In the midst of March Madness, several sportsbooks have released odds for both the American League and National League Most Valuable Player Award. Though college basketball will likely be driving you crazy over the next couple of weeks, don’t forget that America’s Pastime starts up very soon.
Last season, the annual AL MVP favorite, Mike Trout, beat out Mookie Betts of the Red Sox 356-311 in the voting to win for the second time in his career. In the National League, Kris Bryant had an easier time taking home his first MVP Award, beating Daniel Murphy by 180 points in the voting. If you look at the table below, you can see their preseason odds and the preseason odds of other past winners.
|Year||AL Winner||Odds||NL Winner||Odds|
|2016||Mike Trout||+150||Kris Bryant||+900|
|2015||Josh Donaldson||+1600||Bryce Harper||+1600|
|2014||Mike Trout||+500||Clayton Kershaw||+2000|
|2013||Miguel Cabrera||+700||Andrew McCutchen||+1500|
|2012||Miguel Cabrera||+900||Buster Posey||+2500|
|2011||Justin Verlander||+7500||Ryan Braun||+800|
|2010||Josh Hamilton||+10000||Joey Votto||+5000|
Trout and Bryant begin the 2017 MLB season as the favorites to take home the hardware again in their respective leagues. At +130 at 5Dimes, Trout is the favorite over Betts by a pretty substantial margin. Trout has been an absolute machine since entering the league in 2012, leading the AL in Fangraphs‘ WAR in all five of his full seasons. Despite his all-around dominance, he’s only managed to take home two MVP awards. This can be partially attributed to the fact that his Angels teams have had trouble putting together winning records despite having the best player in the league. Also, some of the older voters are just now warming up to the idea of advanced statistics and analytics mattering more than traditional stats like batting average, home runs, and RBI.
In the National League, Bryant (+300) will have a tougher time repeating according to oddsmakers with Bryce Harper sitting right behind him at +350. Bryant doesn’t have the same lengthy track record as Trout but has a very similar skill-set despite being most known for his power. Last season, he was an above-average fielder and was quietly one of the league’s best baserunners.
Here are the full lists for both leagues, comparing odds from a sharp offshore book (5Dimes) a square offshore book (Bovada) and a Las Vegas book (Westgate). These tables will be updated as the odds change throughout the season.
American League MVP
|Player||Westgate (5/8)||Westgate (4/24)||Westgate (3/20)||3/19 (5Dimes)||3/19 (Bovada)|
|Jackie Bradley Jr.||N/A||N/A||N/A||+6600||+5000|
National League MVP
|Player||Westgate (5/8)||Westgate (4/24)||Westgate (3/20)||3/19 (5Dimes)||3/19 (Bovada)|
May 8th Update
Mike Trout quietly continues to have a terrific season, but he definitely hasn’t been the big story in the A.L. The man who has seemingly taken over the headlines in the American League has been Aaron Judge. Judge is tied for the MLB lead in home runs with 13 and is turning into the next Giancarlo Stanton with his tape measure blasts. Despite his hot start, and the Yankees’ for that matter, Judge still sits at 18/1 to win the MVP. Sitting within striking distance of Trout at 6/1 is the trio of Manny Machado, Francisco Lindor, and Mookie Betts. Lindor is having the best season to date, followed by Machado, then Betts.
A couple of weeks ago, Eric Thames was the hottest thing since parachute pants, but Ryan Zimmerman has taken over that crown. Thames continues to be great and his odds have improved since the last update, but Zimmerman is hitting like he was the offspring of Babe Ruth’s daughter and Ted Williams’ son…or something like that. His OPS is currently approaching 1.400 and his wRC+ is uhh…also good. The best single season ever at the moment, actually.
However, if you like Zimmerman to win the MVP, now is the worst time to take him. Wait a while for him to cool off a bit (he will, don’t worry) and his odds to rise again. If you look at the table above, there are two numbers in particular that should scare bettors off.
