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AL MVP Award: Breaking down my ballot from Betts to Simmons

3 11 26

Sometimes it’s sort of satisfying to disagree with someone else’s choices, so if that’s why you’re here, I get it. I’ve certainly second-guessed award votes myself.

Regardless, I’m here to explain my American League MVP ballot. I spent lots of time thinking about this vote before sending it in to the BBWAA, and I’ll try to share that thought process here…

The starting point
I began by taking a look at American League rosters and creating a list of the best players on each team. Lots of players earned this initial consideration. Whit Merrifield and Nick Castellanos, Mookie Betts and Alex Bregman, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander. Any American League player who performed really well in 2018, regardless of how well his team did or what position he played.

Before even making that list, though, I knew it would be tough to displace Mike Trout. He had just hit 39 home runs with a .460 on-base percentage and great centre-field defence. That’s an MVP-calibre season. The question became: did anyone have a better season than Trout?

Looking through my list of the league’s best players, it soon became apparent that if anyone could displace Trout atop the MVP ballot, it would be Betts.

Big picture, Trout and Betts had comparable seasons. Both hit for tons of power, reached base nearly half of the time they batted, walked almost as often as they struck out, and added value with speed and defence. Either would be a deserving MVP, but only one gets top spot.

I like to use wRC to evaluate offensive performance since it adjusts for park and league. In this case Trout comes out slightly ahead, no surprise considering he hits more homers and makes outs less frequently.

Betts had a better year on the bases, though, and he led right-fielders in defensive runs saved while also contributing in centre. He also had the edge in wins above replacement, both at FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference. Reinforcing that, some team executives I heard from said they ranked Betts ahead of Trout for 2018, too.

All things considered, Betts had a slightly better season. He edges Trout for top........

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