This coming Thursday, at 6:00 P. M., the Most Valuable Player Awards for both the American and National Leagues 2016 seasons will be announced on the MLB Network beginning at 6:00 p. m.
Of course, the American League Most Valuable Player Award is of most interest to Red Sox fans as Mookie Betts is one of three finalists for the Award. The other two finalists are Jose Altuve, the Astros second baseman, and Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels’ center fielder.
Betts, in just his second full year in Major League Baseball, had a career year in 2016. In addition to finishing second in the American League batting race, at .318, just one point ahead of team mate Dustin Pedroia, 19 points behind Altuve and 3 points ahead of Trout, he had some other impressive numbers.
He led all of baseball in total bases with 359, at bats with 672 and finished second in all of baseball, again behind Altuve, with 216 hits. With 42 doubles, he was tied for sixth in all of baseball with, who else, Altuve, and two others. His 113 runs batted in placed him sixth in all of baseball. With 26 stolen bases in 30 attempts, for an 86.6% success rate, he was sixth in all of baseball. He also hit 31 home runs, had a .363 on base percentage and a .534 slugging average.
In the field, playing almost exclusively in right field, he played 157 games of his team’s 162, led American League outfielders in fielding percentage, with .997, handling 361 chances with just one error. He also was second in assists by an outfielder in the American League with 14 and, if you watched the Sox play at all this season, you know that he made several spectacular catches in those 361 chances. This week, he was named the only Red Sox player to receive a Gold Glove Award and was the only one of the three MVP finalists to be so honored.
On the other hand, Jose Altuve, the Astros 26 year old, 5’6”, 165 pound, second baseman, led the league in hitting for the second time in three years with a .338 average.
He also had 24 home runs and 96 RBI’s and stole 30 bases but was caught 10 times for a 75% success rate. He played in 161 games.
In the field, he handled 574 chances with 7 errors for a .988 fielding percentage. Houston finished in third place in the American League West with a record of 84-78, eleven games out of first.
Mike Trout, who has been a finalist for the MVP Award in three of his four years in the Big Leagues, 2012, 2013 and 2015, and won it in 2014, had another great year. He hit for a .315 average, fifth best in the league, and led the league in runs scored with 123, bases on balls with 116 and on base percentage with .441 and played in 159 games.
He had 29 homers and 100 runs batted in and was 30 for 37 in stolen base attempts. In the field, he committed four errors in 371 chances for a .989 fielding percentage and had just 7 outfield assists. His Los Angeles Angels finished in fourth place in the American League West with a 74-88 record, 21 games out of first.
On the surface, the three look almost even and deciding who deserves the Award most would appear to be a difficult decision. When you look at the rules of voting for the Baseball Writers Association of America, which determines the winner, it becomes even more difficult.
The prelude to the rules of voting states, ‘There is no clear cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Payer in each league to his team (italics added). The MVP need not come from a Division Winner or other playoff qualifier.’
It goes on to state that ‘The rules of voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931.
- The actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
- Number of games played.
- General character, loyalty and effort.’
Two representatives on the BBWAA of America from each Major League city vote for the MVP of the league in which their team plays, making 30 ballots for each league. The voters name their top ten choices and points are assigned for each time a player is named depending upon his rank on the list, from 1-10. The three finalists are the players with the highest total points and the winner the player with the most points.
Picking among the three finalists in this case is not made much simpler by the guidelines above. Their strengths of offense and defense are fairly equal according to the numbers. All three seldom missed a game.
It is the third category that, in my opinion, gives Betts the edge and perhaps this is where my experience colors my judgment. Having watched Betts far more often than the others, I have a hard time imagining that, as hard as the other two play, anyone could give more to his team than Mookie did this year.
Whether running from first to third or second to home when he immediately realized a base was uncovered, sliding between two other players to make a spectacular catch of a sure base hit or making a perfect throw to third to cut down a runner like Kevin Kiermaier at third from deep right field, or doing the many other things that his natural instincts and talents give him the ability to do, Mookie gave it his all, from start to finish. No one works harder at improving his game daily than he and it shows in his contributions to a young team that won their Division.
Mookie Betts should get this award. To paraphrase the old John Houseman commercial for Smith Barney ‘ He got it the old fashioned way, he earned it.’