Mookie Betts of the Red Sox was named the 2018 American League Most Valuable Player, while Christian Yelich of the Brewers won National League MVP honors, MLB announced Thursday night. On the AL side, Betts topped fellow finalists Mike Trout of the Angels and Jose Ramirez of the Indians. In the NL vote, Christian Yelich beat out Javier Baez of the Cubs and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies.
In the AL, Betts garnered 28 first-place votes with Trout and his Red Sox’s teammate, J.D. Martinez, taking the other two. Trout finished second with 24 second-place votes. Here’s a full AL voting breakdown. Betts is only the second player in history to win MVP, a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and the World Series in the same season. Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt also did it with the 1980 Phillies.
Yelich received 29 of the 30 first-place votes in the NL, with the other going to Mets pitcher/Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom. Baez finished second with 19 second-place votes. Here’s a full breakdown of the NL voting. Yelich is the eighth player to win MVP in his first season with his team and only the second NL player to do it. Bob Elliot with the 1947 Braves is the other.
Betts, 26, was the best player on the best team in 2018, a historically great World Series champion. He hit .346/.438/.640 (186 OPS+) with 47 doubles, five triples, 32 homers, 80 RBI, 129 runs, 30 steals, 10.9 WAR and 20 defensive runs saved. A true five-tool superstar, he only struck out 91 times in 614 plate appearances. He led the majors in average, slugging, runs scored and WAR. He led all AL outfielders in Defensive Runs Saved, too.
Trout led the AL in walks, on-base percentage and OPS, finishing second in WAR to Betts. Trout now has two MVPs andthrough his age-26 season. There’s no shame in losing here to the season Betts had, and Trout has never finished lower than second when he plays at least 141 games. Ramirez hit .270/.387/.552 (150 OPS+) with 38 doubles, 39 homers, 105 RBI, 110 runs, 34 steals, 106 walks compared to 80 strikeouts and quality defense at both second and third. This was his second-straight top-three finish.
In the National League, Yelich was a great story. He was acquired by the Brewers via trade the same night they signed Lorenzo Cain. Yelich has always been good, but he was never exceptional until arriving in Milwaukee. He hit .326/.402/.598 (164 OPS+) with 34 doubles, seven triples, 36 homers, 110 RBI, 118 runs, 22 steals, 7.6 WAR and 11 DRS in right field.
Yelich finished with the best stat line in the NL, but he wasn’t even one of the top candidates in mid-August. From August 17 to the end of the season, Yelich hit .373/.481/.833(!) with 18 homers and 50 RBI in 40 games. In the meantime, the Brewers — despite being six games back on Aug. 28 and four back on Sept. 7 — ran down the Cubs for the NL Central title and best record in the NL. Yelich probably wins anyway, but the Brewers winning the NL Central tiebreaker over the Cubs surely cemented the award.
Baez also was a great story. Heading into the year, we could have named more than a handful of players on the Cubs more likely to be in MVP consideration. He busted out with a major breakthrough season, hitting .290/.326/.554 (126 OPS+) with 40 doubles, nine triples, 34 homers, 111 RBI, 21 steals, 6.3 WAR, good defense at second, short AND third and the most fun highlight reel of any player in baseball.
For a while, it looked like Arenado’s best chance ever at an MVP after finishing eighth, fifth and fourth, respectively, in the past three seasons. He had another great year at .297/.374/.561 (OPS+ of 133) with 38 doubles, 38 homers and 110 RBI, but his 5.6 WAR was his lowest since 2014. His RBI total was 20+ lower than each of the previous three seasons. Still, the field being weaker than in past years led to his best finish yet.
Overall, the BBWAA got it right with Betts and Yelich taking the top honors. They were the most deserving candidates in each league.
MVP honors were the fourth and final major award of the week handed out by the BBWAA. You can catch up with all the hardware that’s been handed out this offseason.