This is the second part of our 2020 MLB Regular Season Simulation.
Last time, we explored division standings and playoff matchups – totally disregarding individual player accolades. This is where we highlight the stars of the diamond – the best performers of the shortened 2020 MLB season.
We are using the results of the final 60 games of 2019 to fuel our 2020 simulation. Why the final 60? These are the most recent games played. This is the same time of the year. The rosters are most accurate.
It’s a short season. Anything can happen … How many times have you heard that this summer? Let’s see who’s bringing home the hardware in 2020.
2020 MLB Batting and Pitching Leaderboards
2020 Batting Titles
I can hear it already … I sure hope no one hit .400. That shouldn’t count! You can unclench your fists and relax those jaw muscles – no one hit .400. No one was even close.
To qualify as the batting leader, hitters must average 3.1 plate appearances per team game played. In a 60-game season, this is 186 plate appearances.
The race in the AL was closely contested. Alex Bregman was a favorite but fell short – finishing 2nd. White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson had a whale of a year but finished in 3rd place. So who won? Not to be clickbait-y, but it’s someone you’d never expect!
I’ll give you a few hints: He’s about 80 years old. He spent several weeks on the DL when his arm fell off after a swing. He plays for a team that might as well be in Canada.
You’re probably thinking man, this sure sounds like Nelson Cruz, but there is no way Cruz won a batting title. Well … he did. At .371, old Nelly Cruz led the entire Major Leagues in batting average. Cruz spent some time on the shelf as I alluded to – just cracking the 186 PA threshold.
|1. Nelson Cruz||Twins||.371|
|2. Alex Bregman||Astros||.363|
|3. Tim Anderson||White Sox||.357|
|4. Giovanny Urshela||Yankees||.343|
|5. JD Martinez||Red Sox||.324|
You haven’t seen the last of Nelson Cruz in this article. Hint, hint: He almost wins the Triple Crown …
The 2020 NL batting leader played in even fewer games, netting fewer plate appearances than Nelson Cruz. This man batted just 191 times in 45 games played – barely qualifying for the award.
He’s a Diamondback with pop and speed … and he can hit for average – Ketel Marte.
|1. Ketel Marte||Diamondbacks||.347|
|2. Nolan Arenado||Rockies||.337|
|3. Kolten Wong||Cardinals||.335|
|4. JD Davis||Mets||.331|
|5. Wilson Ramons||Mets||.328|
A couple of Mets in the top-5. This helps explain their 39-21 record which won them the NL East crown.
2020 Home Run Titles
The 2020 leaders in homeruns should be familiar names to y’all. Why? Because I just wrote about them last week – Eugenio Suarez and Jorge Soler.
I won’t delve too deeply into their backstories (because I just did), but both of these hitters came out of nowhere and started mashing homers.
Check out the leaderboards. It was a close race.
|1. Jorge Soler||Royals||21|
|2. Nelson Cruz||Twins||19|
|3. Marcus Semien||A’s||18|
|3. Austin Meadows||Rays||18|
|3. Miguel Sano||Twins||18|
|3. Gleyber Torres||Yankees||18|
The batting leader and second in homeruns? Ok, Cruz! I see you!
|1. Eugenio Suarez||Reds||22|
|2. Pete Alonso||Mets||20|
|3. Nolan Arenado||Rockies||19|
|3. Aristides Aquino||Reds||19|
|5. Bryce Harper||Phillies||18|
2020 RBI Leaders
Though not as sexy as winning a batting title or homerun crown, RBI leaders are the most valuable contributors to an MLB offense.
Remember earlier when I said Nelson Cruz almost won the Triple Crown? This is how close he was. Cruz won the batting title and fell 1 RBI and 2 dingers shy of history. Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown in 2012. Before that, you have to go back to Yaz in 1967.
|1. Anthony Rendon||Angels||56|
|2. Nelson Cruz||Twins||55|
|3. JD Martinez||Red Sox||50|
|3 Jose Abreu||White Sox||50|
|5. Alex Bregman||Astros||49|
What a boss move from Rendon. The dude comes in and leads his new league in RBIs like it’s no big deal.
|1. Juan Soto||Nationals||48|
|2. Aristides Aquino||Reds||47|
|3. Kyle Schwarber||Cubs||45|
|3. Paul Goldschmidt||Cardinals||45|
|3. Pete Alonso||Mets||45|
|3. Corey Seager||Dodgers||45|
A lot of young names on the NL RBI leaderboard. I love to see that! Great for the sport!
2020 ERA Leaders
Pitchers have feelings, too. Let’s give them a little fanfare – first with the ERA leaders.
To qualify for an ERA crown, a pitcher must throw at least 1 inning per team game played. In a 60-game season, that calculates out to … um, 60 innings.
I’ll give you 3 hints on the AL ERA leader for the shortened 2020 season: He plays for a team no one likes. He just signed a massive contract. It surprises absolutely no one that he won.
