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Assessing MLB postseason awards

By Jason Weingarten  (VSiN.com) 

weingarten

It’s becoming apparent that most books have no clue how to price their MLB player awards markets. I think the National League Most Valuable Player is far from settled. 

Joey Votto’s odds have dropped from 40-1 last week to between 16-1 and 20-1, and I think that’s still too high. Shohei Ohtani made a big move in the AL Cy Young market from 100-1 down to 20-1. And Wander Franco saw his AL Rookie of the Year odds move from 100-1 to 30-1 between Sunday and Tuesday. I’ll take credit for that one. 

Let’s go through the markets and see who has done what over the last week and try to find a long shot or two to bet. 

NL MVP

DraftKings 

Fernando Tatis Jr. -300

Max Muncy + 700

Freddie Freeman + 850

Bryce Harper + 1000

Joey Votto + 2000

Trea Turner + 3500

Austin Riley + 3500

Brandon Crawford + 8000

Juan Soto + 9000

FanDuel

Fernando Tatis Jr. -270

Max Muncy + 750

Freddie Freeman + 900

Bryce Harper + 1200

Joey Votto + 1600

Trea Turner + 4000

Austin Riley + 4500

Brandon Crawford + 12000

Juan Soto + 15000

BetMGM

Fernando Tatis Jr. -300

Max Muncy + 750

Freddie Freeman + 900

Bryce Harper + 1100

Joey Votto + 1800

Trea Turner + 4000

Austin Riley + 4000

Brandon Crawford + 8000

Juan Soto + 10000

Here are the front-runners’ stats from the last seven days: 

Tatis: 2 hits, 2 runs, 1 double, 0 home runs, 2 RBIs, 7 strikeouts/2 walks, 0 SB, .111/.273/.333

Muncy : 3 hits, 4 runs, 1 double, 2 home runs, 6 RBIs, 8 strikeouts/1 walks, 0 SB, .150/.190/.500

Let’s start with the two favorites. The Padres’ Tatis and the Dodgers’ Muncy had pretty bad weeks. Muncy at least had a game-winning home run, but these numbers won’t help either player’s case with voters. However, Muncy and Tatis still lead the NL in WAR at 5.5 and 5.4, respectively. The Dodgers and Padres are facing off in a three-game series that started Tuesday night, and both players will get chances to make MVP statements. The Padres are trying to stay afloat in the wild-card race while the Dodgers are still trailing the Giants in the NL West near the end of August, something very few people saw coming.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Tatis has stopped stealing bases. That statistic doesn’t really matter to me, but it indicates his shoulder isn’t 100% and he’s afraid to slide headfirst. If the Padres fall out of the race, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tatis shut down early, which would devastate his MVP chances. I think the current market prices on Tatis are bad. I’d lower them and write more bets on him as the favorite if I were running a book. Muncy doesn’t have much value here either. If he gets above 10-1, I’d start thinking about him again. Tatis still leads Muncy in wRC+  166 to 156. 

Freeman: 9 hits, 6 runs, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 2 strikeouts/1 walk, 0 SB, .346/.393/.654

Riley: 9 hits, 4 runs, 1 double, 2 home runs, 4 RBIs, 5 strikeouts/0 walks, 0 SB, .360/.385/.640

Freeman and Riley continue to put up elite numbers as the Braves’ corner-infield tandem. One minor caveat is that the Braves spent the last week and a half playing the Nationals, Marlins and Orioles, three of the worst teams in MLB. 

I don’t think Riley will overtake Freeman this year, but I’ll keep him in mind as a potential MVP candidate for 2022. Freeman’s case is similar to Muncy’s. But Freeman faces a 2-WAR gap from Muncy’s 5.5 to his 3.5. Freeman and Riley both are at 137 wRC+  compared with Muncy’s + 156. Could Freeman jump Muncy and Tatis for MVP? I don’t see it happening, and I’m not betting Freeman at a short price here.

Harper: 4 hits, 3 runs, 0 doubles, 2 home runs, 3 RBIs, 5 strikeouts/5 walks, 0 SB, .190/.346/.476

Here’s another guy who did himself no favors last week. Harper’s odds dropped under + 300 at the major books when the Phillies got hot, but it took only about a week and a couple of Phillies losses for him to drift back out to + 1000. The 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is nice, and his wRC+  of 155 isn’t bad. Freeman and Harper are in somewhat the same position. Their teams need to make the playoffs for them to get more consideration, and even then, the WAR and wRC+  of Harper and Freeman still come up short of Tatis and Muncy at the moment. 

