting with an .850 OPS in 82 games — but was largely anonymous due to a bone bruise that cut his season short.
Lowe’s major uptick this year is thanks to plate discipline, as he has just 1.93 strikeouts per walk (MLB average is 2.65). Last year, he had 4.52 strikeouts per walk.
The utility man has managed to reach base in 28 of 33 games, starring in the two-spot of a deep Tampa lineup.
2020 stats: 35 games, .302/.382/.640, 13 home runs, 30 RBIs
When he’s not hitting controversial grand slams, Tatis Jr. is smashing the ball to all fields and playing top-notch defence.
— MLB (@MLB) August 18, 2020
He is second among NL shortstops in Fangraphs’ Ultimate Zone Rating (0.6) and third in defensive runs saved (three).
After a third-place finish in NL Rookie of the Year voting a season ago, Tatis Jr. now leads the majors in home runs, total bases, RBIs and runs scored. Can you believe this guy is only 21?
AL Cy Young
2020 stats: 46 2/3 innings, 6-0, 1.35 ERA, 1.68 FIP, 14.5 K/9
The consistency of Bieber is difficult to fathom but easy to appreciate.
All seven of his starts have consisted of at least six innings and eight strikeouts, with no more than six hits and/or three runs allowed.
Shane Bieber has struck out at least 8 batters in each of his first 7 starts this season
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 26, 2020
The win stat is antiquated, but it’s no wonder Cleveland has emerged victorious every time Bieber has taken the mound.
NL Cy Young
2020 stats: 40 innings, 5-0, 1.35 ERA, 0.950 WHIP
Fried doesn’t have overwhelming strikeout numbers, but he has been superb at keeping the ball down in the zone — and, consequently, in the yard.
He hasn’t allowed a home run this year, while producing 1.3 ground balls per fly ball (MLB average is 0.78). He also sits in the 96th percentile in exit velocity allowed and 94th in hard hit percentage, according to Statcast.
Fried allowed two runs in five innings in his season-opening start. He has allowed just four runs in 35 innings since.
Max Fried, Beautiful 76mph Curveball. pic.twitter.com/rzjmq2sEip
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 27, 2020
AL Rookie of the Year
Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners
2020 stats: 34 games, .339/.428/.524, seven home runs, 166 OPS+
Perhaps you noticed that Lewis was an honourable mention for MVP. Yeah, he’s been that good.
Lewis is the current AL batting champ because DJ LeMahieu (.411 batting average) is on the injured list and hasn’t met the qualified total of at-bats.
According to Baseball Almanac, only five rookies have ever won the batting title — and only Ichiro Suzuki (2001) has done so in the past 50 years.
So Lewis, selected 11th overall in 2016, could find himself in select company. And there’s an outside chance he rises to MVP, too.
NL Rookie of the Year
Jake Cronenworth, San Diego Padres
2020 stats: 29 games, .348/.408/.587, 13 extra-base hits, 172 OPS+
After five ordinary years in the minor leagues, Cronenworth has been extraordinary in his first big-league campaign.
His most impressive stat might be his strikeouts: only 16 in 103 plate appearances. Sure, his .392 BABIP is a bit high, but it’s important to put the ball in play.
Oh, and Cronenworth is a bona fide Statcast darling. He ranks in the 99th percentile in expected slugging percentage and expected weighted on-base percentage (wOBA), as well as the 100th percentile in expected batting average.
WHAT IS GOING ON IN SLAM DIEGO?! IT IS THE 2ND INNING!!!!!
— Fox Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) August 23, 2020
He’s also in the 93rd percentile in sprint speed, because why not?