Here’s a fourth, bonus hint. His name rhymes with Lerrit Hole.
|1. Gerrit Cole||Yankees||1.55|
|2. Justin Verlander||Astros||2.07|
|3. Mike Clevenger||Indians||2.26|
|4. Zack Greinke||Astros||2.93|
|5. Shane Bieber||Indians||3.00|
A real who’s who of American League pitchers. No surprises on this list. Ya know the scary thing? 3 of these guys were on the same team at the end of 2019 … Oh yeah, expect to see plenty more of Gerrit Cole on these lists.
|1. Jack Flaherty||Cardinals||0.92|
|2. Jacob deGrom||Mets||1.54|
|3. Sonny Gray||Reds||2.18|
|4. Jeff Samardzija||Giants||2.66|
|5. Zack Wheeler||Phillies||2.83|
Flaherty was the only qualifying pitcher in the Majors to finish the shortened 2020 season with a sub-1 ERA. Well done, Jack. I have a feeling this dude’s name will pop up again toward the bottom of the page.
2020 Strikeout Leaders
The only pitching stat that receives pitchers any love – the K. There is something enamoring about watching a flamethrower rack up 15 Ks in 7 innings.
AL ERA leader Gerrit Cole also leads the MLB in K/9, so it only makes sense that Cole leads the entire Majors in strikeouts over the shortened 2020 season.
|1. Gerrit Cole||Yankees||121|
|2. Justin Verlander||Astros||117|
|3. Mike Clevinger||Indians||104|
|4. Lance Lynn||Rangers||94|
|4. Lucas Giolito||White Sox||94|
Oh boy! Could this be it? Gerrit Cole leads the AL in both ERA and Ks. Cole is vying to become the MLB’s first pitching Triple Crown winner since Verlander and Clayton Kershaw each did it in 2011.
|1. Jack Flaherty||Cardinals||109|
|2. Jacob deGrom||Mets||101|
|3. Yu Darvish||Cubs||97|
|4. Stephen Strasburg||Nationals||92|
|5. Luis Castillo||Reds||88|
What a thrilling development! We have a pitcher in each league racing for the Triple Crown!
2020 Wins Leaders
I’m not a big fan of the wins stat for pitchers. Wins can be a horrible measure of a pitcher’s worth – just ask Jacob deGrom. Wins are important for one reason and one reason only – they are a leg of the pitching Triple Crown, and Gerrit Cole and Jack Flaherty both have shots!
If I told you the 2020 wins leader was a Yankee, you’d say it has to be Cole, right? Ha! Wrong!
|1. James Paxton||Yankees||10|
|2. Gerrit Cole||Yankees||9|
|2. Mike Clevinger||Indians||9|
|4. Justin Verlander||Astros||8|
|4. Zack Greinke||Astros||8|
Ohhhh so cold – cut down by his own teammate. Rumor has it Cole offered Paxton a Benjamin to lose his last start on purpose, but Paxton wasn’t having it. Shoulda offered more, Gerrit. You can afford it.
With Cole having his knees taken out by friendly fire, Jack Flaherty is our last hope if we want to see a Triple Crown in 2020.
|1. Clayton Kershaw||Dodgers||8|
|2. Jack Flaherty||Cardinals||7|
|2. Adam Wainwright||Cardinals||7|
|2. Max Fried||Braves||7|
|5. Several Tied||6|
Aww, c’mon man! Clayton Kershaw?! He’s not even relevant anymore. The old man plays spoiler. No Triple Crown this year, boys.
Pretty sweet season for Adam Wainwright, though. Thinking he might retire after 2019, Uncle Charlie signed a one-year with the Cards – one last hoorah. And what do you know – Wainwright wins 7 and the Cards nab a division title! This is one of the better feel-good stories from the shortened 2020 campaign.
2020 MLB Award Winners
American League MVP
The writers have 2 legit options for AL MVP. The first is Nelson Cruz. The second is Alex Bregman.
Cruz makes a strong case. His .371 batting average leads the entire MLB. His 19 long balls are 2nd in the AL and 3rd in the Majors. His 55 RBIs are also 2nd in the AL. Cruz accomplished all this in only 46 games, and he plays for a first-place team.
Bregman has a lot going for him, as well. He hit .363 but boasted a higher OBP than Cruz. Bregman’s 15 homers and 49 RBIs are only slightly below Cruz’s numbers. Runs are where Alex shines – scoring 49 times – 14 more than Nelson Cruz. The Astros are also a first-place team.
Given the sudden rise of Minnesota baseball, the writers figured Cruz made a bigger impact on his team than Bregman. Also, Bregman’s reputation is a bit tainted now. The 2020 AL MVP is 40-year-old Nelson Cruz!
National League MVP
Ketel Marte’s name is being tossed about in the NL MVP conversation, but his DBacks are not a great team. Eugenio Suarez runs into the same issue.
The vote is nearly unanimous. There is one NL player who outperformed everyone at his position. This man carried a mediocre team to a first-place record … Jack Flaherty!
The 24-year-old phenom becomes the first pitcher to win MVP since Kershaw in 2014. His numbers are more than deserving of the award: 7-2 with an 0.92 ERA, 11.2 K/9, and an 0.65 WHIP! Flaherty stranded 94.4% of baserunners and held opposing hitters to a 1.31 average. This season was 2000 Pedro-esque!
American League Cy Young
If you were paying attention earlier, you should already know who is taking home the AL Cy Young. He pitches for the New York Yankees. He posted a perfect 9-0 record with a 1.55 ERA and a league-leading 14.4 K/9. Way to earn your $324 million contract, Gerrit!
National League Cy Young
If he’s the MVP, then he is definitely the Cy Young. Congrats once again, Jack! This seems like the first of many.
Opening Day is less than one week away! I fully expect the real 2020 season to mirror our simulation perfectly! Zero exceptions …