-- Last week, we presented an overview of the current state of the MVP and Cy Young races. Moving forward, we'll look each week at some of the key trends and issues. To start, here are Dan Szymborski's updated odds, based on historic voting patterns for the awards:
Let's examine a couple of things.
Mike Trout has zero chance to win the AL MVP.
Well, maybe not zero chance. Dan's formula gave him about a 5 percent chance to win. Still, those are low odds for the player who leads the AL in WAR -- yes, ahead of Jose Altuve and Mookie Betts. Of course, this is something Mike Trout is used to.
Trout: 10.3 WAR
Miguel Cabrera: 7.2 WAR
Trout: 9.3 WAR
Cabrera: 7.3 WAR
Trout: 7.9 WAR
Josh Donaldson: 7.3 WAR
Trout: 9.4 WAR
Donaldson: 8.8 WAR
Guess which of those seasons the Angels made the playoffs?
Bryce Harper won MVP honors last year, even though the Nationals missed the playoffs, but he was clearly the best position player in the league, and he benefited from not having a strong candidate from a playoff team. The next two guys in the voting, Paul Goldschmidt and Joey Votto, also missed the playoffs. The voters could have gone for a pitcher on a playoff team, such as? Jake Arrieta, but Harper ended up sweeping all 30 first-place votes.
Plus, the Nationals weren't awful. They won 83 games. Trout's Angels, however, are on pace to lose about 95 games and perhaps finish last in the AL West. MVPs from non-playoff teams are extremely rare, but MVPs from teams that bad are almost nonexistent. The most recent example was Alex Rodriguez of the 2003 Rangers, who finished 71-91 and last in the AL West. Rodriguez won MVP honors in a split vote: He got only six of the 28 first-place votes, but 10 players received first-place votes.
The difference between Rodriguez and Trout is that Rodriguez had no competition for best player in the league. With 8.4 WAR, he was 2 WAR better than the No. 2 position player, who happened to be teammate Hank Blalock. Lacking a strong playoff-bound candidate, the voters reluctantly gave the award to the best player.
This season, Trout does have competition in Altuve, Betts and Donaldson, plus big RBI guys such as? Edwin Encarnacion and David Ortiz. It all adds up to another season in which Trout will probably finish second in the voting.
Will Ortiz hurt Betts by splitting the votes?
This is something you hear when a team has multiple candidates: They'll split the votes, allowing a third player from another team to win the award. A similar argument can be made about Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the NL. That sounds nice in theory, but the voting rarely plays out in that manner.
In 2009, Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter finished second and third, but Joe Mauer received 27 first-place votes and was the landslide winner. The year before, Dustin Pedroia won, even though teammate Kevin Youkilis finished third. In 2006, Justin Morneau edged Jeter by 14 points, even though his Twins teammate Johan Santana picked up the only non-Morneau/Jeter first-place vote.
There is one instance in which this clearly did happen. In 1996, Juan Gonzalez edged A-Rod in the voting, 290 points to 287. Gonzalez had 11 first-place votes and A-Rod 10.? Ken Griffey Jr. finished fourth in the voting with four first-place votes. Both Seattle writers voted for Griffey; if one had voted for Rodriguez, he would have won.
So yes, if this ends up being a close race and a couple voters put Ortiz higher on their ballots than Betts, maybe that would cost Mookie the MVP honors. But it probably won't unfold like that.