All three of the BBWAA’s finalists for the American League Most Valuable Player Award have had incredible seasons, and rightfully deserve to be lauded for their efforts. However, even the best have room for improvement. With that in mind, let’s look at the best and worst stats for each finalist, and see who comes out on top.
Best Stat: .364 batting average
LeMahieu is Mr. Consistent, no doubt about it. Perennial contender for Gold Gloves, Silver Slugger, and All-Star honors, LeMahieu became the first player in modern baseball history to win the batting title in both the American and National Leagues. He topped the AL with a .364 batting average in 2020, after winning the NL batting title with the Colorado Rockies in 2016. Sure, 2020 was a shortened 60-game season. But LeMahieu was a whopping 42 points higher than the second place finisher in the AL (Tim Anderson, who batted .322). So if you want to play that game of “oh it wasn’t a full season”, just know that it would have taken quite a miracle for LeMahieu to not at least be in contention for the title after a 162-game campaign.
Worst Stat: Missed 10 games with a left thumb strain.
Missing 10 games may not seem like that big of a deal, but in a shortened season like this one, it could work against him in the eyes of BBWAA voters. Had this been a full season, LeMehieu would have played in 135 of 162 games. It’s been a decade since we have seen an MVP winner with that low of a proportion of games played (Josh Hamilton in 2010), which is not a good sign for those of you in New York pulling for LeMahieu.
José Ramirez – The Baseball Team in Cleveland
Best Stat: 54 Runs Created – AL Leader
Before explaining what “runs created” means, just know that Ramirez led the AL in this category. This means he beat out bothof the other players on this list, as well as Mike Trout, who was genetically engineered to create runs. That, in itself, is worth some kind of an award. Now, runs created essentially estimates a player’s offensive contribution in terms of total runs. It combines how well a player gets on base and how well they hit for extra bases, and divides this by his opportunities at the plate. It’s a fairly robust way to see which players are simply offensive machines. And in 2020, Ramirez topped the list. No better MVP case he could make than this one.
Worst Stat: .292 batting average
Okay, okay. This is nitpicky. We know. But this is arguably Ramirez’s weakest offensive number from an otherwise stellar season. His .292 batting average hurts him for a couple reasons. For one thing, it’s not above .300. Why does that matter? Of the last 20 fielders to win AL MVP, only 4 had batting averages lower than .300 (and Mike Trout was 2 of them). Secondly, his average compared to his fellow nominees is significantly lower (.364 for LeMahieu, and .317 for Abreu). Double whammy.
Best Stat: 60 RBIs – MLB leader
Given that he played in all 60 games of the COVID-shortened season, Abreu ended the year with a lovely average of 1 RBI per game. Why is that significant? If you play out the simple math, Abreu was on pace for a historic 162-RBI season (assuming he didn’t miss a game). Such a total hasn’t been even close to achieved since Alex Rodriguez got to 156 back in 2007. So while 60 RBIs might not be flashy, it’s the torrid pace he was on this season that should earn him plenty of MVP votes. Let’s not forget while we are here that Abreu also led the AL in hits and total bases in addition to RBIs, and was second in HRs. Absolute monster at the plate.
Worst Stat: No triples
That’s right. It’s all we could come up with. Abreu was tied for last in the league with zero triples, which by our calculations is a low number. LeMahieu had 2, and Ramirez had 1, so this is where Abreu comes up short against the other MVP candidates. But if anything, the fact this is all we could think of signifies that the award is likely Abreu’s to lose, considering his well-rounded offensive numbers, solid defensive work, and ability to play in every game of the 2020 season.
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