2019 Award Elections – AL MVP

Hello, HHS readers! Thanks for participating in this year’s award posts; it’s been fun reading your comments, and discussing the questions that have come up. We have just one more election to go, to choose the AL MVP. More after the jump.

Let’s start with Alex Bregman. Of all the AL’s top-6 in OPS+, only Bregman topped 140 games, playing 156 and slashing .296/.423/.639, with the latter pair of numbers ranking second and third in the league. Bregman was one of only two players in the league to post a 100-100-100 season (that’s Runs, RBI, and Walks), AND he did so without striking out 100 times! Bregman also finished third in the AL with 41 HR, doing it all for a team that won a Major League-best 107 games. While Bregman is about two decades too late to be one of the Astros’ famed Killer B’s, the legacy lives on through him!

Here’s an outside-the-box candidate, just to show you how deep the field goes. The AL’s HR leader was Jorge Soler of the Royals. Soler became the first Royal in history to blast 40, destroying the team record by 10 in hitting 48 HR. Playing in all 162 games, Soler batted .265/.354/.569, knocking in 117. Soler scored or drove in (or both) 164 runs this season, participating in nearly a QUARTER of the Royals’ runs as a team.

But Soler wasn’t the only power hitter in the AL Central. Ageless Wonder Nelson Cruz was batting a respectable .270/.354/.508 when he left a May 12th game with an injury. From his June 4th return to the end of the season, Cruz topped .400 OBP and slugged nearly .700, finishing the year with a .311/.392/.639 line. Cruz hit 28 of his 41 HR in his final 248 AB, which is essentially a HR every nine ABs over his final 65 games! Cruz was one of three qualifying batters in the AL with a 1.000 OPS.

Last season’s MVP, Mookie Betts, followed up with another strong season, even as his team faltered. Betts batted .295/.391/.524 while leading the league in runs scored for the second straight year, this time with a career-high 135. Playing a strong CF, Betts also showed more plate discipline this season, cutting his strikeout rate and increasing his walk rate (both marginally, but still – it’s an accomplishment).

Betts had company on the under-achieving Red Sox as Rafael Devers had one of the better age 22 seasons you’re likely to see. In his first full season, Devers slashed .311/.361/.555, leading the AL in doubles and total bases, while cutting down his strikeout rate A LOT! He scored 129 (2nd) and drove in 115 (4th), producing 212 runs (1st), 23.5% of his team’s output. Oh, did I mention 200 hits (2nd), including 90 for extra bases (1st) – just the 40th such season, and one which only A-Rod and Joe D also achieved by age 22!

Marcus Semien of the A’s came to the plate the most of any player in the AL, and boy did that give Oakland something to cheer! Semien slashed .285/.369/.522, good for a 138 OPS+ (his first time above league-average), all coming from a shortstop! Not since Miguel Tejada has Oakland had such a strong player up the middle. And Semien was also leaned on more heavily than ever, particularly with the massive step backward taken by DH Khris Davis.

The Yankees found an unlikely top hitter in second baseman DJ LeMahieu. LeMahieu placed 2nd in the AL in BA, as he posted the second-best batting average of his career this season… after seven seasons in Colorado! Scoring 109 and driving in 102 (previous career high was only 66), LeMahieu was central to the Yanks’ high-powered offense, even adding 26 HR, another career best. His .327/.375/.518 line was good for a 136 OPS+, best on the AL’s highest-scoring team. Quiz: which other players have won a batting crown in one league, and placed 2nd in batting in the other?

Finally, it wouldn’t be the AL MVP race in the 2010s without a discussion of Mike Trout. Prior to injury, Trout was the runaway favorite, playing in only 134 games (about the same as last season’s winner, when Mookie Betts played only 136 games) and still reaching triple digits in runs, walks and RBI (a trifecta only Bregman matched). Trout’s .291/.438/.645 slash included league-leading marks for OBP and SLG, and yielded a 185 OPS+ that led all of baseball – for the fourth consecutive year! (Trout has good company with his MLB OPS+ four-peat, joining Barry Bonds, Ted Williams*, Babe Ruth, and Ty Cobb). The biggest question mark on Trout’s now-inevitable march to Cooperstown is simply if he’s become injury-prone. In his eight full MLB seasons, he’s been limited to 140 games or fewer in four of them, including the last three consecutively. It remains to be see what that may mean for his legacy, but for now it’s something to watch out for.

