The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the Tampa Bay Rays in the best-of-seven 2020 World Series by a count of 3-2, which means at most we've got two games remaining. The big story is whether the Dodgers can win one more game before the Rays win two more. Right now, though, let's make time for a leading subplot -- who's likely to wind up winning World Series MVP honors.
As noted, one or perhaps two games remain in the series, and given how easy it is for a player's numbers to swing wildly across the small sample that is the postseason series, it's possible things change over the remainder. For now, though, here are the leading candidates to win the Willie Mays World Series MVP Trophy.
Before we dive in, a quick note on one possibly unfamiliar statistic that we'll be noting. That's "Championship Win Probability Added," or "cWPA." cWPA is simply the extent to which a player has improved or harmed his team's chances of winning the World Series, expressed as a percentage. Blast a walk-off home run? Your cWPA will go up significantly. Allow that same walk-off home run, or strike out with the potential tying run on third and two outs in the ninth and your cWPA will go way down.
Now here's where things stand going into Game 6, in order of present likelihood to win the award.
Seager is looking to become the first since Madison Bumgarner in 2014 to win LCS and World Series MVP honors. It says here he's the favorite to do just that. Seager boasts the strongest slash line of any player to play regularly or even semi-regularly in this series, and he's put up those numbers while running the bases well and manning the vital position of shortstop. That cWPA of Seager's leads all Dodgers by a wide margin.
Turner's put up tremendous numbers at the plate and has also sparkled in the field at third base for the Dodgers. While his overall numbers aren't as strong as Seager's, they're close enough that Turner could easily move the needle over the rest of the series.
Muncy's overall numbers this series compare favorably to those of the two players ahead of him, and his cWPA -- a proxy for how clutch he's been -- checks in ahead of Turner's. That puts him within easy range of the top spot if he, say, comes up big in a clinching Game 6 for the Dodgers.
In terms of overall production, Arozarena compares favorably to almost anyone in this series, and like Seager above he's trying to win both LCS and World Series MVP. No, Arozarena's cWPA doesn't make the case for him, but at least in part that's offset by the strong narrative that's (deservedly) surrounding him this postseason. As well, he gets some bonus points for scoring the winning run in that unimaginable Game 4 -- even if he fell down along the way. What drops Arozarena and any other Ray on this list is the fact that Tampa Bay is down 3-2 in the series. Only one player -- Bobby Richardson in 1960 -- has won World Series MVP as a member of the losing team.
In addition to playing a nifty center field, Kiermaier has come up huge at the plate during this series. He's also been clutch, as that cWPA above tops that of any series regular not named Seager.
Kershaw has been more effective than dominant in his pair of World Series starts, but the prevailing reality is that the Dodgers probably aren't one win away from their first title since 1988 without said effectiveness. There's also probably an unstated and perhaps even unintentional desire among some with a say in the matter to push back against the "Kershaw, playoff choker" false plot line. Maybe it takes a successful high-leverage, short-rest relief appearance in a hypothetical Game 7 to make Kershaw the favorite, but even if he doesn't appear in the series again he's in a competitive spot.
Buehler was dominant in his Game 3 start, but it will take another similarly dominant outing in Game 7 -- and a Dodgers win -- to push him to the top of this list. Given that a Game 7 isn't a guarantee, we have to push Buehler down our list of candidates.
Margot has reached base seven times in this series, and the slash line and cWPA are strong enough to earn him "watch list" status heading into the final or two games of the series. Possible points off for his unsuccessful attempted steal of home in Game 5.
Snell was solid in his Game 2 start, and the Rays eventually won that game to even the series. He'll go in Game 6 with the Rays on the brink of elimination. For Snell to get MVP consideration, it will take a dominant and signature outing on Tuesday night -- and a longer leash from manager Kevin Cash -- and then an eventual Rays win in Game 7. All of that's possible, if presently unlikely.
These obviously aren't vintage numbers at the plate for Betts, but he's been strong enough in the field and on the bases to merit a watchful eye. Betts will need a huge Game 6 and or Game 7 in order to be a serious part of the MVP discussion, and he's more than capable of making that happen.
Diaz has an impressive slash line in this series, and he's been a notable positive for the Rays on the cWPA front. He's played in just four of the five games, but his production has been strong enough to merit an eye for the rest of the series.
Yeah, you know why Phillips is on here:
With that one clutch knock -- with the Rays down to their last strike in Game 4 -- Phillips improved their chances of winning the World Series by a whopping 29.2 percent. In terms of cWPA that makes it one of the 25 biggest hits in MLB history. To be sure, Phillips will almost certainly not earn World Series MVP laurels with one plate appearance, but let's give a nod to what he achieved and place him on the distant reaches of the radar just in case he again comes up in a big spot.
Again, with at least one more game to play consider these matters to be #developing.