Votto: 4 hits, 3 runs, 1 double, 2 home runs, 5 RBIs, 7 strikeouts/5 walks, 0 SB, .211/.375/.579

Votto’s odds have been cut from as high as 50-1 a week ago to 20-1 and now down to 16-1. Votto has become the Reds’ most viable MVP candidate after earlier trailing teammates Nick Castellanos and Jesse Winker. I think Votto has a better case than Freeman and don’t understand why he’s still more than double Freeman’s price. If the Reds win a wild-card spot, I think that’s worth just as much as Freeman leading the Braves to the NL East title. The number of games Votto missed early in the season might hurt him, but he has still played two games more than Tatis, and what’s the difference between the Padres and Reds? Both are wild-card contenders, and Votto and Tatis are their best players — though Castellanos and Manny Machado might disagree. Votto’s 137 wRC+  is higher than Freeman’s. If I were booking this, I’d have Votto and Freeman at the same odds and Riley much higher. 

Turner: 8 hits, 3 runs, 2 doubles, 1 home runs, 2 RBIs, 1 strikeout/0 walks, 1 SB, .400/.400/.650 

The Dodgers’ new leadoff hitter sports a 4.3 WAR and 135 wRC+ , with most of those numbers coming as a member of the Washington Nationals. I’m still not convinced Turner can jump Muncy in those stats, but his prominent position in the lineup makes him an outside contender. I’ll be keeping my eye on Turner through the Padres series, and I could be tempted to jump on him at 40-1.  

Crawford: 3 hits, 0 runs, 1 double, 0 home runs, 0 RBIs, 2 strikeouts/3 walks, 1 SB, .176/.300/.235

The Giants were the first team to 80 wins, so they deserve a representative on my MVP finalists list. Crawford seems the least likely of all candidates, but you can’t quarrel with the numbers. I wouldn’t even argue if you told me Crawford has been the best middle infielder in the NL West this year. “But what about Fernando Tatis Jr.?” everyone would say. My reply: “Scoreboard.”

Crawford has done nothing over the last week, but neither has anyone else. His August numbers are still very respectable, as he’s slashing .347/.372/.486 for the month. Crawford probably won’t win, but his 138 wRC+  is ahead of Freeman, whose odds are about 1/10th of Crawford’s. And Crawford’s WAR is 4.7 compared with Freeman’s 3.5. I would bet that + 12000 number at FanDuel and will at least consider taking a small bet on him at 80-1. I think I’d rather have a ticket on Crawford than not have one, but I’m not running to the window on Crawford or Turner just yet.

Soto: 5 hits, 6 runs, 3 doubles, 1 home run, 4 RBIs, 4 strikeouts/9 walks, 0 SB, .357/.625/.643

Here are some season-long numbers to ponder.

wRC+  (NL only)

Fernado Tatis Jr. 166

Max Muncy 156

Bryce Harper 155

Juan Soto 153

Jesse Winker 152

Joey Votto 147

Nick Castellanos 146

Bryan Reynolds 143

Mookie Betts 143

Brandon Crawford 138

WAR (NL only; Baseball Reference/ESPN)

Max Muncy 5.5

Fernando Tatis Jr. 5.4

Juan Soto 5.1

Jake Cronenworth 5.1

Brandon Crawford 4.7

Bryan Reynolds 4.4

Trea Turner 4.3

Manny Machado 4.1

Tyler O’Neill 4.1

Austin Riley 4.1

WAR (NL only; FanGraphs)

Fernando Tatis Jr. 4.9

Max Muncy 4.8

Trea Turner 4.8

Jake Cronenworth 4.4

Bryce Harper 4.3

Bryan Reynolds 4.3

Juan Soto 4.0

Brandon Crawford 4.0

Chris Taylor 3.8

Freddie Freeman 3.7

I think Tatis deserves to be the NL MVP favorite, but not at -300. If I’m going to bet on any player on a non-playoff team at this point, give me more Soto at 100-1 or even 150-1 at FanDuel. That’s a great number. 

Soto has played more games than Muncy and Tatis. He leads the NL in walks and walk percentage. In terms of plate discipline, it’s not even close. Soto has walked 97 times, with Freeman next at 70 and Harper and Muncy behind them at 69. Soto is getting walked in 20.5% of his at-bats compared with 15.9% for Harper, 15.3% for Muncy and 13.2% for Freeman. Pitchers are afraid to pitch to Soto. 

