Here at Crawfish Boxes we sometimes like to call ourselves “the thinking man’s Astros fan.” Oh, we are definitely loyal Astros fanatics, but with our sophisticated knowledge of the most advance baseball analytics, we would never let our judgement be clouded by homerism.
So we all know, as much as we love our Jose Altuve, or George Springer, or Alex Bregman, that MIKE TROUT IS THE BEST BASEBALL PLAYER IN THE UNIVERSE.
No argument there.
BUT ALEX BREGMAN IS MVP.
OK, first the case for Trout.
In only 134 games he still leads all majors with 8.6 Wins Above Replacement according to Fangraphs. Using their most advanced, overall, ballpark neutralized hitting metric, wRC+, Trout again leads all majors with a 180 score. That means his hitting, in general, is 80% better than the average hitter in baseball.
If you prefer old-school stats, his SLG PCT of .645 is the highest in the American League, and his OBP of .438 tops all baseball. This translates to an OPS of 1.083 compared to Bregman’s 1.015. His 45 home runs is second in the American League, four more than Alex Bregman. And as an additional bonus, Fangraphs rates Trout the 6th best base runner in all baseball.
But here are the problems for Trout
- You gotta play to win.
Sure, Trout has better averages by and large (except BA .291-.295) but averages like wRC+ or OPS don’t win games. Runs win games. The team that scores the most runs wins the game. Alex Bregman has scored more runs, 121-110, and he has batted in more runs, 111-104. If Trout hadn’t gotten injured he probably would have won the counting stats, but he did. Therefore, Bregman did more of the most fundamental thing a player can do to make his team win.
Bregman is a uniquely skilled wielder of a baseball bat as well. Of the top 30 home run hitters in baseball, Bregman is the only one to have more walks than strikeouts. In fact, he led the league in walks, with 117, and only 83 strikeouts. Among those top 30 home run hitters, that is the fewest strikeouts. So while having the 7th highest SLG PCT in baseball, Bregman had fewer strikeouts than all but 16 other qualified batters in MLB.
Yes, Trout won the WAR battle, but by an amount so small you could call it within the margin of error. Which leads to:
When one of the core players for the Astros went down three times with injuries, Bregman left his position at third base to fill in at baseball’s anchor position, shortstop. How much additional value do you attach to a player who can seamlessly move between two of the most difficult positions on the field?
And yet, in so doing, by some warped loophole in the stats, it actually hurt his WAR rating. A guy moving back and forth between positions is never going to be his best at either, and at shortstop Bregman had a negative defensive rating, which hurt his overall WAR. But who would doubt the value to the Astros of Bregman’s versatility in the absence of superstar Carlos Correa. Backup shortstops who can crush 41 home runs don’t grow on trees.
3. There when you needed him most.
Besides the Yankees, the Astros were probably the most injured team in baseball. The Astros have a clearly recognizable core four, and for large swathes of this season, George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa were injured, often at the same time. The glue that held the Astros together during those stretches was the fourth part of that core, Alex Bregman.
Being injured matters. And so does not being injured.
4. Second half.
As has been the case his whole career, when his team is making its playoff run, Alex Bregman plays his best baseball. Since August 1st, Bregman’s slash line is .369/.479/.749, a wRC+ of 219. (not including the last game). That includes 15 home runs and 48 RBI.
Not that Trout was slouching since August 1st, but his line of .280/.438/.607, wRC+ 173 wasn’t quite keeping up with Bregman’s amazing sprint to the finish.
5. Winning team.
Does the MVP go to the best player, or to the player that does the most to bring his team close to a championship? There is no single answer, but probably some combination of the two usually applies. On a team already replete with outstanding leadership, Alex Bregman has emerged as the leader of a team that has just won 107 games.
Of course, I’m not saying that Mike Trout is not a leader, and one could easily imagine the Angels losing 100 games without him, but the fanatical desire and drive and total dedication that Alex Bregman brings to a team is not just valuable, it’s invaluable.
Who will win
I expect Trout to win. He has won twice already in his career, but he has been second four times. It seems like as transcendent a talent as he is, two MVP’s is not enough, and the four second place finishes seem to represent at least a few times he was cheated. That he would lose again because he got injured at the end of the season seems like just another cheat. As close as this call is, I think Trout will get enough votes as a kind of lifetime achievement award.
Plus, some voters might think Bregman is arrogant.
FYI. Here’s an Angel’s fanblog that agrees that Bregman is MVP.
Who should be MVP?
This poll is closed