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  • Clear MVP Candidates in Both Leagues

    Cody Christie

    Major League Baseball and the Baseball Writers Association of America released the top three finalists for their major awards earlier this week. For fans, it can be fun to look at the credentials of the top candidates.


    What should be considered when naming the league’s top player? Should it be the player with the highest WAR? How important is defense in the overall equation? Does the player have to be playing on a contending team?


    Here’s a look at the finalists and how my ballot would look for the AL and NL MVP.

    Image courtesy of Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

    The American League Finalists for MVP


    Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox

    Betts was a key cog in Boston’s dominant regular season run in the American League. He led the American League in batting average with an outstanding .346 mark. He wasn’t just about the average though as he led the big leagues in slugging percentage (.640) and runs scored (129). He was a record-setter this year as well. He became the first batting champion to have 30 or more steals and home runs. Betts is also one of the best defenders in the league and this helped him to have the top WAR total according to both versions of WAR (FanGraphs and Baseball Reference)


    Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

    Ramirez joined an elite club during the 2018 campaign. He became just the fifth third baseman to join the 30-30 club. He also compiled a lot of other statistics the voters like to see, with 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs. Only 25 players have been members of the 30-30 club while scoring over 100 runs and driving in over 100 runs. Ramirez and the Indians beat up on the AL Central and he played a large role in the club winning their third straight division title.


    Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

    Trout has been the game’s best player for most of the last decade. That being said, he has only been awarded two AL MVP awards during that time (2014, 2016). The Angels have struggled during his career and this has likely cost him the opportunity to win other MVP awards. Even with the Angels posting an under .500 record, Trout notched career highs in OPS (1.088) and on-base percentage (.460). It seems like the award will be handed to Betts and Trout will be the runner-up for the fourth time in the last seven seasons.


    Cody’s American League MVP Ballot

    10. Whit Merrifield, Royals

    9. Gerrit Cole, Astros

    8. J.D. Martinez, Red Sox

    7. Justin Verlander, Astros

    6. Matt Chapman, Athletics

    5. Francisco Lindor, Indians

    4. Alex Bregman, Astros

    3. Jose Ramirez, Indians

    2. Mike Trout, Angels

    1. Mookie Betts, Red Sox



    The National League Finalist for MVP


    Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

    Arenado has been a rock for the Rockies over the course of his career and he is headed for his highest MVP finish. He’s arguably the best defensive third baseman in the National League. However, defense isn’t the only story with Arenado. He led the league in home runs and he had an OPS over .900. Colorado was a surprise team this season and Arenado is the face of the franchise. It seems likely that he will win an MVP at some point in his career, but this doesn’t seem like the year.


    Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs

    Baez logged over 20 games at three different defensive positions this season as Joe Maddon took advantage of his versatility. He seemed to fill up almost every part of the stat sheet. His 111 RBIs lead the National League and he finished second in extra-base hits. Overall, he finished with 40 doubles, over 30 home runs, and over 20 steals. He was a fantasy owner’s dream with all of those stats. Chicago ultimate fell short of their goal, but Baez helped them to stay neck and neck with Milwaukee.


    Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers

    Much like Betts in the American League, Yelich led the National League in both versions of WAR. Also, he won the batting title (.326) and finished first in OPS (1.000) and total bases (343). During the middle of the season, there was some talk about Jacob deGrom being the front-runner for this award. Yelich put most of those whispers to rest as he dominated in September and pushed the Brewers to the NL Central title. During that final month, he posted a 1.312 OPS, so he can probably start preparing his acceptance speech.


    Cody’s National League MVP Ballot

    10. Trevor Story, Rockies

    9. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks

    8. Lorenzo Cain, Brewers

    7. Max Scherzer, Nationals

    6. Freddie Freeman, Braves

    5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals

    4. Jacob deGrom, Mets

    3. Javier Baez, Cubs

    2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies

    1. Christian Yelich, Brewers


    Who would be on your ballot? Should deGrom have been a finalist for the MVP? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.


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    No to DeGromm. Only because I'm from the school that one major award should go to a pitcher, and one to a position player. This, IMO, regardless of the implications regarding what WAR might have to say in terms of the 'valuable' part of the MVP. I don't think there is a right/wrong here. Just preference.


    Maybe it's time to change the system: Pitcher of the Year; Batter of the Year; Player of the Year. The first two would/should have more objectivity and be highly data-driven.  The last, basically, becomes the replacement for the current MVP...along with all the subjectivity (pitcher/non-pitcher, pennant relevance, etc., etc.). This also would be better in the event the Shohei Ohtani thing becomes real/common/enduring.

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    I don't mind if a pitcher wins the MVP, but I still think that it clearly goes to Yelich this year. If baseball wants to end this contentious debate they'd add a third award for best hitter. The MVP award in neither it's name nor it's description says that it is for the best player:


    “The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931: (1) actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense; (2) number of games played; (3) general character, disposition, loyalty and effort; (4) former winners are eligible; and (5) members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.”


    You'll never be able to get enough people to agree that a player on an noncompetitive team could possibly have enough value to earn the honor. Just make another award without all the subjectivity that's equal to the Cy Young award, but for hitters.

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    Hmm, yeah that sounds familiar. Seems like that should fall in line with the other awards. Promoting that one to match the Cy Young award could help ease the MVP debates.


    So in light of that, I'm just fine with the MVP typically going to who most voters see as the most valuable, that being the player who's teams successful season rode most heavily on his shoulders.

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    I think Jacob deGrom should win the Cy Young. As for MVP I am all for a pitcher, but it comes down to how you define valuable, and IMO starting pitcher on a 77 win team that averages less than 7 innings should not win the MVP.


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    I'ts not his fault they didn't win.......to me, MVP is who would you rather have on your roster? Now, I get some people would rather have the hitter, I'm good with that.....but it's not his fault they didn't win games......he provided great value to that team, they did not take advantage of that value.

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    So who was the least valuable player in each league (more-or-less an everyday player)?

    Chris Davis has a pretty strong claim in the AL, among players with 502 or more PA. That tasty .168 BA was supplemented by some walks and power, but yeesh. And he didn't provide much defensive value to compensate.


    It's closer in the NL, but Billy Hamilton had such a poor year at the plate for Cincy that I'm not sure his glove made up for it enough.

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