Soto leads the NL in OBP, and he’s third behind Harper and Tatis in wOBA, first in xwOBA and fourth in wRC+ . I think there’s a very real chance the Padres’ tailspin will continue and they’ll drop out of the playoff race. If that happens and Tatis gets shut down, anyone can swipe the MVP with a strong late performance.

And while the Nats are virtually eliminated from the playoffs, they’re playing their next 17 games against the NL East, including eight vs. the Mets. Soto will have plenty of opportunities to finish the season strong and make a serious run at the NL MVP. He’s already in the picture. If the Padres and Phillies miss the playoffs (Phillies “yes” playoffs + 350, Padres “yes” playoffs + 170 at DraftKings), what’s the difference among the bodies of work of Harper, Tatis and Soto? I’m buying more Juan Soto at 100-1 this week, and I’ll keep my eye on prices for Crawford and Turner.

Rookie of the Year

NL (DraftKings)

Jonathan India -1100

Trevor Rogers + 675

NL (FanDuel)

Jonathan India -1100

Trevor Rogers + 600

NL (BetMGM)

Jonathan India -1200

Trevor Rogers + 600

I alerted VSiN readers to India’s price when it was still + 500. It’s not really playable anymore at -1100 or -1200. If you wanted to bet Rogers to hedge your risk on India, that’s not out of the question, but I’m not rushing to hedge India. I think we can pencil India’s name on this award, but it wouldn’t surprise me if his odds shorten when Rogers makes his final few starts. Rogers is about to start a rehab assignment, and since he missed several weeks in August, he doesn’t have to worry about the Marlins shutting him down early. Rogers is a threat to cashing India ROY tickets, but not a big one. 

AL (DraftKings)

Randy Arozarena -155

Adolis Garcia + 450

Luis Garcia + 550

Andrew Vaughn + 1000

Akil Baddoo + 1800

Eric Haase + 2500

Wander Franco + 3500

Ryan Mountcastle + 4000

AL (FanDuel)

Randy Arozarena -150

Adolis Garcia + 480

Luis Garcia + 700

Andrew Vaughn + 900

Ryan Mountcastle + 1600

Akil Baddoo + 1800

Wander Franco + 3500

AL (BetMGM)

Randy Arozarena -150

Adolis Garcia + 450

Luis Garcia + 650

Andrew Vaughn + 900

Akil Baddoo + 1700

Ryan Mountcastle + 2000

Wander Franco + 3000

Here are the front-runners’ stats from the last 30 days: 

Arozarena: 27 hits, 13 runs, 7 doubles, 3 home runs, 8 RBIs, 30 strikeouts/9 walks, 0 SB, .370/.452/.616

Franco: 29 hits, 23 runs, 8 doubles, 3 home runs, 19 RBIs, 12 strikeouts/9 walks, 0 SB, .312/.385/.538

I went out of order and put Arozarena’s numbers next to his teammate, Franco. The Rays kept Franco in Triple A until late June. That will hurt him in the eyes of some voters, but his 117 wRC+  and 1.4 WAR compared with Arozarena’s 127 wRC+  and 2.2 WAR show us there’s not a huge gap despite Arozarena’s three-month head start. I think this gap will close more. Franco started the week at 90-1 before I went on Gill Alexander’s show and started talking about him. By the end of Monday, Franco had dropped to 55-1 and 50-1 and down to 35-1 and 30-1. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it drop even more. 

Mountcastle is a 1-WAR player with a 111 wRC+ , but he has a 0% chance to win Rookie of the Year. I think DraftKings is the only book that has priced Franco relatively correctly, compared with the rest of the field. I don’t know why Mountcastle or Baddoo or Haase is priced ahead of Franco. 

Franco is the starting shortstop and bats third for the AL East-leading Rays, and while I do think the Yankees are coming for the title, I can see Franco continuing to get better and force himself into the Rookie of the Year conversation. 

Arozarena is batting leadoff most days, and I bet him to win earlier at 19-1, so I’m fairly happy with my position on both Rays teammates. Arozarena strikes out a lot, but his 28.1% strikeout percentage isn’t too high to disqualify him as a Rookie of the Year candidate, and his .901 slugging percentage for August solidifies him as the front-runner. If you have a stray 50-1 for some reason, I’d still bet it, but the best numbers on Franco are gone. 

Vaughn: 22 hits, 9 runs, 1 double, 4 home runs, 14 RBIs, 17 strikeouts/13 walks, 0 SB, .265/.365/.422

The White Sox’s Vaughn could win, but it’s looking more like he’ll finish second or third. Vaughn is probably going to need Arozarena to slump for an extended period to make up more ground, but Vaughn’s 116 wRC+  is higher than all other contenders aside from Franco’s 117 and Arozarena’s 127. 