The first is his low walk rate. Elite hitters, like his teammate Bryce Harper, walk a ton. This allows them to provide value even if they get a bit unlucky at the plate. This leads to the second alarming stat: BABIP (batting average on balls in play). Almost half of the balls Zimmerman hits into the field (excluding home runs) have been hits. The league average is around .300 and nobody has ever really come close to the .472 he is currently posting. He’s certainly well on his way to a terrific season, but get ready for the inevitable sharp decline in his numbers.
April 24th Update
In the American League, Mike Trout is off to a typical Trout-esque season. Despite not really making headlines, he’s quietly on pace for over 11 fWAR. No biggie. Francisco Lindor, who Dave pegged as his MVP value pick, is the other big name in the AL who is off to a hot start. Statistically, he’s slightly behind Trout, but he’s also on a much better team. How your team fares has made a big difference in the minds of some voters, which Trout has learned the hard way. Most of the other big names aren’t off to eye-popping starts.
In the National League, Bryce Harper is showing that last year was a fluke and that he is indeed worth that $500 million contract. At the moment, his 1.7 fWAR is tied for tops in the bigs with Freddie Freeman. He’s currently getting on base more than half of the time and his seven ding-dongs and 20 RBI aren’t too shabby either. Perhaps the biggest story in the league, though, is Eric “bleeping” Thames. The former Korean baseball MVP was brought in to Milwaukee on the cheap to replace Chris Carter and, let’s just say it has worked out in their favor. Thames is putting up Ruthian numbers for the modern day Murderer’s Row (Thames, Ryan Braun, Travis Shaw). Of course, the Brewers aren’t going to sniff the records of teams like the Nationals, Cubs, and Dodgers, so his numbers will have to blow his competitors’ out of the water. If you really believe in Thames, it’s probably best to wait until he hits a bit of a slump because all of the value is essentially gone.
(The section below was published on March 20th)
If we take a look at some more names in the American League, we can find big names like Jose Altuve, Miguel Cabrera, Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado between +1000 and +2000. Also in that range are two up-and-coming stars in Carlos Correa and Gary Sanchez. Correa, like Altuve, is expected to play a large role on an Astros team that has World Series aspirations. Correa didn’t break out as some thought he would last year, but perhaps this is when we’ll see the former #1 overall draft pick to put up a monster year.
Sanchez of the Yankees was able to put up a monster year last season. Well, at least part of one. In just 53 games, Sanchez jacked 20 home runs and an OPS over 1.000. Despite playing only the final third of the season, he managed to come in 2nd in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.
Many names further down the list are players that will have a hard time winning the award due to their lack of an all-around game. David Ortiz had an incredible season at the plate and helped lead his Red Sox to a division title in his final season. He led the MLB in wOBA and hit .315 with 38 home runs and 127 RBI. Despite this, he only wound up in 5th place in the voting due to his lack of value in other areas. That being said, you can see several players in both leagues who won’t be able to win unless they have a Ruthian type season.
Oddsmakers are clearly expecting Harper to bounce back from a down season. After winning the MVP in 2015, Harper saw his on-base percentage drop nearly 100 points last year and he was only able to put up only a little more than 1/3 of the production that he did in 2015 according to fWAR.
Nolan Arenado and Freddie Freeman are both players like Trout in the sense that they need to have an incredible season to be considered because their teams will likely end up with losing records. Both are great players, but with teams like the Cubs, Dodgers, and Nationals all expected to win around 90 or more games, it’s hard to give them the nod over the candidates on the elite teams.
Last year’s second place finisher in the NL, Daniel Murphy, can be found at +2500 at 5Dimes, while the 3rd place finisher, Corey Seager, can be found at +1600. This isn’t all that surprising considering Murphy’s year doesn’t really fit with the rest of his career. It’s much more likely that he will regress back towards his previous self than repeat what he did last season. Seager, on the other hand, appears to be a franchise player and could be in the MVP conversation for the next decade or so. I wouldn’t be surprised if he dips below 10/1 odds relatively quickly.
Two pitchers are listed for the NL at Bovada, something that the AL list does not feature. Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer can both be wagered on at +3300 apiece. Not exactly frontrunners for the award, but then again, pitchers have their own award to win. Of course, Kershaw has done this before, winning the MVP back in 2014.
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