Saturday Stew: Team Awards through the First Third
With roughly a third of the season in the books, we hand out some awards to White Sox players for their performances to date.
Game 1 of the White Sox and Orioles doubleheader marked the 50th game of the 2021 season for the Chicago White Sox, and while we’re just about 31 percent through the 162-game schedule, it feels like a seasons worth of games has been played. That’s probably because we are coming off a truncated 60-game season just last summer, but either way, a ton has transpired for the Sox to date.
In today’s edition of the Saturday Stew — which has been on hiatus during my family vacation and some extended work days and hours to make up for it — I’m going to give out some hypothetical awards to White Sox players based on their performances in the club’s first (roughly) third of the season.
Maybe we’ll do this again at the two-thirds mark and the end of the season.
Most Valuable Player
The White Sox have a legitimate American League MVP on their club, Jose Abreu, who won the 2020 AL MVP Award, and Pito is the pretty easy choice here for this award after the first third of the season White Sox.
While Abreu isn’t quite mirroring the torrid offensive pace that netted him the 2020 AL MVP Award, he is still leading the team in home runs and RBI through his team-best 167 at-bats with 10 homers and 43 RBI.
Abreu is averaging just shy (.86) of an RBI per game and owns a .832 OPS through 46 games. Through nearly 200 plate appearances, Abreu has a 132 wRC+ and has accumulated 1.3 fWAR.
Between his seemingly always consistently strong offensive production, his ever-improving defense at first base, and his undeniable leadership in the clubhouse, No. 79 is without question the club’s Most Valuable Player.
Cy Young Award
Another easy one here, but unlike Jose Abreu, this one comes as a surprise to many who were polled before the season.
Carlos Rodon has been far and away the best pitcher on the Chicago White Sox this season, finally living up to the scouting reports that led to the club selecting former N.C. State product third-overall in the 2014 MLB Draft.
Rodon, 28, was non-tendered this winter and then brought back on a one-year, $3 million prove-it deal before Spring Training, and all he has done is prove it to every doubter out there through his first eight starts 2021 season.
Rodon is 5-2 with a 1.29 ERA (2.01 FIP) and a 13.32 K/9 in 48.2 innings of work. Oh, and he tossed a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians last month, one that was literally a toe away from being a perfect game.
Rodon has been the cream of the crop in a starting rotation that ranks among the best in baseball in nearly any metric you want to use to measure such, and that’s saying something for the former top draft pick.
Rookie of the Year
Andrew Vaughn made the jump from High-A to the majors this spring, and he’s holding his own through his first 39 games. The former third-overall pick out of Cal is slashing .234/.326/.411 with four home runs, 10 doubles, and 12 RBI, but he’s not the Rookie of the Year for the White Sox. That honor belongs to 28-year-old Yermín Mercedes.
Mercedes burst onto the scene with a 5-for-5 major league debut against the Los Angeles Angels, and he hasn’t looked back.
Through his first 45 games, Mercedes is slashing .340/.386/.525 with seven home runs and 29 RBI. The Yermínator leads the White Sox in batting average (.340), slugging percentage (.515), OPS (.895), wRC+ (155), and hits (55).
After spending a decade in the minors, it’s taken Mercedes just two months to dazzle the fans at the major-league level. From nicknames to tee-shirts to his own cheeseburger, Yermín Mercedes is the clear Rookie of the Year for the White Sox thus far.
Reliever of the Year
This would be going to the guy the White Sox gave $54 million to this winter to close ballgames in a perfect world. Still, as we’ve learned very much so in the last few years, this is anything but a perfect world, especially when judging bullpens, the most volatile position group in baseball.
Here’s the line: 2-0, 1.72 ERA, 2.54 FIP, 41 K, 11 BB
If you guessed Michael Kopech, you probably looked at Fangraphs, but you’re right nonetheless.
Pitching in the majors for the first time since August of 2018, Kopech has been the star of the White Sox bullpen through the first third of the rotation, allowing just six earned runs in 31.1 innings of work while striking out opposing hitters at a 36 percent clip.
Kopech has even made three starts and his 11 relief outings this season, and he’s been pretty damn good in both roles.
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