A. Garcia: 19 hits, 14 runs, 8 doubles, 5 home runs, 9 RBIs, 37 strikeouts/6 walks, 0 SB, .202/.250/.447

Not sure what to do with Garcia. He has 27 home runs and five in the last 30 days, but he’s also striking out six times more than he’s walking and barely keeping his average above .200. I still think if the Rangers had anyone else to play he’d probably be back in Triple A. He also is at the bottom of the list in wRC at 110. He’s leading Arozarena, Franco and all other AL rookies in WAR at 2.9, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see that number come down while Arozarena and Franco’s numbers rise. 

L. Garcia: 2-1 W-L, 5 starts, 5.33 ERA, 25.1 innings, 26 hits, 16 runs, 15 ER, 5 home runs, 32 strikeouts/7 walks

The strikeouts are nice, and he has pitched 116.2 innings with 137 strikeouts, a 9-6 record and a 3.39 ERA, so there’s definitely something there — but enough to win Rookie of the Year? On the Astros, the most hated team in baseball? Probably not going to happen. 

The AL Rookie of the Year finalists are Arozarena, Adolis Garcia, Vaughn and Franco. If Franco has a couple of good games this week, I’d consider adding some at 30-1, as we will likely see that number cut in half again. 

AL Cy Young 

I wish I could say I was smart enough to bet Shohei Ohtani to win the AL Cy Young Award when he was 100-1. But I didn’t. I did manage to grab some at 40-1, 30-1 and even down to 25-1. Lance Lynn is the favorite and Gerrit Cole is right there. I don’t think Carlos Rodon will pitch enough innings to be a serious contender, and I’m not sold on Robbie Ray. I think Ohtani is live to win the AL MVP and the AL Cy Young. 

DraftKings

Lance Lynn -150

Gerrit Cole + 140

Robbie Ray + 1000

Carlos Rodon + 1000

Shohei Ohtani + 2000

Here are the front-runners’ stats from the last 30 days: 

Lynn: 1-0 W-L, 6 starts, 3.00 ERA, 33 innings, 28 hits, 11 runs, 11 ER, 3 home runs, 36 strikeouts/8 walks, oBA .217

Cole: 2-1 W-L, 3 starts, 4.24 ERA, 17 innings, 13 hits, 9 runs, 8 ER, 2 home runs, 25 strikeouts/4 walks, oBA .200

Ray: 1-0 W-L, 5 starts, 1.64 ERA, 33 innings, 23 hits, 6 runs, 6 ER, 1 home runs, 36 strikeouts/9 walks, oBA. 197

Ohtani: 4-0 W-L, 4 starts, 1.67 ERA, 27 innings, 18 hits, 5 runs, 5 ER, 2 home runs, 25 strikeouts/3 walks, oBA .188

What Ohtani is doing is historically great. With all respect to Ray and Lynn, I don’t see how you don’t vote for Ohtani. He’s putting up elite pitching numbers while batting leadoff every other day and barely taking any days off. 

Ohtani has thrown 100 innings over 18 starts with an 8-1 record and 2.79 ERA while striking out 120 batters. He has given up eight home runs in 18 starts and walked only 39 batters all season. Opponents are batting .190 off Ohtani, and opponents are batting .075 off his splitter, the lowest for any pitcher on any pitch type in all of baseball. Ohtani’s ERA since July 1 is 1.58, the second lowest in baseball. And he’s doing all this while hitting 40 home runs and stealing 19 bases. I don’t think we fully appreciate what we see Ohtani do every game.

Ohtani is starting Wednesday against the Baltimore Orioles, who have the worst record in baseball. Another dominant start will shorten Ohtani’s odds again, and it will line him up to pitch again at home Sept. 1 against the Yankees, who are projected to start Cole that day. 

Ohtani’s worst start came against the Yankees in New York when he didn’t make it out of the first inning. A second game against the new and improved Yankees, with Anthony Rizzo and Joey Gallo, will give Ohtani a great chance to solidify his Cy Young case. If he can dominate against the O’s and Yankees, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him less than 5-1 by Sept. 2. Much like Franco, some of the best numbers are already gone, but I’d still be happy to take anything from 30-1 down to 20-1 for Ohtani to win the Cy Young. I think there’s a real possibility he’ll sweep the major awards.

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