Mike Trout is NOT AL MVP
What is an MVP? It means Most Valuable Player. It’s not “best player” it’s not “player with really good stats on a losing team that has no shot of making the playoffs because they’re not even playing .500 ball right now”. Most. Valuable. Player. It seems as though some people have a difficult time grasping that concept. The reason I bring this up is the constant shoehorning into the conversation of American League MVP of Mike Trout, outfielder for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Currently, the Angels are 78-81, or 4th in a five-team division, twenty-two and one-half games behind the American League West division leading Houston Astros (at the time of this writing) with three games remaining. Mike Trout is clearly their best player, and perhaps the best player in all of baseball. But he is not, I repeat, NOT the league MVP.
One of the most infuriating things about baseball is their proclivity to give the MVP award to the best offensive player regardless of his team’s place in the standings. The most egregious example of this, in my opinion, was in 2003 when Alex Rodriguez won the MVP award over a clearly more-deserving David Ortiz. Rodriguez put up 47 home runs and 118 RBI while batting .298 in 161 games for a team that finished 71-91. They ended up 25 games behind the division-winning Oakland Athletics. How valuable was Rodriguez to that team in the long run? I would argue that when he was traded to the Yankees after that season, the Rangers actually improved because they won 18 more games, finishing 89-73. If you lose an MVP, your team shouldn’t get better, should it?
That same year, David Ortiz’ Boston Red Sox won 95 games and made it to within one game of the World Series. Ortiz’ numbers that year? 31 homers, 101 RBI and a .288 average. On the surface, you would think that Rodriguez had a better season, but Ortiz had multiple game-winning hits, including one-off nearly untouchable Oakland closer Keith Foulke in the playoffs AND played in only 128 games- 31 fewer than Rodriguez. Was Ortiz more valuable than Rodriguez that year? Absolutely. Again, this award is not for the best offensive player – that’s the Silver Slugger which is awarded to the best offensive player at each position.
This year, there is stiff competition for MVP, but Trout shouldn’t even be in the conversation. No team that is over 20 games out of first place should have a player in the conversation for MVP, because the argument is that without the MVP, that team wouldn’t be nearly as good. As we saw with Rodriguez, that clearly wasn’t the case. Now you can say the Angels are a better team with Trout in their lineup, and you’d be correct. But they’re a bad team WITH him, so that should disqualify him because his value doesn’t equate to wins. He currently is batting .313 with 38 homers and 77 RBI, and his WAR (wins above replacement) sits at 10.1, which is astronomically high.
For comparison, the player I personally feel should be MVP (whom Trout beat in 2016 in a similar situation when his team was 74-88, finishing 26 games behind division winner Texas while Trout put up a .315 batting average, 29 homers and 100 RBI) is Boston’s, Mookie Betts. Betts is currently at a 10.8 WAR, 32 home runs, and 80 RBI to go along with 30 stolen bases. Oh, and he leads the American League with a .346 batting average. So Betts has a higher WAR, more RBI, fewer home runs, and an average over 30 points higher than Trout on a team that has won, at the moment, 107 games, or nearly 30 games better than Trout’s Angels. In 2016, Betts had a .318 average, 31 homers and 113 RBI. Here’s the side-by-side comparison of the two seasons for both players:
2016 Betts – .318/31/113, 93-69, 1st AL East
2016 Trout – .315/29/100, 74-88, 4th AL West
2018 Betts – .346/32/80, 107-52, 1st AL East
2018 Trout – .313/38/77, 71-91, 4th AL West
It looks like a repeat of what happened in 2016. How is this possible? How can a player with lesser stats on a team that has won far fewer games be the MVP over the better player on the better team? If you want to make an argument about two players with similar stats on teams that had similar records, you’d have a viable argument. But here? I don’t get how this is even a conversation about anyone even considering thinking about deciding to potentially give Trout the MVP. He shouldn’t get a single vote. You want to throw Jose Ramirez of Cleveland or Alex Bregman of Houston into the conversation, I’d gladly agree that either of them could be MVP, or at least be included in the conversation with Betts.
Even in 2008, when Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox won, he didn’t have the best statistical season. He didn’t have the highest batting average (that was Joe Mauer of the Twins who hit .328 to Pedroia’s .326, which to be fair was 2nd in the league), the most home runs (Miguel Cabrera of Detroit had 37 to Pedroia’s 17), or the most RBI (Josh Hamilton had 130 to Pedroia’s 83) nor did he lead the league in stolen bases (teammate Jacoby Ellsbury had 50, or 30 more than Pedroia). But of the top ten players receiving votes, the top four came from only two teams – Boston and Minnesota (Pedroia, Justin Morneau of Minnesota, Kevin Youkilis of Boston and Mauer of Minnesota). But the voters recognized the value of the overall presence Pedroia had and rewarded him with 317 total points in the vote. Morneau got 257, Youkilis 201 and Mauer 188. Boston finished second in the East, the Twins second in the Central. Many players had similar stats in the top ten, and none were from a team not in first or second place in their division with the exception of Alex Rodriguez of the 3rd place in the East Yankees. Only one player, Josh Hamilton, was from a team with a losing record (Texas finished 79-83 but still second in the West).
The point is that if there are a lot of players with similar stats from good teams, you can argue that even though they may not lead the league in any statistical category, they can still be an integral part of their team’s success and should be considered. By the same token, you could have a player win the Triple Crown on a team that finishes last in their division, and that player shouldn’t even garner a thought for MVP, because despite his gaudy stats, those numbers didn’t translate into wins. To me, the MVP gives you the opportunity to win and should be a major part of his team’s success, and without him, the team would not be in the position to be as successful as they were.
That is why no matter how good Mike Trout is, he should not be considered MVP over Markus Lynn Betts.