There are others to look at – particularly the teammates of some of the guys above. J.D. Martinez, Aaron Judge, Matt Chapman, Jorge Polanco and George Springer all posted good years, among others. But, of course, we had some really good performances from some pitchers, too! Who was the Astros’ best pitcher: Justin Verlander, or Gerrit Cole? And was one of the Rangers’ dynamic duo of Mike Minor and Lance Lynn worthy of a vote? That’s up to you!

Vote by making a comment below and numbering your choices with 1 being the MOST preferred candidate, and 10 being your LEAST preferred candidate of your ten choices. Your ballots will be EXACTLY ten place, just as the BBWAA does. You must vote for 10 players. Scoring will be 14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, just as the BBWAA does. You are not required to vote in all elections; only vote in the ones you would like to vote in. You may make vote changes, if the discussion so moves you. If you change your vote, please do so in a new comment, not as a reply to your original comment (it’s a lot easier to find new comments than replies to old ones). Please don’t vote strategically; we’re trying to get the best result, not to manipulate the vote totals based on what others have done. Voting will remain open about one week. When players are tied, tiebreakers go as follows: first tiebreaker is number of ballots on which players were named; second tiebreaker is highest placement on a ballot; third tiebreaker is the first player to be named (as this usually only happens when a bunch of players are tied for last). Results will be posted when balloting closes.

*Ted Williams didn’t actually lead MLB in OPS+ for four straight years, but he did for four consecutive years in which he was active – in other words, he led in ’41, ’42, ’46, and ’47, but was at war for ’43-’45. Count him, or don’t; either way, it’s pretty great company for Trout to be in!

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35 Comments on "2019 Award Elections – AL MVP"

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Dr. Doom
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Polls close on Thursday, December 12 at 11:59:59 PM. Thanks, everyone, for your participation again this year, and an extra-special thanks to Doug for editing, attaching links, and his general administration of the site!

Now, happy voting on the final award of the 2019 season!!!

Richard Chester
Guest

Just offhand I believe Frank Robinson is one answer to the quiz.

Dr. Doom
Guest

John Olerud is another answer – 1993 AL (1st) and 1998 NL (2nd).

Here’s someone who’s not an answer to the quiz: Eddie Murray. I knew there was something weird with his “batting title,” so I looked it up. He led the Majors and was second in the NL in batting average in 1990; he did not lead either league, but he did lead MLB.

Michael Sullivan
Guest

How can you “lead the majors” without leading your own league? Is there a different ab/pa standard than for the league titles? McGee had a higher qualifying ba in the nl and I’m pretty sure the nl was a major league that year, so prima facie Murray did not “lead the majors” unless there’s some weird quirk of the rules I’m missing.

Paul E
Guest

w/o looking, I believe Murray had the highest BA amongst major leaguers. McGee slumped somewhat after being traded and his “major league” batting average for the entire season was lower than Murray’s?

Dr. Doom
Guest
Paul, you are correct. Murray had the highest batting average of any major league player – .330. Willie McGee batted .324 that year. You don’t get to pretend his AL games didn’t happen, and they hurt his batting average when you’re looking over the course of the full season. Murray absolutely, unquestionably led the majors. HOWEVER, McGee had 542 PAs in the NL; that meant he qualified. In the NL batting race, his AL PAs do not count. And NL only, he had a .335 average, which led the league. So, Michael, he definitely led the NL, but did not… Read more »
Doug
Guest
A couple of others: – Manny Ramirez in 2008, with a .332 BA that would have topped the AL and placed 3rd in the NL. Ramirez played about two-thirds of the season for the Red Sox (.299) and one-third for the Dodgers (.396), the latter mark the highest by a Dodger in a 200 PA season. – Placido Polanco in 2005 with a .331 BA that would have topped the AL and placed 2nd in the NL. Polanco, who posted .338 in the AL and .316 in the NL, totaled only 551 PA, almost 200 fewer than AL champ Michael… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest

One more (sort of):

Tommy Davis won two batting titles in the NL. In the 1973 AL, he’s credited as finishing with a .306 average, good for third in the league. George Scott is credited with second place… with a .306 average. If we called that a tie, Davis qualifies. (The actual math has Scott .000132 ahead of Davis.) So depending on your source, that might be listed as another example.

