There can only be one winner for the AL MVP award. And that “one” this year could be a certain Astros second baseman.
Of course, Jose Altuve has been one of the best players in baseball for the past few seasons. That is the opinion in Houston, anyway. But the rest of the nation are now catching on to Altuve-Mania. And he is in the running for a special award: the AL MVP.
And in honor of tonight’s election for the presidency in our fair country, let’s see which candidate is the best!
Candidate #1: Mike Trout
There is no denying that Trout is a once-in-a-generation player. Not only is he one of the most exciting players to watch on a daily basis, he is a perennial MVP contender. In fact, the Los Angeles Angels outfielder is about to make history regardless if he wins the award or not.
The odds have to be stacked in Trout’s favor to win the award or at least finish in the top-two. His 9.4 WAR was by far the best in not only the AL, but all of baseball. Between his ability to hit, steal bases, and solid defense, there isn’t one notable flaw in his game today.
If there is any knock, in my opinion minuscule, against Trout winning the MVP award this year is the Angels overall record of 74-88 in 2016. Again, this is a terrible position to hold. While it is true that Los Angeles struggled, Trout was definitely not one of them. In fact, the Angels could be the worst team in baseball without the services of this 25-year old star outfielder.
Candidate #2: Mookie Betts
The Boston Red Sox experienced a resurgence of sorts in 2016. And their outfielder, Betts, was one of the chief reasons behind it.
Arguably his breakout season, Betts finished 2016 with an impressive 7.8 WAR with a 135 wRC+ and .216 ISO. All of that production 158 games. Yeah, he was that good. And that help lead the Red Sox into the playoffs for the first time since the 2013 season.
Out of the three candidates in fact, Betts’ squad was the only one to reach the postseason. And while Boston was then swept in three games against the Cleveland Indians this postseason, Betts will likely be the face of the franchise in 2017 as David Ortiz retired.
The one area that probably gives Betts the edge of the likes of Trout and Altuve is this: defense.
The Red Sox outfielder posted the best DRS (32) of any qualifying outfielder in baseball. For comparison sake, Trout’s DRS (6) was the eighth-best in baseball. And while Altuve plays a different position, his -2 DRS doesn’t help his case against a player with similar offensive numbers.
Candidate #3: Jose Altuve
The third and final candidate for the AL MVP award is none other than our favorite second baseman, Mr. Altuve.
When you examine Altuve’s 2016 numbers, you see a player that is clearly MVP material. His .338 batting average netted the Astros star another AL batting title. He was also named the Sporting News Player of the Year.
One could make the argument that Altuve was in fact the real MVP through most of the season. Before his .276 September swoon, Altuve was consistently hitting in the mid-.300’s while producing career-highs in numerous offensive categories. All in all, he was the true offensive force for the Astros, even at times when the bats weren’t clicking.
However, that late season swoon and the after mentioned defense will not help Altuve’s case as the AL MVP. And while the Astros did fail to make the postseason due to numerous issues that didn’t concern the team’s best player, that still may be held against him by the voters like it may with Trout and the Angels.
As much as I want for Altuve to be the first Astros player to win the AL MVP, it is rather unlikely that this is his year. Between Trout doing Trout-like things and Betts help lead the Red Sox to the postseason, odds are that one of those deserving players will go home with the award. Or who knows, the voters could surprise everyone. After all, never count out a player like Altuve. Never.
**Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs**