Los Angeles: Get Ready to Honor Some MVPs

After a couple of years of intense debate, the 2014 AL MVP race looks like it’s not going to be much of a race at all. Mike Trout is unquestionably the best player in the league, is in the midst of a typically awesome Mike Trout season, and his team is basically guaranteed a postseason berth this year. Miguel Cabrera, while still a pretty great hitter, isn’t really in the picture this year, and the rest of the would-be contenders don’t really stack up against Trout, even by traditional voting standards.

Jose Abreu has the offensive numbers, but his team is bad, and the BBWAA just spent two years telling everyone that great seasons on non-winning teams aren’t to be rewarded with MVP trophies. If they give the award to Abreu over Trout this year, they might as well have a public bonfire for the remains of their credibility.

Alex Gordon and Josh Donaldson both have their value tied to very strong defensive ratings, so their performances will be discounted in the voting.

Robinson Cano only has eight home runs and will probably split any votes he might get with Felix Hernandez, who would be a serious threat to Trout if the BBWAA gave pitchers the same credit as hitters in the voting. They don’t, though, so Felix probably finishes outside of the top five.

There just aren’t any players having great years on winning teams that can even come close to Trout’s numbers. He might not win it unanimously, but barring an injury or the Angels just imploding down the stretch, he’s going to win the MVP, and probably pretty easily.

The NL race is far less certain, with a handful of deserving candidates all bunched up together. However, over the weekend, it became far more likely that the winner is going to be a Los Angeles Dodgers.

Andrew McCutchen was putting together a pretty good case for a repeat before landing on the disabled list, and he may miss the rest of the month of August, which is going to put a big dent in his counting numbers and the Pirates playoff chances. He’s not out of the race, but this is a pretty big setback, and puts him more in the Troy Tulowitzki and Paul Goldschmidt class of guys who will have incomplete great seasons on teams that probably won’t make the postseason.

Take those three away, and you’re left with just a few options. Giancarlo Stanton is having a great year, but again, not on a contender. Jason Heyward, Anthony Rendon, Carlos Gomez, and Hunter Pence are all having very valuable seasons, but doing it with a large helping of defense and baserunning, so they won’t have the big flashy offensive numbers to rack up votes. Jonathan Lucroy‘s case hangs on voters giving him a lot of credit for his framing skills, which seems unlikely.

That leaves two guys having great years that are built on the kinds of numbers that voters like and play for a team that will likely make the playoffs: Yasiel Puig and Clayton Kershaw. Puig’s offensive numbers are very similar to Trout’s; Kershaw’s numbers are very similar to no one’s. Kershaw is having the kind of year that gets pitchers real MVP consideration, but the fact that he missed a month will hurt him, especially since voters already prefer giving the award to position players.

Things can change over the next two months, but the odds-on favorites at this point have to be Puig and Kershaw, with no obvious challenger to that top tier now that McCutchen is hurt. With Trout very likely to win in the AL, the BBWAA might want to consider having their awards dinner in Los Angeles this year.

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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.

23 Responses to “Los Angeles: Get Ready to Honor Some MVPs”

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  1. DBA455 says:

    I think Stanton being on a non-playoff team won’t be as much of a headwind as Kershaw being a pitcher (who missed part of the season and will already be ‘rewarded’ with a Cy Young) and Puig being … Puig.

    Grumpy old sportswriters hate flashy. Plus Stanton may have 15 home runs and 25 RBI on him by then.

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  2. MDL says:

    Oh please, if Kershaw keeps pitching (close to) the way he has this year the MVP is his. (1) He missed the first month of the year which, come award voting season, might as well be ancient history. If he missed August, the voters would probably ding him for it. Besides, (2) even though he trails the NL leader in starts by 7 (24 to 17) he is currently tied for the league lead in wins; we know how much the BBWAA voters love their wins. If he winds up with 21 or more (which he is on pace for) that’s just another checked box. (3) He plays for a playoff-bound team. (4) No-hitter. (5) No obvious front-runner by the NL batters, as you described. Even missing April Kershaw is tied for 4th overall in WAR.

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  3. GilaMonster says:

    Lets not be silly Dave, Tulo did miss some time and will be back soon. But lets take a look at the NL real quick. Tulo is

    *1st in WAR
    *3rd in HR
    *5th in R
    *1st in ISO
    *1st in AVG,OBP and SLG
    *32 points ahead of next hitter in wOBA
    *Plays elite defense at a premium position

    He is so far ahead of the pack, he can afford to miss time.

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  4. jpg says:

    I think Abreu has a real shot. Sure there were probably a few pro-Cabrera voters who gave him the nod over Trout because the Tigers were a playoff team. On the other hand, I think the vast majority of the pro-Cabrera voter would have given him that first MVP no matter what because he won Triple Crown. Cabrera won the second MVP because his numbers were even better while Trout’s traditional numbers were all down a smidge except for RBI. I think the team record thing probably had more to do with the second Cabrera MVP but I still think it was a secondary factor. A-Rod won an MVP on a last place Texas team so there is a precedent for voters giving the award to a guy who with monster traditional numbers on a bad team. Abreu might not win the Triple Crown but he might win the HR and RBI portions by a huge margin while hitting over .300, which could make him a very real threat.

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    • Bip says:

      I could see Abreu taking maybe 10 out of 30 first place votes, similar to number Trout has taken from Cabrera, but any more than that would be a travesty. You mention A-Rod, but Abreu does not have A-Rod numbers. He may lead the AL in HR/RBI, but likely not by so much as to blow everyone away.

      IMO, barring a collapse for Trout, picking Abreu over him is indefensible even by BBWAA voting standards.

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    • MDL says:

      Don’t forget there are some voters who won’t put Abreu on their MVP ballot because he’s a rookie.

      *buries face in hands*

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    • Yirmiyahu says:

      Obviously Trout is the favorite, but no one on this page has mentioned Michael Brantley in the AL MVP discussion. He looks like the runner up to me.

      He’s 2nd in offensive RAA, 4th in average, 3rd in runs, 7th in RBI, and the Indians are still in the playoff hunt.

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      • MDL says:

        Brantley’s pitching equivalent has to be teammate Corey Kluber, who is having a tremendous season but Felix is just on another level this year. The only thing keeping him from second place in the AL Cy Young if the season were to end right now is his Clevelandly anonymity.

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  5. King Buzzo's Fro says:

    BBWA guy1: “Freshmen will win the Heisman before a young guy gets an MVP”
    BBWA guy2: “Those things have both happened”
    BBWA guy1: “NOT ON MY WATCH!”

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  6. Danny C says:

    For all this hand wringing about old curmudgeon writers not giving youngsters the MVP did everyone forget about Musial, Aaron, Lynn, Bench and many others age 21-23 that were voted MVP? Maybe the bigger issue is snotty
    egotistical number crunchers still hurt about Trout not winning yet. And why don’t same people hype Harper any more? (because they are never wrong)

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  7. Josh M says:

    If McCutchen avoids the DL its his to lose

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