The Most Valuable Player is the highest distinction a player in any league can win. Echoing through arenas, ballparks and rinks around the globe, the MVP Chant is a rallying cry of support for a star. It’s an honor, a distinction, a career defining moment to be named MVP.
The MLB MVP award is no different. To be crowned Most Valuable Player of America’s Pastime is a great honor, one that stays attached to player’s name long after they’ve played their final out.
Let’s look at this year’s American League finalists.
*- American League Leader
**- MLB Leaders
Jose Ramirez -2B/3B, Cleveland Indians
2018: 157 Games, 110 Runs, 156 Hits, 105 RBIs, 38 Doubles, 4 Triples, 39 Home Runs, .270/.374/.552, 0.939 OPS, 34 Stolen Bases, 80 Strikeouts, 7.9 WAR.
Best Stat: 105 RBIs, 80 Ks
Worst Stat: .270 Average
I’m gonna be completely honest, I’m not quite sure why Jose Ramirez is a finalist. I mean, the guy’s a beast, don’t get me wrong. It’s his numbers that pale in comparison to the other two finalists.
When looking over the league leaders, there are so many other options for the third finalist. There’s Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros, J.D. Martinez of the Boston Red Sox, and even Ramirez’s Cleveland Indians teammate Francisco Lindor.
When put up against Mookie Betts and Mike Trout, there’s simply no way he can win. Ramirez had an incredible season, where he joined Betts in the 30-30 Club (30 HR – 30 Steals) and a third-place finish should be enough to a hat tip to keep him pushing on.
But mark my words, if Ramirez keeps improving like he has, he’ll get an MVP sooner rather than later.
Mookie Betts – OF, WORLD CHAMPION Boston Red Sox
2018: 136 Games, 129 Runs**, 180 Hits, 80 RBIs, 47 Doubles, 5 Triples, 32 Home Runs, .346**/.438/.640**, 1.078 OPS, 30 Stolen Bases, 91 Strikeouts, 10.9 WAR.
Best Stat: .346 Average, 47 Doubles.
Worst Stat: 136 Games, 32 Home Runs.
Mookie. Betts. The guy’s a bonafide stud. What more can you say?
A lot more, are you kidding?
Mookie is the first Red Sox player to win the batting title since Bill Mueller in 2003. Mookie has also cemented himself as a solid five-tool player. I mean, few players hit 30 Home Runs and steal 30 bases. He’s the glue that held the Red Sox together. He’s the guy who got them there.
And those numbers are out of this world.
If there’s a dark mark on his season it’s the playoffs, but we’re not talking about the playoffs.
The other bit that could bite Mookie in the end is his 136 games played. Mookie missed 26 games this season, 15% of the season. Now, is this enough to keep him out of the MVP race? No. Mike Trout missed 22. The issue is that his numbers probably could have been even better. Think of it this way.
If Mookie plays the other 26 games, he would get another 144 plate appearances (PA). Using his season total of 614 PAs becomes 520 at-bats, Mookie would record 122 additional at-bats. Using his final average, he’d get a hit in 42 of those PAs. Mookie would go yard every 16.5
It’s also something Mike Trout has never done.
Is all of that conjecture? Sure, but if Mookie had those at-bats, this wouldn’t be a close race. The MVP would be his. Instead he has to do something only a few people have done. Take the crown from…
Mike Trout – OF, Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim)
2018: 140 Games, 101 Runs, 147 Hits, 79 RBIs, 24 Doubles, 4 Triples, 39 Home Runs, .312/.460**/.628, 1.088** OPS, 24 Stolen Bases, 124 Strikeouts, 10.2 WAR.
Best Stat: 1.088 OPS, .460 OBP
Worst Stat: 24 Doubles, 124 Ks
I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, Mike Trout is the greatest baseball player I will ever see in my lifetime. That’s a hard fact. And as much as I try to fight the urge to call him overrated, he’s simply not. The guy can play and he’s playing at the highest level you can possible play at. He’s Mike Trout. He’s unreal.
That being said, he did somethings this year, that were both on par with his normal seasons, and also fell short in others.
39 dingers for Trout was most he’s had in a season since 2015, so that’s a great improvement from Trout. It does show a bit of a shift in his role on the Angels roster, but that’s probably for another time…
Another thing to note is his .460 OBP, which led the Majors in 2018. Mike Trout legitimately gets on base more than any other player in the league and when he does, he’s a threat to steal and score. Getting Trout off the bases was a difficult task.
Not a difficult task? Striking out Mike Trout in 2018. The worst stat for Trout is his 122 strikeouts, the highest number of punchouts for Trout in his career. So when Mike Trout steps into the box, he’s got a 31.2% chance of getting a hit, but you also have a 25% chance of striking him out, and a 43.8% chance he gets out another way.
Sure, that might not seem terrible, but when you consider that your chances of striking out Betts is 17.5% and Ramirez is 13.8%, Trout’s 25% looks very high. Even Alex Gordon had a lower Strikeout %. That’s the rough patch for Trout’s 2018.
So who wins?
I was fairly certain Mookie Betts would win in 2016 over Mike Trout, but I was wrong because Trout was better despite Betts having 216 hits, and a smattering of other solid stats.
This however, I don’t think Trout can hold him off. Mookie Betts has been playing out of his mind this season. He’s got the WAR advantage over Trout, something few players can say they’ve done, and he’s been, overall, a more productive player at the plate. Sure, Trout knocked in 7 more long balls in 2018, but Mookie was a menace at the plate.
If Mookie doesn’t win this year, we should all just pray that our new God Mike Trout is just and fair and is now immortal. If he can’t beat Trout this year, he’ll never do it.
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