The awards week has arrived with a humdinger of a debate: Did the baseball writers make a mistake by not including Boston’s J.D. Martinez in the top three for the American League MVP?
The answer is yes.
We’ll know more about why when the votes are released next week, but this is a whopper of a mistake by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. The top three candidates are the Red Sox’s Mookie Betts, the Angels’ Mike Trout and the Indians’ José Ramírez.
How to determine which player should be an MVP is up for debate. The traditional point of view is that a productive player on a winning team - or at least a contending team - should get strong consideration.
But in the last few years, the debate has evolved into making the MVP award a Player of the Year award, to go to the guy with the best statistics - some of them new-age, such as wins above replacement (WAR) - no matter how his team fared in the standings.
Who knows why the BBWAA voters - two in each AL city - didn’t vote for Martinez?
Martinez has been valuable to the Red Sox in intangible ways. His power bat helped everyone in the lineup. When he wasn’t hitting home runs, he’d go with the pitch and hit the ball the other way.
The MVP award should be given to the player who is the most valuable, not a player with the best statistics, whether WAR or any other.
In 2017, the Red Sox finished last in the American League in home runs with 168. With Martinez, the Red Sox hit 208, sixth-best in the AL.
Martinez’s stats speak for themselves. He hit 43 home runs with a .330 average and a .402 on-base percentage. Ramírez shouldn’t have been a finalist. He hit .270 with a .387 on-base percentage, but his .218 average in the second half showed how much he faded.
Betts won the AL batting title with a .346 average and was first in slugging at .640. He joined the 30-30 club with 32 home and 30 steals. He played Gold Glove defense. Now 26, Betts has finished second and sixth in AL MVP voting the past two years.
The Angels’ Mike Trout led the AL with a 1.088 OPS and slashed .312/.460/.628 with 39 home runs and 24 stolen bases. Trout also led the AL with 122 walks. He has won the award twice and finished second three times. Trout, who unbelievably has never won a Gold Glove for his defense, is definitely a candidate, even though the Angels didn’t contend.
Betts, Trout and Martinez should be the top three, but somehow Martinez was left off. It appears there is a lot of debate ahead.
The other awards that will be announced next week:
Where would the Brewers have been without the second-half surge of Christian Yelich? Yelich, in his first year in Milwaukee after a trade from Miami, came close to winning the Triple Crown. He won the batting title. His 36 home runs were two off leader Nolan Arenado’s 38. Yelich had 110 RBIs, one behind leader Javier Báez’s 111. Yelich also led the league in slugging (.598) and hit .367 in the second half. He was the reason the Brewers made the postseason.
National League: The Nationals’ Max Scherzer was his usual dominant self and finished with 300 strikeouts. But, the Mets’ Jacob de Grom had a history-making season of his own, leading the NL with a 1.70 ERA. Scherzer’s and de Grom’s WHIP were each at 0.91, but de Grom gave up 21 fewer earned runs than did Scherzer, who had a 2.53 ERA. Until his last two starts of the season, when he beat the Nationals and Braves, de Grom was in line to become the second pitcher in history to have an ERA of less than 2.00 without a winning record. The other was Al Sothoron, who was 12-12 with a 1.94 ERA for the St. Louis Browns in 1908. Scherzer, though, has a strong case to win his fourth Cy Young and his third consecutive as a National.
American League: Lefty Blake Snell won 21 games for Tampa Bay and won the league’s ERA title, at 1.89. A Cy Young Award would make up for Snell’s initial All-Star Game snub in July. Houston’s Justin Verlander led the league with 290 strikeouts, but he had a 2.53 ERA.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
National League: A close race between the Nationals’ 19-year-old Juan Soto and the Braves’ 20-year-old Ronald Acuña Jr. They had nearly identical statistics. Soto hit .292 with a .408 on-base percentage and 22 home runs. The most impressive thing about Soto was that he reversed an August slump. He hit .299 in July, .255 in August and .283 during the final month. Acuña has the defensive edge. He hit .293 with 26 home runs and sparked the Braves’ second-half surge with eight leadoff home runs. Soto was the favorite until the second half, when Acuña surged for Atlanta. Acuña also had 16 steals. The prediction is that Acuña wins.
American League: The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani was the first player since Babe Ruth to have at least 10 wins and 20 home runs in the same season, but he was injured and couldn’t pitch. That’s why the award should go to the Yankees’ Miguel Andujar, who hit 27 home runs and set a Yankees record with 47 doubles.
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
National League: Atlanta’s Brian Snitker led the biggest upset of the season when the rebuilding Braves beat the Nationals in the NL East.
American League: Oakland’s Bob Melvin should win the award after leading the team with the lowest payroll in the majors into the postseason.