No one seems to be looking at the trail of trophies that have been handed out in recent weeks and saying, “You know what we need? More awards!”
Between the MVPs, Cy Youngs, Rookies of the Year, Managers of the Year, Hank Aaron Awards, Roberto Clemente Award, Silver Sluggers, Gold Gloves, Relievers of the Year, Comeback Players of the Year and the All-MLB Teams, a lot of good ground has already been covered.
And yet, there are still some standout seasons that manage to sneak through that system, either because a player was outdone by someone else at his particular position or because he was robbed.
So here’s a team full of guys who didn’t win any of the above honors -- including Second Team All-MLB. (Note: The Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award will not be given out until Monday, but I think we all have a good idea of who that will be, and he has already won some awards.)
This is the 2021 All-Awardless team:
CATCHER: Will Smith, Dodgers
The Royals’ Salvador Perez and Giants’ Buster Posey won the Silver Sluggers and All-MLB honors, and the A’s Sean Murphy and the Pirates’ Jacob Stallings won the Gold Gloves. The choice for next-best backstop is difficult, because the White Sox’s Yasmani Grandal had that strange-yet-satisfying .240/.420/.520 slash, the Rays’ Mike Zunino cranked out 33 homers in 109 games and the Phillies' J.T. Realmuto is one of the most consistently excellent catchers in the sport.
But with a .258/.365/.495 slash, a 4.6 FanGraphs WAR (behind only Posey’s 4.9 mark), and above-average plate discipline and framing, Smith remains an underrated element of the Dodgers’ success.
FIRST BASE: Matt Olson, A’s
Can’t fault the Silver Slugger and All-MLB voters for going with the Blue Jays’ AL MVP runner-up Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the Braves’ Freddie Freeman here. And Yuli Gurriel and Paul Goldschmidt were the Gold Glove winners.
Where does that leave us? Well, this was another big, albeit injury-shortened season for the Dodgers’ Max Muncy, and the Reds’ Joey Votto proved he still bangs. But the winner here is a guy whose name we’re hearing a lot in trade rumors. The 27-year-old Olson had career-bests in homers (39), doubles (35), RBIs (111) and runs (101) while ranking second among first basemen only to Guerrero (6.7) in fWAR (5.0). No wonder people seem to be interested in acquiring him.
SECOND BASE: Brandon Lowe, Rays
It was neither surprising nor upsetting that Marcus Semien swept the AL honors at this position in the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger votes.
But Lowe did have a good argument to be Second Team All-MLB after leading all full-time second basemen in weighted runs created plus (137) and leading the 100-win Rays in both the Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs WAR calculations. Lowe remains an underrated asset for Tampa Bay.
SHORTSTOP: Bo Bichette, Blue Jays
Many big names are accounted for, as San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. and Boston’s Xander Bogaerts won the Silver Sluggers and Houston's Carlos Correa and San Francisco's Brandon Crawford won the Gold Gloves.
It’s tempting to go with the Rays’ Wander Franco here after he finished third in the Rookie of the Year running with an extraordinary 70-game sample. But because his team fell just shy of October and his teammate was Guerrero, Bichette’s terrific 2021 probably didn’t get the attention it deserved. He led the AL with 191 hits while slashing .298/.343/.484 with 29 homers and 30 doubles.
THIRD BASE: José Ramírez, Cleveland
Easy call here. Ramírez led all third basemen in weighted runs created plus (137), fWAR (6.3) and bWAR (6.7). He was second only to Boston’s Rafael Devers (76) in extra-base hits (73).
Devers and the Braves’ Austin Riley won the Silver Sluggers and took the two All-MLB selections, so Ramírez, who has a .911 OPS over the past five seasons, was unfortunately and undeservedly cast aside.
OUTFIELD: Bryan Reynolds, Pirates; Jesse Winker, Reds; Kyle Schwarber, Red Sox/Nationals
Reynolds is the perfect candidate for a list like this. Because it came on one of the worst teams in MLB, his fantastic .302/.390/.522 slash, 24 homers, 35 doubles and MLB-high eight triples were only given national notice within discussion of his trade value. But the switch-hitting center fielder was one of the standouts of the 2021 season.
Winker and Schwarber both had their seasons limited by injury (113 games for Schwarber, 110 for Winker) and that affected their award candidacies. But they both raked when healthy. Winker had a .305/.394/.556 slash, 24 homers and 32 doubles, while Schwarber (who did also see time at first base and DH but primarily played left field) slashed .266/.374/.554 with 32 homers and 19 doubles.
DESIGNATED HITTER: Giancarlo Stanton, Yankees
It was Shohei Ohtani’s world, and every other DH was just living in it. The Astros’ Yordan Alvarez was at least able to claim Second Team All-MLB status, and Nelson Cruz won the Roberto Clemente Award for his humanitarian work.
That leaves us with a choice between Stanton and Boston’s J.D. Martinez. Either has an argument for this spot, but Stanton had the superior wRC+ (137 to Martinez’s 128) and more homers (35 to Martinez’s 28). And this selection honors the narrative of Stanton’s return to prominence in 2021 after injuries limited him to just 135 total at-bats in the previous two seasons.
STARTING PITCHER: Brandon Woodruff, Brewers
This selection snubs Lance Lynn of the White Sox, who was not an All-MLB First or Second Team selection despite finishing third in AL Cy Young voting.
But at least Lynn was a Cy Young finalist, whereas Woodruff played second fiddle to his NL Cy Young-winning teammate Corbin Burnes and finished fifth in the voting. Woodruff’s 2.56 ERA in 179 1/3 innings ranked fourth among those with at least 150 innings pitched, and his 166 ERA+ tied Max Scherzer for second (behind only Burnes’ 176 mark). Woodruff’s 3.79 win probability added was third behind only Scherzer (4.37) and Walker Buehler (3.84), both of whom were First Team All-MLB.
RELIEF PITCHER: Emmanuel Clase, Cleveland
Ryan Pressly, Kendall Graveman, Andrew Kittredge, Garrett Whitlock, Aaron Loup, Andrew Chafin ... the list of awardless-but-awesome relievers from 2021 goes on and on and on. Unfortunately, the Relievers of the Year and All-MLB spots can only cover very limited ground in a game increasingly reliant on relievers, and Liam Hendriks, Josh Hader, Raisel Iglesias and Kenley Jansen claimed all of those.
Emmanuel is in a class of his own, though, because of a 1.29 ERA and a 340 ERA+ in 69 2/3 innings across 71 appearances. Among those with at least 50 innings pitched this season, his expected ERA of 2.18 ranked fourth behind only Jacob deGrom (1.54), Hendriks (1.93) and Burnes (2.00). Because of his position, Clase had a tall order in the Rookie of the Year race, but at least he can close it out for the All-Awardless team.