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Your 2018 MLB MVPS: A quick look through the eyes of a baseball nerd.

“M-V-P! M-V-P!” it’s a chant you might hear in any stadium, arena or ballpark, when a particular player is having a stellar season. The acronym, of course, standing for Most Valuable Player, and it is awarded in every sport at the end of each regular season. Nowadays there are many who argue what the term Most VALUABLE Player truly means, however the new “statistics age” in baseball has helped us get a sneak peak into the minds of voters.  So lets take a look at some trends and make some predictions.

American League Finalists: Kris Davis OAK, J.D. Martinez BOS, Mookie Betts BOS

2018 American League MVP: Mookie Betts BOS

This is a pretty easy one for me, although J.D. Martinez is having a stellar year. He currently leads the American League in hits, leads all of the MLB in Total Bases and Runs Batted In, and ranks second in Batting Average. Kris Davis leads the league in homeruns, but what earned him a nod is his incredible hitting as of late. Davis might be is thesingle biggest reason his team is contending. However one trend in voting makes this any easy decision.

Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, is essentially a statistician’s way of determining a player’s value. If you were to search the definition of WAR you would see fangraphs defines it as “a stat to summarize a player’s total contribution to his team.” The last time a player lead the league in WAR and didn’t win an MVP was in 2014 when Corey Kluber was beat out by Mike Trout. Coincidentally, Clayton Kershaw was second in the league and won the NL MVP and the CY Young (Best Pitcher) all in one year. Over the past ten years, 5 times has a player lead the league in WAR and not won the MVP. Three of those five years, a pitcher ended the season ranked first in WAR.  So that means only two out of the last ten years has a position player lead the league in WAR and not won the MVP award. Betts currently leads the league in Total WAR with a 10.2 rating (any score between 5.0 and 7.0 is consideredAll star or MVP caliber). Mookie also leads in Batting Average, both Jose Altuve (2017) and Josh Hamilton (2010) lead the league in WAR and BA in their MVP years. Thus, my pick for the 2018 AL MVP is Mookie Betts, sorry Yankee fans.

National League Finalists: Christian Yelich MIL, Javy Baez CHC, Matt Carpenter STL

2018 National League MVP: Christian Yelich MIL

To be honest I threw Matt Carpenter in here, much like Kris Davis because I believe the voters will look at him as a finalist knowing well they will not give him the award (just ask Jose Ramirez and his break out year last year). When you speak of Matt Carpenter and Kris Davis you can argue that without their individual performances their team’swould not be contending this late in the season. This is where the argument of most valuable versus most outstanding is at its most difficult to determine. Even though Javy Baez is having a stellar year, he ranks second overall amongst position players in WAR in the National League. He has the most total bases, and RBI’s in the NL, while hitting a career high 34 homeruns, good for a top ten ranking, while also ranking in the top ten in stolen bases. Baez is gifted but this is the year of Christian Yelich.  

First off, Yelich is one of 25 players in all of MLB history to hit for the cycle twice in a career. Of those 25 only two other players did it in a single season, and nine of those 25 are Hall of Famers. Currently leading the National League in Batting Average, ranking fourth amongst position players in WAR, and hitting a career high homeruns, those are certainly impressive numbers. Yet there are two stat trends that prove he is an all around better hitter this year, and likely to take home the MVP.  

Slugging Percentage determines the productivity of a hitter. Much like batting average does, it shows how many times a player is likely to get a hit in an at bat.  However it also counts the total bases earned in a hit, so it is weighted to extra base hits.  Yelich is currently leading the National League by a large margin. He also leads in On Base Plus Slugging percentage which encompasses a players ability to both get on base in anyway (draw a walk, hit by pitchetc.) but also hit for power. Over the past ten years, nine players lead their particular league in both categories and were voted MVP. Both Miguel Cabrera and Albert Puljosdid it in back to back years and were given the award. Now realize that’s nine of twenty MVP’s as each league gets awarded an MVP. Five out of the past ten years a player has lead the entire MLB in both stat categories and were voted the MVP.  

When looking through the numbers and seeing the trends these are the guys my money is on to win the awards. These may look pretty simple and obvious to some, but others may have a different opinion. If you have a case for another player to win MVP drop a comment and let’s hear your case. Also keep an eye out for my breakdown of the CY Young Awards as well.

-Dan Murray

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