We are a little more than halfway complete with the 2018 season and players have stepped up to put themselves in contention for MVP of the American League. I’m not going to give you my opinions without reason and if you don’t like who I have as front-runners or think someone else is more deserving, @ us at Game_Complete on twitter. Also, with the season as long as it is, there will most likely be some fluctuation among MVP candidates. So I’m going to give my MVP picks based on performance up to this point in the season and then at the end of the article, I’ll give insight into who I think will win it all by the end.
The key thing to look at when analyzing players in the Majors are the stats that actually mean something offensively and the impact they make on defense. You also have to add context to every stat because even if a guy has hit 25 home runs, (which is very good) he may only have a batting average of .225 (not good) and may not add as much value as someone who has 15 home runs and has a .325 batting average. There are a ton of empty stats out there that nobody should care anything about but common media will shove it down your throat like they know something… often times, they don’t.
Let’s take a look at the two MVP candidates in the American League. Yes, I only have two because they are, in my opinion, the only two players with a legitimate chance to win the award this season. These two players are about equal in terms of defense which is a major contributor to whether a player should be MVP or not. They have cannons in the outfield and those cannons are matched by their instincts and speed to make above average plays. I’m ranking these guys 1 and 2 based on their performance so far this season.
- Mookie Betts:
I mean this guy has been just incredible. He has a .351 Batting average that leads the league and a .437 on base percentage which is out of this world. The most impressive stat that he has, though, is the amount of times that he’s stuck out this season… 48. The rest of the MVP candidates for both leagues are averaging about 85. Yes, that’s a huge difference. “So what?” you might ask. Well, I’ll tell you WHAT. When you strike out less, that means that you’re doing something productive, inherently. By putting the ball in play, you give yourself a chance to get on base, either by a hit or by an error. Another thing this does is it can move players up a base, giving your team a shot for runs. It doesn’t always happen but it’s always better to put the ball in play as opposed to striking out. I wouldn’t be talking about this being important if there wasn’t such a large gap between him an the rest of the MVP candidates. Along those same lines, Mookie has 18 stolen bases which is important because from a stolen base, you’re automatically putting yourself in scoring position. What’s crazy is that Trout has 18 stolen bases as well. This among many other stats, especially their defensive impact, are what separate these two players from the rest.
2. Mike Trout:
Mike is many peoples front-runner for MVP, which is just not correct as of right now. I’m not saying that he won’t be when all is said and done but for right now, he’s number 2 on my list. Also, by putting Trout at 2, I’m not disrespecting him because he’s truly incredible and does what he does year after year. The consistency is off the charts. This season he’s been great, batting .305 and has an unreal on base percentage at .457. He HAS struck out 89 times, however, and that’s and issue when comparing him to Betts. But listen, these guys are close in almost every category: Trout has 26 homers and 54 RBI to Betts’ 24 homers and 52 RBI. They both steal bases at a very high clip which is very important because 90 feet can mean the difference between being stranded at 3rd or scoring on a base hit.
These two guys have been the best two players in the MLB this season when talking about all-around impact; hitting, fielding, and base running. So what has to happen when analyzing which player is more deserving of the AL MVP award, especially when all of the stats are so close, is we have to look at major discrepancies. Both with an eye test of real life game performance and on the stat sheet. I’m not talking about a 2 home run difference (26-24=2) or a 2 RBI difference (54-52=2). No, we need to look at gaps in major statistical categories that mean something. Like a .046 difference in batting averages or one of the players having nearly double the amount of strike outs as the other. These stats mean something and that’s why Betts is your leader up to this point in the season. Oh and I’m not naive enough to think that on base percentage means nothing, it’s definitely a major contributor in the decision making process but it doesn’t lean heavily enough in Trout’s favor to put him ahead of Mookie.
As of right now, Betts is winning the race for MVP. Or at least should be. When it’s all said and done, though, I believe Mike Trout will be crowned MVP. I don’t think Betts will fall off much in the second half of the season but I also don’t think he can continue with a .350 batting average. I think he’ll slide to the .330 range while Trout jumps into the .315 range. Trout will remain consistent and maintain the pace at which he’s going with all aspects of his game. Mookie will stay great as well but maybe not as great as he was in the first half of the season and you’ll see a slight decline in his numbers. Now I’ll be the first to tell you that stats don’t always tell the whole story but they do provide context to any argument your trying to make. With all of that being said, I think Mookie will end the season with a better batting average than Mike and make a great case to be MVP. He may even be more deserving than Trout but with the aura around Mike Trout’s name, coupled with his MVP caliber season, I would be truly shocked if Mike didn’t take home the 2018 American League MVP award.
JD Martinez (Boston)
Jose Altuve (Houston)
There are reasons that I didn’t put these two guys on the list initially but if they go crazy in the second half of this season, I’ll admit that was wrong. There are arguments to be made for others but not enough to put them ahead of Betts or Trout.
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