DFSR Midseason MLB Awards - MVP (Non-Aaron Judge Division)
Welcome to the Major League All-Star Break, where your only baseball fix over the next few days will be a rather meaningless exhibition game and a batting practice contest. So we thought we'd take the time to weigh in on our mid-season awards (both superlative and not so much).
For our first one we are taking a look at MVP. Now, we don’t suspect there’s much debate over who the real winnger should be over the first half of the season. Aaron Judge is putting up borderline historic numbers, made even more impressive (if possible) by the fact that he’s doing it in his rooking season. Judge is crushing to a 1.100+ OPS, already has 28 home runs and owns a .465 wOBA. Had Mike Trout not sustained the thumb injury then we’d likely be debating the two (and I suppose there’s time for Trout to put in work over the second half of the season. But he’s got some catchup up to do. Judge has been as lucky as he's been good (.400+ BABIP, 40% HR/FB rate) but even with some regression he's still at the top of the list.
All this being said, Judge (at least in this staff’s opinion) is the clear MVP of the first half of the season. What we present here are the current runner-ups.
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Jose Altuve - HOU
.347 / .417 / .551 - 4.4 WAR
13 HR / 50 RBI / 18 SB
It may be a little strange to see Altuve topping this list, given that his 2nd-base counterpart Daniel Murphy has him edged out in their much ballyhooed batting title race at the moment, but follow me for a second. First of all, position scarcity matters, and Altuve's .400 wOBA at an offensive position where the 5th highest guy has a .354 wOBA just means more than doing it at a position like first base. For Altuve, his case is a lot more well-rounded than many early season MVP candidates. He's an offensive force to be sure, but he and Murphy have been nearly neck in neck when it comes to what they've produced with their offensive plate appearances this season. Altuve's edge comes from being a more well-rounded player.
He's been a net positive for his team in terms of defensive stats and base-running stats this season (an excellent 18 SB to 4 CS ratio) mean he brings more to the table than Murphy in other areas that really matter. He's also been more durable - he's 2nd in the majors in games played this season. Among the batting leaders, Altuve is also the most likely to maintain his current level of production. His .336 career BABIP a reflection of how consistently he makes hard contact, and he'll almost certainly be in the top few come season's end. While we're very clearly in the non-Aaron Judge division, it's important to highlight the contributions of players who play premium positions.
Doug Norrie - DFSR CoFounder, Editor-in-Chief and Statistical Director
Mookie Betts - BOS
.272 / .351 / .490 - 4.2 WAR
16 HR / 53 RBI / 15 SB
Among qualified hitters, only four players have 10 or more walks than strikeouts this season. Betts is one of that crew. (Joined by Joey Votto, Anthony Rizzo and teammate Dustin Pedroia). Few players show this kind of patience at the plate and if it weren’t for some BABIP issues (about 30 points lower than his career averages) he’d be pushing up to the 1.000 OPS range (currently at .860). Betts is also one of only six players with double digit home runs and steals on the season (other guys on this list are in the same club). He’s essentially the ideal leadoff hitter. A guy who gets on base at an elite level, can take off to the races once on base, or just clear the Green Monster in one swing if you decide to challenge him.
The bad luck is really the only thing keeping him from coming close to challenging Aaron Judge in terms WAR this season. His fielding is off the charts where he's basically a center fielder forced over into right (making the BOS OF the best in the bigs in terms of D) and considering he's .100 points (or more) behind in BABIP to the other guys in his WAR range we could say Betts is almost unappreciated at this point in the season.
Chris Durell - DFSR MLB Content Manager and Lead Contributor
Paul Goldschmidt - ARI
.312 / .428 / .577 - 4.0 WAR
20 HR / 67 RBI / 13 SB
When Doug informed me about this article series, I rushed to sign up for Paul Goldschmidt. While Aaron Judge holds the American League honor of first half MVP, it is all Goldy in the National League. His 4.2 WAR trails only Judge in all of baseball and he is once again proving to be a unique slugging first basemen with speed on his side. In fact, he is just one of two players(Wil Myers) at the position with double-digit steals and is one of just 16 players in the entire league with double-digit steals(13) and home runs(20). He is also currently running career highs in Slugging(.581) and wOBA(.419) and is on pace to tie or beat his career high in home runs, RBI, and runs scored.
The big thing I notice this season vs. season's past is his ability to hit right-handed pitching. He has been much better over the course of his career vs. southpaws but this season has been completely different. He enters the All-Star Break with a .451 wOBA, 176 wRC+ and .317 ISO vs. right-handed pitching with 18 of his 20 home runs. He has been a true leader and helped the Diamondbacks to a two-game lead in the WildCard race and just 7.5 games back of the Dodgers for the NL West. I present to you, the non-Judge fantasy MVP of the first half!
Austyn Varney - DFSR MLB Lead Writer
Cody Bellinger - LAD
.261 / .342 / .619 - 2.3 WAR
25 HR / 58 RBI / 5 SB
If Trout never went down with his finger injury, I do think he would be ahead of Aaron Judge right now. I still think Trout catches and beats him out by the end of the season. With that being said, I can’t take Trout as my midseason MVP when he has missed so many games. Instead, let’s look at the NL comparative to Aaron Judge. Fellow rookie Cody Bellinger is 4 years younger than Aaron Judge at just 21 years old. If that doesn’t scream impressive, this will: Bellinger has hit 25 homers, just 4 below the league leader in Judge. Bellinger has also dealt with a below average .270 BABIP, compared to Judge at an astronomical .427. With that .270 BABIP, Bellinger has still sported a .384 wOBA against both lefties and righties. While you can’t take anything away from what Judge has done this season, there is also no denying how much regression is on the way.
I don’t care if you’re a hybrid between Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth, you don’t hold a .427 BABIP for longer than half a season. Another thing that is so impressive about Bellinger is his ability to hit lefties. Typically, young lefty power hitters are absolute garbage against southpaws and especially when they have the type of uppercut swing like Bellinger does. At just 21 years old, this kid has a very bright future and could be on his way to an NL MVP if he keeps swinging this way. If you want to point out one bad thing about Bellinger, it’s hit strikeout rate. He strikes out with the best of them, though works counts far bigger than most power bats.
Jerry Vanderwoude - DFSR MLB Writer
Joey Votto - CIN
.315 / .427 / .631 - 3.8 WAR
26 HR / 68 RBI / 65 Runs Scored
Sure, some of these other guys listed here are far better candidates as runners-up to Judge, but the other guys got to them first, so that gives me a chance to throw some love to an underdog in the race. As we roll into the All-Star break, Joey Votto not only leads all qualified first basemen with a .433 wOBA that also places him second overall behind only Judge. As Doug noted above, Votto joins Betts, Rizzo, and Pedroia in having at least ten more walks than strikeouts, but Votto leads the pack with a whopping +19 differential. That type of patience is hard to come by, particularly with a power hitter, and if power is what whets your MVP whistle, don’t overlook the longball. Now in his tenth full season, Votto has gone yard 26 times in 87 games. This is not only enough to have him ranked third overall at the break but also has him well on pace to crush his previous high of 37 set back in 2010.
Probably the biggest thing going against Joey is the fact that he plays for the Reds, who currently dwell in the basement of the NL Central, and probably won’t finish much better. That’s more so a reflection of the team and certainly shouldn’t be held against a player who is on pace for putting up some career high numbers ten seasons in. We still have a lot of baseball left to play, but if he can continue riding the pace he is currently on, once the season wraps, Joey Votto should definitely warrant conversation in the race for MVP.
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- Paul Goldschmidt: AP Photo/Matt York