Richard Chester
Guest

Elmer Flick led the AL in1905 with .308 and finished second in the NL in 1900 with .367.

Doug
Guest

Good one, Richard. I was only looking from 1901 onwards, so missed Flick.

Robinson and Olerud are correct. There are two more.

Paul E
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Ed Delahanty won a NL batting title, jumped leagues, finished second in the AL in 1902 and then, apparently, jumped to his death in 1903

Doug
Guest

Another one I missed by neglecting pre-1901 NL batting champs.

So, now I’ve checked back to 1893. There’s Flick, Delahanty and one more from that period, and two others post-1901 that haven’t been mentioned yet.

Richard Chester
Guest

Miggy Cabrera led the AL in BA 4 times and was second in the NL in 2006.

Paul E
Guest

Al Oliver came back to the NL and won a BA title in 1982 with MTL after finishing second with Texas in 1979 (or ’78).

Paul E
Guest

Hugh Duffy finished 2nd in the AA in 1891 and came back to hit .440 in the NL. Somehow that .440 was good enough to capture a batting title

Doug
Guest
The one that wasn’t mentioned was Willie Keeler, NL leader in 1897-98 and AL runner-up in 1904-05. I believe he is the only player with two firsts in one league, and two seconds in the other. The 1904 AL batting race was a curious one, with Lajoie besting Keeler by 33 points, and Keeler besting Harry Davis in third place by 34 points. The largest gap between 1st and 3rd also involved Lajoie, in 1901 when he won in the AL with .426, followed by Mike Donlin (.340) and Buck Freeman (.339). The 1957 AL had an identical gap to… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
I’ll just post my ballot right away, while I’m at it: 1. Mike Trout – What more is there to say? In my own home-cooked oWAR, I have him a win-and-a-half clear of the field, which does not consider effectiveness at your position. Trout is an average centerfielder at this point in his career, which is to say he’s a much better defender than most of the league. And how does he seemingly keep getting BETTER as a hitter?! It’s insane. We’re living in the golden age of one of the five greatest hitters of all-time – arguably THE greatest,… Read more »
Jeff Harris
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1 Trout, 2 Bregman, 3 Semien, 4 Betts, 5 Chapman, 6 Springer, 7 LeMahieu, 8 Polanco, 9 Moncada, 10 Devers

koma
Guest

1. Trout
2. Bregman
3. Judge
4. Springer
5. Minor
6. Semien
7. Chapman
8. Betts
9. Verlander
10. LeMahieu

Richard Chester
Guest
Here’s mine. 1. Trout 2. Nelson Cruz 3. Bregman 4. Springer 5. Soler 6. LeMahieu 7. Semien 8. Bogaerts 9. Devers 10. Matt Chapman To assist in my selections I created a spreadsheet that calculates percentage of base runners driven in after eliminating all those PA in which the batter received a BB or HBP (except for the bases loaded situations). I did it two ways, one in which I counted the batter as a base runner and one in which I did not. I searched for players with 400+ PA. Here are the top percentages using the method of… Read more »
Paul E
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1) Semien – the A’s actually made the playoffs and I don’t believe that, back in April, a lot of people were expecting a wild card game or this guy finishing 3rd in the AL in Rbat, scoring a gazzilion runs or”creating” the 5th most runs in the AL. In the AL, he ranked third in Win Shares, third in oWAR, third in BWARP, third in VORP……All this from a SS who batted leadoff, played in 162 games and was the best player on a team that surprised 2) Bregman – great season. Too many great teammates to be called… Read more »
Doug
Guest

Torres is just the second expansion era player (after Alexei Ramirez) with 90 games at 2B and at SS over his first two season. His 6.8 WAR for those seasons tops the list (Ramirez is second with 3.9 WAR) of 8 such players since 1901, of which Torres is the youngest.

