Last week, we looked in on the contenders for the two Cy Young Award races for 2016.
In the American League, Boston’s Rick Porcello maintains a sizeable lead against all contenders, while the fight for the National League honors is narrowing down to Chicago’s Jon Lester or Max Scherzer of the Nationals, according to ESPN’s Cy Young Award Predictor.
However, the oddsmakers do not agree.
In odds published by Bovada.lv on Wednesday, in a surprise to me, Chris Sale has lowest odds in the American League at 8/5, with Porcello and Corey Kluber next at 2/1 each. ESPN has Kluber pegged as a distant second with Sale miles off the pace in fifth. The latter seems more accurate to me.
The National League odds do have Scherzer and Lester with the lowest odds, at 1/5 and 5/11, respectively. That is reversed from ESPN’s tool, where the pair are neck-and-neck.
Looking at the betting odds, the 2016 Most Valuable Player races suggest one clear favorite and one very tight race.
With the Cubs plowing their way to baseball’s best record, their offensive leader, third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant, seems to be the consensus front-runner in the NL. The oddsmakers concur, with Bryant at 1/2.
Next behind Bryant is the Nats’ Daniel Murphy at 3/2. The latter is second in the NL in batting average and has put together a strong season, but I cannot see him knocking off the Cubs star.
The only other candidate even on the NL MVP betting board is MLB RBI leader Nolan Arenado at 6/1. The third baseman is cursed by playing for a non-contending Colorado Rockies squad. I see his chances of actually winning as being considerably worse despite leading the NL in home runs, just one ahead of Bryant.
Looking at fWAR, Bryant is the NL leader, in large part due to his defense, with a contender no longer on the betting board, shortstop Corey Seager of the Dodgers, right behind. In a bit of a surprise, Bryant’s teammate, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, is also no longer on the board.
When looking at Bovada’s lines for the AL MVP, I was initially amazed. Then I stepped back and considered the importance of bettors’ emotions.
A player I had not previously considered among the very top tier of candidates, Boston designated hitter David Ortiz, has the lowest odds at 2/1. I get that the Big Papi Farewell Tour has been a smashing success, but until I looked, I did not realize that the 40-year-old is second in the league in RBI, though down the page in the top 10 in home runs and batting average.
This suggests to me that perhaps Ortiz should consider playing another season, but I don’t see him as the AL MVP.
Right behind Oritz at 9/4 is Houston star Jose Altuve. The second baseman is a far superior all-around player, with a Gold Glove Award from 2015, a firm grip on the AL batting title lead to go with more than 24 home runs and stolen bases alike plus well over 90 RBI.
Next on the AL odds list at 4/1 is the Red Sox player I would put slightly ahead of Papi in the MVP race, outfielder Mookie Betts. Betts leads the AL in runs scored (one back of Bryant for the MLB lead), has 25 steals, over 30 home runs, over 100 RBI and currently has the same .318 batting average as teammate Ortiz.
Sadly, the man who many (including me) believe is the best player in baseball is no better than 4/1 in the odds. Of course, I am referring to Mike Trout. The Angels outfielder is tied with the aforementioned Red Sox pair at .318, but his “meager” home run and RBI totals of 28 and 95, respectively, lag the leaders. Yet, his 26 steals are just one behind Altuve.
WAR is clearly Trout’s friend, backing up my perception of him being the best in the game. His 8.8 fWAR dwarfs even Bryant. But because the Halos have been out of the playoff hunt for a long time, Trout’s 2016 MVP chances lag behind.
As it has turned out, the man who was considered MLB’s best player during the prior decade and Trout’s current teammate, Albert Pujols, has better power numbers at 30 and 114.
I cannot get rid of this nagging feeling in the back of my head that Pujols should have doubled his MVP total of three had the voters been able to see through Barry Bonds at the time. In the future, for different reasons, we may also end up looking back at Trout’s dominance, wondering why he always came so close, only to miss out time and time again.
In 2016, Trout could easily finish second in the race for the fourth time in five years as a Major Leaguer, with his only win in 2014. Just one MVP to date just doesn’t seem right.
Still, when all is considered, I am going with Altuve as the AL winner. I think that is where the writers will land, as I don’t have a vote, after all. Trout may lag while Papi and Betts could steal first-place votes from one another.
Brian Walton was the 2009 National League Tout Wars champion, scoring the most points in the league’s 17-year history. He also holds the all-time NL Tout single-season records for wins and saves. His work can also be found daily at TheCardinalNation.com and thecardinalnationblog.com. Follow Brian on Twitter.