On Thursday night, the BBWAA awarded Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich the AL and NL MVP titles. The way things have gone recently, it feels like the Baltimore Orioles have never been further away from having an MVP contender
Looking back at the 2018 season, the Baltimore Orioles were so incredibly far away from being a successful baseball team. Every player on the roster under-played their projections; the defense was terrible, the bullpen was one of the worst in MLB. There were endless injury issues and nothing went right for the O’s all year.
In terms of value, Manny Machado led the team with 3.8 fWAR; he played just 96 games with the team. Jonathan Villar was second with 1.3, and he was a trade deadline acquisition. Just three pitchers, Mychal Givens, Kevin Gausman, and Alex Cobb. were worth more than 1 fWAR, and 27 players posted negative WAR values. Needless to say that none of the Orioles were anywhere near the MVP conversation at any point in the season.
Mookie Betts was in that conversation from the start of the season. Over 614 plate appearances in 139 games, Betts posted an unreal .346/.438/.640 line with 32 homers, 30 steals, 129 RBI, 10.4 fWAR, and he had a 1.210 OPS with runners in scoring position. Betts’ 185 wRC+ was second in MLB behind only Mike Trout‘s 191.
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Trout has now played seven full seasons; he has two MVP titles and has never finished worse than fourth in MVP voting. This year, he led the American League in walks, on-base percentage and OPS, he posted 9.8 fWAR and he hit 39 homers with 24 steals. Trout is undoubtedly the best player in baseball, and if his career keeps playing out this way, he could be the first unanimous first-ballot Hall of Famer.
But Betts was better in 2018, and he absolutely deserved to win the MVP title. Betts won with 28 first place votes, with Trout receiving just one, and JD Martinez receiving the other.
In the National League, Christian Yelich was far and away the best hitter. Yelich hit .326/.402/.598 with 36 homers, 22 steals, posted 7.6 fWAR and his 166 wRC+ led the National League. He caught fire in the second half and rode a 1.219 second-half OPS to the MVP title.
Yelich won the MVP title with 29 first place votes, with Jacob deGrom being the only other player receiving one. The voters have typically shied away from voting for pitchers in the MVP race; in the past 50 years, just 8 of those 100 MVP titles have been won by pitchers. But if you ask me, deGrom was the most valuable player in the NL this year.
It’s a tough enough ask for the voters to give deGrom the Cy Young when he had just 10 wins this year, so you don’t want to ask too much of them. But as good as Yelich was this year, deGrom was simply better. The same goes for Max Scherzer and Aaron Nola, but none of the three were named as finalists for the award.
When Kershaw won in 2014, he had very similar stats to deGrom’s in 2018, but Kershaw posted a 21-3 record; if deGrom had went 15-5 this year, does he get more consideration for MVP? That feels like an unfortunate yes.
Speaking of unfortunate, the last time an Orioles player won the MVP award was in 1991, when Cal Ripken had a .940 OPS and 10.6 fWAR; Cal posted an unreal 31.6 Def that year. If that feels like forever ago, that’s because it was.
Who’ll be the next Orioles player to be in the MVP conversation? I have a feeling that he’s not currently on the roster, but with any luck, they will be soon.