In most sports, the league MVP almost always comes from a team in contention for the league title. It’s almost as if it is a prerequisite for the honor. But in baseball, the voters are a bit more open-minded and don’t tend to credit one player for the success of the team.
That is why Mike Trout will run away with the AL MVP this year. But over in the NL, deciding who will be MVP is not as straight forward. However, it is essentially down to two guys— Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich.
The odds for Bellinger, Yelich, and some of the top contenders are as follows (via DraftKings):
- Cody Bellinger -167
- Christian Yelich +150
- Ronald Acuna Jr. +1600
- Anthony Rendon, Pete Alonso, Freddie Freeman +2500
- Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Ketel Marte +3300
- Nolan Arenado +5000
Theoretically, Acuna still has a shot, and with how he has been hitting since the All-Star break he deserves to be in the conversation. But when it comes down to who should win, the choice is clearly between Bellinger and Yelich.
But who should win? Let’s examine their body of work:
- Bellinger leads the NL in homeruns with 42 followed closely by Yelich with 41.
- Yelich leads the NL in total bases (301) followed by Bellinger (300).
- Bellinger leads in extra-base hits (71); Yelich has 70.
- Yelich leads the league in OPS (1.099), slugging percentage (.678), on-base percentage (.421), and is tied for the second-best batting average (.329).
- Bellinger is excellent in all of those categories, but not as great as Yelich (OPS—1.062; slugging– .654; on-base– .409; BA– .312)
- Bellinger walks more (75 to 66) and strikes out less (91 to 106), but Yelich is a much-better base stealer (25 to 11)
- Yelich trails Bellinger in RBIs, 89 to 100.
- Bellinger currently has a slight edge over Yelich regarding WAR (6.8 to 6.5)
Both are phenomenal players that are having incredible seasons, so how does a reasonable person choose one over the other? Some would give the nod to Yelich since he is the defending NL MVP. But what a player has done in any other season shouldn’t impact how the current one is viewed.
It could be that team success may have to be the deciding factor. Yelich is having a great season for the Brewers who are only four games over .500 (67-63), are 4.5 games out of first in the NL Central, and two games back in the wild card chase.
Bellinger’s Dodgers own the best record in baseball (86-46), lead the NL West by 20 games, and are considered one of the frontrunners to win the World Series.
With roughly 30 games left in the 2019 MLB regular season, there is still enough time for either Yelich or Bellinger to make their case for MVP a little better. If they don’t, this could be the closest MVP race in recent history– or maybe the voters make history, and we have our first co-MVPs since 1979.