As we get ready to reach the end of the regular season, it is time to start taking a hard look at Major League Baseball’s MVP races.
American League: Chock full of candidates
With four teams over a .600 winning percentage, the American League is sure to have a number of justifiable MVP candidates. Some incredible baseball is being played in the American League, and there are no shortage of stars.
Trout is back, again
27-year-old Mike Trout is an annual MVP contender and is likely the best player of this generation. Trout has gathered an 8.7 bWAR with a .465 OBP and 1.087 OPS. The Angel has also hit 33 home runs in his 418 at-bats.
Pair of Sox
Though Trout is always the heavy favorite, Boston’s Mookie Betts has put an arguably better season on the table. Betts sits at 9.6 bWAR at the time being. Betts’ batting average is significantly higher than Trout’s, but his OBP and OPS are both lower. Betts also benefits from a higher defensive WAR than Trout. Teaming up with Betts in Boston is fellow MVP candidate, JD Martinez. Martinez has put up a .331 batting average and 1.038 OPS as the designated hitter for the Sox. As a drawback, Martinez does have a remarkably high strikeout percentage at 22.7%.
Don’t forget about the Tribe
Another pair of teammates contending for the MVP resides in Cleveland, Ohio. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor both sit at 7.5 bWAR. Lindor’s defensive contributions have been among the best with Major League shortstops. Lindor has been named an All-Star the last three years, while Ramirez the last two.
Matt Chapman and the red-hot Oakland A’s
The top six leaders in WAR this season are all under the age of 26. It is a new era in baseball where elite players are younger and younger. The case is the same for Oakland Athletic, Matt Chapman. Chapman is in his first full season with the A’s, and he has put together quite the MVP campaign. Chapman’s batting average, OBP, and OPS are all lower than both Trout and Betts. However, Chapman’s bWAR has seen a major boost from his league-leading 3.3 dWAR. Chapman’s performance in the field is unrivaled in 2018.
Hey, the National League plays great baseball too
Over in the National League, Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt is tenth in the Majors in bWAR. Goldschmidt is holding at just under a .300 batting average but has eclipsed the .400 OBP mark. The first baseman’s dWAR has hurt his total bWAR numbers slightly.
Baez getting too much love?
The Cubs’ Javier Baez is twelfth in WAR but is considered by many to be the front-runner for the MVP award. Baez has a solid batting average (.294), but in comparison, his OBP is rather average. Furthermore, a 25.3% strikeout percentage and 3.7% walk percentage is poor. At second base, Baez does have a decent 1.2 dWAR.
.@Lindor12BC is a clear MVP candidate in the AL.
Underappreciated and undervalued
Lorenzo Cain was on the disabled list for a portion of 2018, yet he has still accumulated the highest bWAR in the National League. Cain’s stint with the Brewers has proven crucial to Milwaukee’s postseason chances. Cain’s 6.1 bWAR, 1.9 dWAR, .400 OBP, 12.0% walk percentage and 15.1% strikeout percentage all make for an excellent MVP candidate.
The order of the names above come with a meaning behind them. For both the American League and National League, the final players mentioned are my MVP picks (Matt Chapman and Lorenzo Cain).
Neither has been promoted by Major League Baseball, nor the majority of writers. As with most subjective awards, popularity plays a significant part. Joey Votto probably should have been the National League MVP in 2017, but he plays for Cincinnati. This time around, Chapman and Cain suffer from the same predicament.
For Matt Chapman, the decision was a little more difficult. Betts and Trout have Chapman beat in batting categories, while Chapman’s fielding is clearly more valuable than the other two. For me, it comes down to the idea that Oakland very well may not be in postseason contention without Matt Chapman. For Cain, the decision is easy. Cain has been irreplaceable for Milwaukee this season, and he leads the National League in nearly every player value statistic.
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