MLB’s MVP, Cy Young, and Best Teams of August

Last month I wrote about The MLB’s MVP, Cy Young, and Best Teams of July. Two of the top three teams had another great month. The Dodgers went 20-3 and the Cubs went 16-8 in July. In August, the Dodgers went 17-10 while the Cubs went 17-12. The Royals, however, took a huge step back, going from a 16-10 July to an MLB worst 10-18 August. Despite the success of the Dodgers and Cubs in August, I have three brand new top teams to talk about. There was actually quite a bit of competition here, with five clubs winning 18 or more games, and another four winning 17 games just behind them.

When looking at August MVP candidates, despite one name jumping out at you with 18 home runs, there were 10 total players with 10 or more home runs hit. On top of that, there were 21 players with a .330 or higher batting average, 25 with a .400 or higher on base percentage, and 21 with a .600 or higher slugging percentage. To put it plainly, offense did not come at a premium in the month of August. Another interesting thing of note is that none of my top three from July appear on my August list, with Altuve, Harper, and Rendon all falling down due to injury or lack of production. However, someone from the honorable mentions jumps all the way up to number one on this month’s list.

Finally, getting to the month’s Cy Young candidates, while there are a few standouts, it’s obvious the jump in offense took a toll compared to the previous month. In July, the MLB had a collective ERA of 4.36 and FIP of 4.30. Going to August, the MLB had a collective 4.39 ERA but a jump to a 4.47 FIP. The HR rate went from 1.25 up to 1.34, which seems to be the big difference. Even still, as mentioned before, there were a few pitchers who shined and really delivered when few others did. As well, much like the MVP portion, none of the top three from my July list re-appear, and someone from the honorable mentions list is at the top of this month’s list.

August’s Best Teams

1. Minnesota Twins (20-10)

If there was an unexpected month for any team in the MLB this season, this was it. The Twins going 20-10 in a month is something no could have dreamed of earlier this year. A lot of that has to do with their pitching staff, which boasts a whole two starting pitchers better than a 1.0 fWAR. But as far as August, the offense stepped up huge. Between Buxton, Polanco, Dozier, Rosario, Mauer, and Sano, none of this bunch had lower than a 121 wRC+, and five had better than a 130. Overall, the Twins tied with the Cubs at a 121 wRC+ for 3rd best in the MLB for the month. Not only that, but the Twins even had the pitching step up and tied for 2nd in fWAR at 4.0 with the Nats.

Although the Twins dropped half a game out of the second Wild Card spot last night, they were 1.5 up on the Angels by the end of August sitting at 70-63. Overall, the Twins were incredible last month and were the sport’s best team despite huge competition.

2. Cleveland Indians (19-9)

If the Twins were August’s best team, the Indians were only half a step behind. Their offense was good with five players at a 115 or higher wRC+, but their pitching was their bread and butter. In a month where only 16 pitchers in all of the MLB had a 1.0 or higher fWAR, the Indians had three of them. Overall, their top four of Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, and Bauer seemed unbeatable, combining for a 14-4 record. Their overall pitching staff combined for 6.4 fWAR, leading the next closest teams by 2.4 fWAR over the Nationals and Twins.

3. Los Angeles Angels (18-10)

This spot could have gone to the Red Sox, who also had 18 wins and just one less loss. However, an 18-10 August saved the Angels season. By the end of July, the Angels were 5 back of the second Wild Card spot with four teams in front of them. Fast forward one month, and the Angels sat 1.5 games out with no other teams in front of them.

While their pitching was middle of the road in August, with a 3.62 ERA and 4.17 FIP, many of their bats started to come to life. Of course, Mike Trout was his normal self, hitting .315/.475/.630 with 8 HR. But CJ Cron came back from the dead hitting .308/.376/.604. Kole Calhoun hit .300/.396/.489. Luis Valbuena hit .212/.350/.515. Overall the Angels had six players with a 120 or better wRC+ and at least 40 plate appearances.

Honorable Mentions:

Boston Red Sox (18-9) and Washington Nationals (18-11).

August’s MVPs

1. Giancarlo Stanton (.349/.433/.899, 18 HR, 37 RBI)

After a great month in July (.280/.407/.731, 12 HR), Giancarlo Stanton outdid himself and smashed 18 home runs, tying the MLB home run record for the month of August. As well, Stanton upped his on base percentage by .026 points and obliterated his July slugging by .168 points. He ended up with a 230 wRC+, the third highest for any player in a month this season behind just Ryan Zimmerman in April and Jose Altuve in July. Stanton also put himself into the crowded NL MVP race, now tied for 2nd in the NL in fWAR at 6.0.

Despite August being filled with excellent performances, no one really came close to Stanton’s level.

2. Tim Beckham (.394/.417/.646, 6 HR, 10 2B, 27 R)

From this point on, there are about 8-10 other players that could have been chosen here. I went with Beckham in this spot because he sported the highest batting average during the month, and it was just after the Rays essentially gave up on him and traded him to the Orioles for almost nothing.