Paul E
Guest

Doug,
Yes, if nothing else, Gleyber can hit:
Torres age 21-22 OPS+125 PA 1,088
DJeter age 22-23 OPS+102 PA 1,402

If I did the PI correctly, “first two seasons, 1,000+ PA’s, 50% of games at 2b or SS”, he may be third or fourth since 1901 in OPS+

Richard Chester
Guest

I found only Arky Vaughan (131 OPS+) and Carlos Correa (129 OPS+) ahead of Torres. I ran the PI for 1901-2019.

Paul E
Guest

yes, and I believe only Ed McKean sneaks in pre-1901?

Doug
Guest

There are 21 players in that group (1000+ PA over first two seasons, 50% of Games at 2B or SS) averaging 0.6 WAR per 100 PA for those seasons. Almost half (5 Yankees, 3 Cubs, 2 Pirates) are from just three franchises.

Dr. Doom
Guest

I just made a weird discovery. Here are all the players to lead MLB in hits for two consecutive years (since 1901):

Ginger Beaumont, 1902-03
Ty Cobb, 1911-12
Shoeless Joe Jackson, 1912-13
Chuck Klein, 1932-33
Stan Musial, 1948-49
Pete Rose, 1972-73
Kirby Puckett, 1988-89
Tony Gwynn, 1994-95
Ichiro Suzuki, 2006-10
Whit Merrifield, 2018-19

Five of the ten are in the Hall of Fame. One isn’t eligible yet (Ichiro). Two are the most famous exclusions in history (Rose, Jackson). Ginger Beaumont is not a Hall-of-Fame caliber player. And then, there was Whit. He’ll never make it, but what a club!

Paul E
Guest

yes, and even more HoF’ers, Burkett and Keeler, in the 1890’s (post 60’6′)

Dr. Doom
Guest

Two days left to vote, folks! Please make sure to cast your ballot if you’re interested in doing so. Thanks!

Doug
Guest
My ballot. 1. Trout – short season, but only roster player with 4 WAR; kept Angels relevant for most of the season (were six games out of wildcard at end of July) 2. Bregman – only Astro with 150 games, but team still won 107; “quiet” leader to balance with Altuve’s emotional leadership 3. Semien – great all-around season for an up-and-coming team that featured 3 infielders having 5 WAR seasons; first two such A’s teams (1912-13, 1972) were world champions 4. Polanco – breakout season for WAR leader on balanced Twins club (four 4 WAR players, six with 3… Read more »
Dr. Doom
Guest
Sorry I didn’t get around to this earlier. As always, player name, vote points, first-place in parentheses. Here you go, with 6 voters: 1. Mike Trout, 78 (5) 2. Alex Bregman, 53 3. Marcus Semien, 45 (1) 4. George Springer, 25 5. Rafael Devers, 18 6. DJ LeMahieu, 17 7. Nelson Cruz, 16 8. Jorge Polanco, 16 9. Mookie Betts, 15 10. Matt Chapman, 13 11. Justin Verlander, 9 12. Gerrit Cole, 8 13. Aaron Judge, 8 14. Xander Bogaerts, 6 15. Mike Minor, 6 16. Jorge Soler, 6 17. Carlos (I assume) Santana, 4 18. Charlie Morton, 4 19.… Read more »
Doug
Guest

Since I cast two of the mystifying votes (for Morton and Bieber, but not for Cole), my rationale was the value each provided to their teams, as neither (especially Morton) had anything like the star-level support enjoyed by Cole, on the team as a whole, nor on the pitching staff.

Paul E
Guest

Doom,
Perhaps the MOP award (Mathews, Ott, Piazza) in lieu of MVP for, possibly, the three greatest position players never to receive the award? ehhh, maybe not

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