Why Mookie Betts deserves the AL MVP amid a crowded field packed with deserving candidates
Mike Trout and Jose Ramirez have the rest of the season to dethrone Betts
We here at CBS Sports have spent the week analyzing all of baseball's award races.
Today, we'll conclude our series by dissecting the American League Most Valuable Player Award. As you probably know, there a a lot of capable candidates. Let's get to it.
Mookie Betts has been the most productive player in the AL this season, as judged by Baseball-Reference's wins above replacement metric. That he's amassed more than eight wins while recording fewer plate appearances than anyone else in the top 10 suggests he's been the top player on both a rate and counting basis. Add in how he's the face of the best team in baseball, and there's every reason to believe he's the odds-on favorite to win AL MVP.
Of course, "odds-on favorite" for the award doesn't mean Betts will win the award. Mike Trout is less than half a win beyond Betts and has been a slightly better hitter per park-adjusted stats. Unfortunately for Trout, he's stuck on a team without playoff aspirations. It's hard to see him overcoming the narrative when he isn't clearly ahead in numbers.
Jose Ramirez is also right there with Betts and Trout in WAR. In a vacuum, there's no doubt Ramirez would be a deserving winner based on the season he's having. Figuring out an argument for Ramirez that precludes voting for Betts is difficult, however, since Betts has been the superior hitter and plays on a better team. Maybe if enough voters believe Ramirez was more crucial to Cleveland's success than Betts' was to Boston's -- or maybe if they have a predilection for infielders. Otherwise, Ramirez is probably battling it out with Trout for second.
Others to watch
Can you feel the narrative building? Matt Chapman is a heck of a player -- an above-average hitter and all-world defender at the hot corner -- and he's almost certain to receive a bump because of the Oakland Athletics' unlikely run toward the postseason. If the A's win the division, it wouldn't shock us were Chapman to find his way into the top three of voting.
Francisco Lindor has been just as good as Chapman offensively when adjusting for parks, and should receive bonus points for playing shortstop. Still, Chapman could edge him out due to the idea that one is more important to their team than the other -- if only because Lindor happens to play with another top performer and Chapman does not.
Aaron Judge has the sixth-best OPS+ in the AL and everyone ahead of him is either included here or has been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He's also a quality corner outfielder and ought to be the New York Yankees' highest finisher.
As it stands right now, Alex Bregman is going to finish the season as the Houston Astros' leader in plate appearances. Factor in how good he's been with the stick, and he's probably going to finish higher than teammate and reigning MVP Jose Altuve.
The only way we can see a hitter-only player like J.D. Martinez winning the MVP is if he secures the Triple Crown. Even then, voters probably aren't slotting him in above Betts and crew.
There are a few other pitchers who could sneak in as down-ballot votes, including a few from Cleveland, but we're going to name Chris Sale since -- as with Betts and Martinez -- he'll benefit from voters wanting to reward the Red Sox for a potentially historic season.
Andrelton Simmons is perhaps the best fielding shortstop in baseball and he's hitting over .300 with more walks than strikeouts. His season merits recognition, even if the Angels haven't fulfilled their promise.
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