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  • Are Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich in the clear for the AL and NL MVPs? The SI staff discusses this year's races.
By SI.com Staff
November 14, 2018

The last award of Awards Week will be announced on Thursday night, meaning the only winners we don't know are those of American and National League MVP. In the National League, the race is between Javier Báez, Nolan Arenado and Christian Yelich. In the American League, it's Mookie Betts, Mike Trout and Jose Ramirez. So who are this year's winners? Our staff makes their picks below.

Ben Reiter: Mookie Betts … but J.D. Martinez should have finished in the top three (not Jose Ramirez.)

Emma BaccellieriMookie Betts. There’ve been 38 seasons in baseball history by a hitter with 10.5 WAR or more, per Baseball-Reference. Six were Babe Ruth. Four were Willie Mays. Three by Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Barry Bonds. Those five men make up half of the set. The other names are just as impressive—Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial. But there have only been a tiny handful of entries in the last three decades, other from Bonds. There was Cal Ripken, Jr. in 1991. Mike Trout in 2012. Now, Mookie Betts in 2018. That’s it. That’s the company he’s keeping here.

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Jon Tayler: The narrative will favor Mookie Betts over Mike Trout despite their near-identical stats. Consider this, though: From 2012, his first full season, through last year, Trout has averaged—averaged—a .310/.420/.579 line with 34 home runs and 26 stolen bases per season. In those seven years, he has been worth 7.6 bWAR or more six times (and almost certainly would’ve topped that figure in 2017 had he not missed six weeks due to injury); three times he’s hit double digits, including 2018’s 10.2. Only three other players in history have ever produced more 10-plus bWAR seasons: Babe Ruth (a staggering nine times), Willie Mays and Rogers Hornsby (six each). Yet despite all of this, Trout will enter next season with only two MVP trophies to his name and four second-place finishes. Betts is a worthy winner, but history will judge us for how badly we’ve underappreciated Trout.

Jack Dickey: Mookie Betts will win, and it won’t be particularly close—Mike Trout bested him by 10 points of OPS, but Betts did his usual defensive-superstar thing in right field. What’s funny is that each man missed about 20 games (Trout played 140, Betts 136) and still Alex Bregman and José Ramírez (157 games each) didn’t reach their level. Quality over quantity!

Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

National League

Ben Reiter: Christian Yelich … but Jacob DeGrom should have finished in the top three (not Javier Báez).

Emma Baccellieri: Christian Yelich. His last two months of the season made this one just about impossible to deny. Much has already been written about his evolution, but one of the most remarkable little tidbits here, I think, is that he posted exactly the same groundball-to-flyball ratio in 2017 and 2018: 2.20. What was different? What he did with that small set of flyballs. In 2017, 15% of them became home runs. In 2018, 35% of them did. This year, Yelich kept the fundamental outlines of his profile the same, but he colored them in with an entirely different style.

Jon Tayler: Like Betts, the voters will coalesce around Christian Yelich thanks to his central role in the Brewers’ NL Central title and his incandescent second half (.367/.449/.770). Like Betts, he’ll deserve this win. But I want to call attention here to the baffling choice of the third finalist in this vote, behind Yelich and Javy Baez: Nolan Arenado, who had nowhere near as good a season as either of those two. He wasn’t even the MVP of his own team; that honor would probably go to either Trevor Story, who out-hit Arenado, or Kyle Freeland, Colorado’s homegrown ace. In his place should have been deGrom, whose 2018 season was one of the best a starting pitcher has ever compiled. He was a far better candidate for this award—and, in my mind, as deserving a winner as Yelich if not more so—than Arenado or even Baez. 

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Jack Dickey: It should be Jacob deGrom, but the early returns (showing finalists Christian Yelich, Nolan Arenado, and Javier Báez) indicate that the voters have not been quite so creative. I realize that it would seem frankly insane to hand an award for the Most Valuable Player to a man who appeared in only 14 games that his team won, but no other player in the senior circuit did his job as well as deGrom did his. Anyway, congrats to Christian Yelich. Pete Davidson could use the win.

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