If you will remember, Tim Beckham is the first overall pick of the 2008 MLB draft. Despite being drafted first overall, Beckham never put up anything close to the results in the minor leagues that the Rays were looking for. The best he ever hit was .276/.342/.387 with a 106 wRC+ in AAA in 2013. Last year in 64 games with the Rays, he hit .247/.300/.434 and played above average defense. It was a bit puzzling to see the Rays trade him when he was starting to get his footing, and just over a month later, they may regret it with Beckham now hitting .289/.335./465 with 3.1 fWAR in 121 games.

3. Joey Votto (.340/.519/.629, 7 HR, 35 BB)

If Mike Trout is Baseball’s most underrated superstar, then Joey Votto is a close second. Every year this guy puts up Hall of Fame level numbers, but because he’s buried in Cincinnati, he is rarely talked about. If Joey Votto played in New York or Boston he would be hyped as one of the few best players in baseball undoubtedly.

What did Votto do in August? His .340 batting average and .629 slugging percentage are surely great, but many other players rivaled or beat both numbers. What makes Votto truly stand out is his absurd .519 on base percentage, bolstered by his impressive 35 walks during the month. He even had a game where he did not register an at bat and walked five times. In that game, he set the record for pitches seen in 5 plate appearances or less, seeing a whopping 43.

If it were not for Mike Trout and his ridiculous 193 wRC+, Joey Votto would lead the MLB in wRC+ at 165, thanks in large part to his .449 OBP. Then again, his .587 slugging percentage isn’t exactly low either.

Honorable Mentions:

Nelson Cruz (.341/.413/.747, 10 HR, 24 RBI), Eugenio Suarez (.348/.413/.747, 8 HR, 26 R), Charlie Blackmon (.383/.484/.701, 8 HR, 27 R), Mike Trout (.315/.475/.630, 8 HR, 26 R), Joey Gallo (.246/.402/.768, 11 HR, 22 RBI), Josh Donaldson (.289/.421/.711, 12 HR 27 RBI), Jorge Polanco (.373/.413/.686, 6 HR, 23 RBI), Paul Goldschmidt (.330/.395/.736, 11 HR, 31 RBI), Manny Machado (.341/.348/.690, 12 HR, 35 RBI), and so many more I just can’t keep listing off.

This month was just crazy. I always knew that Stanton would be the MVP of August straight away. But for the second and third spots? Those have been insane. There are so many great players that I don’t believe there is a wrong pick here.

August’s Cy Youngs

1. Corey Kluber (1.96 ERA, 3.00 FIP, 5-1 in 46 IP)

For the last month, there have been more and more people pondering who the Cy Young of the American League has been this season: Chris Sale or Corey Kluber. Personally, I still believe that Sale has a clear edge, with a similar ERA, BB and HR rate stats, but about a full point higher in K/9. However, Kluber’s August has done nothing but the split between Sale and himself smaller and smaller. While Sale had just a 2.40 FIP in August, his ERA ballooned to 4.38, keeping him out of the running for August’s best pitcher. Kluber even beat out Sale by 1 strikeout to lead the MLB with 54 in the month.

There was some interesting competition at the top, but Kluber was the man last month.

2. Dylan Bundy (2.00 ERA, 2.30 FIP, 4-0 in 36 IP)

While it was tempting to give the edge to Bundy over Kluber, he just didn’t have the innings for it. But do not let that fool you, Bundy was at his very best in August. His 2.30 FIP is the best of any month in his career with more than 15 innings pitched. His 2.00 ERA is the second best of his career with more than 15 innings pitched.

Overall, Bundy tied for the fWAR lead in pitching at 1.4 (with Kluber), the highlight month of his career to this point. Bundy actually beat out Kluber in K/9 (11.25 to 10.57) and HR/9 (0.75 to 1.17) as well, so if you wanted to argue for him instead, I could buy the argument.

3. Jake Arrieta (1.21 ERA, 2.70 FIP, 4-1 in 37.1 IP)

Jake Arrieta actually had a nice July with a 2.25 ERA, though still had a 4.35 FIP in 32 innings pitched. Still, this was after four straight months of a 4.00-plus ERA, so it was progress. Arrieta went even further in August. He lowered his ERA it to 1.21, his lowest since a 1.00 ERA in March/April of 2016. His FIP of 2.70 was his best since June of 2016 at a 2.75 FIP.

This turnaround is very big for Arrieta, seeing as he has started to rebuild a good amount of lost value with free agency on the horizon after this season. To this point, Arrieta has a 3.48 ERA and 3.97 FIP in 160 innings pitched. This is a far cry from the 4.03 ERA and 4.21 FIP in 120.2 innings pitched before August.

Honorable Mentions:

Zack Davis (2.06 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 4-2 in 39.1 IP), Jon Gray (2.30 ERA, 2.69 FIP, 3-1 in 31.1 IP), Patrick Corbin (2.52 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 4-2 in 39.1 IP)