This past week, MLB announced its set of award winners for the 2019. With a wide array of honors ranging from position-based Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers to the league MVPs, players have numerous opportunities to earn some hardware for their individual accomplishments.
However, particularly in light of how the game has changed in recent years, many deserving players do not get a chance to earn an award, either due to ineligibility or an award’s non-existence. With this in mind, here are a few new awards that Major League Baseball ought to add to its end-of-season honors to spice things up.
Iron Man Award
The rise of the bullpen in recent years has resulted in starting pitchers pitching fewer and fewer innings over the course of the season. Only 15 starters hit the 200-inning mark in 2019, compared to 45 just nine season ago in 2010. Because of this, it makes sense to honor the starting pitcher able to provide the most innings for his team. Justin Verlander would have doubled on this award and AL Cy Young this year.
Breakout Player of the Year
Every year, at least one player (and usually many more) who has been in the league for a couple of seasons, and who everybody thought had already reached their ceiling, somehow puts everything together and becomes one of the top players in the league. Why don’t we have an award for it?
You can make the case that it would be fairly arbitrary — and I agree with you on that — but Comeback Player of the Year is about as arbitrary, as is the NBA’s Most Improved Player, and that hasn’t stopped them from being given out. It’s time we honored the young players who step into the spotlight after their rookie season. Reasonable candidates for 2019 could have been Marcus Semien, Ketel Marte, or maybe even the Yankees Gio Urshela.
Swingman of the Year
Perhaps they’re not as important anymore with the rise of bullpen games, but I’ve always thought that swingmen deserved more. Jumping between the rotation and the bullpen multiple times in a season is no small feat, even if only for spot starts or quick injury fill-ins, as both roles require two completely different types of mindset and preparation.
I’ll admit, creating the parameters for this award would be difficult, as you’d want to keep openers and players demoted from the rotation from being eligible while also factoring in guys changing roles because they change teams midseason, but it’s something that should at least be looked at.
Opener of the Year
Although it might be a bit too early to declare definitively that the opener is here to stay, it certainly looks that way, and for that reason, there could be award for it. While technically operating similarly to relief pitchers, and with players often serving as both an opener and a reliever across multiple games, it has its own distinct usage.
We don’t only give an award to one outfielder because they’re similar positions, we treat each of the three outfield spots separately; I don’t see why the same distinction can’t be made for openers, especially if their importance continues to rise.
Utility-man Silver Slugger/Gold Glove Awards
I’ll admit I was ecstatic when DJ LeMahieu won the Silver Slugger Award for second basemen.
I’ll also admit that I didn’t think he should have been eligible at the position, since he only played 75 games there during the season, just like I thought J.D. Martinez should not have been eligible as either a DH or an OF in 2018 (when he won as both) because he only played the outfield in 57 games and was the DH in only 93.
It’s time MLB recognizes the reality that “multi-position starter” is now a regular position throughout the league. DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, Brett Gardner, Marwin Gonzalez, Max Kepler, Yuli Gurriel, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Max Muncy, Enrique Hernandez, and Chris Taylor all played at least 39 games at more than one position — and that’s just from the four teams that won 100 games!
The league is now filled with guys who are a part of the starting lineup, but who bounce between multiple positions when doing so. It’s time to create a separate category (or more, if you want to divide them into utility infielder, utility outfielder, and all-around utility) to give respect to the guys who can lace on the glove all over the diamond.