NL MVP race far from over

By Jason Weingarten  (VSiN.com) 

weingarten

Let’s take a closer look at the National League Most Valuable Player race as the season nears its conclusion.

NL MVP

DraftKings

Fernando Tatis Jr. -205 

Bryce Harper + 275

Freddie Freeman + 1200

Max Muncy + 1200

Juan Soto + 3500

FanDuel

Fernando Tatis Jr. -200

Bryce Harper + 300

Max Muncy + 1200

Freddie Freeman + 1600

Juan Soto + 2500

BetMGM

Fernando Tatis Jr. -250

Bryce Harper + 400

Freddie Freeman + 900

Max Muncy + 1200

Juan Soto + 4000

Numbers for last 30 days

Tatis: 13 runs, 23 hits, 7 doubles, 7 home runs, 20 RBIs, 26 strikeouts/12 walks, 2 SB, .250/.349/.554

Harper: 19 runs, 31 hits, 6 doubles, 11 home runs, 25 RBIs, 19 strikeouts/20 walks, 0 SB, .341/.451/.769

Freeman, 23 runs, 33 hits, 8 doubles, 6 home runs, 13 RBIs, 12 strikeouts/8 walks, 1 SB, .327/.393/.604

Muncy: 17 runs, 18 hits, 3 doubles, 9 home runs, 18 RBIs, 28 strikeouts/9 walks, 0 SB, .188/.262/.521

Soto: 23 runs, 29 hits, 3 doubles, 6 home runs, 21 RBIs, 12 strikeouts/33 walks, 3 SB, .330/.516/.591

Tatis is still the consensus favorite. The Padres, meanwhile, have seen their playoff odds drop to 27.8%, and their schedule gets no easier. They were 0-4 with six games left on their trip to Los Angeles, San Francisco and St. Louis. They go home to San Diego to play the Giants again and then the Braves, and they might be out of the wild-card race when the final week of the season begins. Tatis is a superstar, and even with an injured shoulder he’s still hitting home runs, but his numbers have declined consistently over the second half of the season, probably due to his shoulder problems. Tatis has an MVP in his future, but I think he’ll come up just short this year. 

Harper is making another push, and he’s between + 275 and + 400, as he was a few weeks ago. Then the Phillies went a bit stagnant, and his odds drifted back up to about 10-1. I overlooked Harper earlier in the season, but he is a serious contender now. Harper is walking more than he strikes out over the last 30 days, and his 11 home runs lead all MVP contenders in that span. The Phillies’ playoff odds sit at 15.6%, and a wild-card spot would likely push Harper over the line for MVP. The best MVP odds available on Harper are + 400 at BetMGM, but if I wanted to bet on it, I’d take the Phillies to make the playoffs + 450, available at DraftKings. 

Muncy is running out of time to push to the front of the race. His nine home runs over the last 30 days are second only to Harper, but it’s hard to see a guy hitting .188 getting serious MVP consideration regardless of his slugging, which is a similar issue facing Tatis. Muncy’s MVP path probably includes the Dodgers winning the NL West, which they are slight underdogs to accomplish. Not saying Muncy and the Dodgers can’t do it, but I don’t think there’s much value on Muncy’s MVP odds at current prices. 

Freeman just keeps quietly hitting. He has picked up a lot of the slack since Ronald Acuna Jr. went down, and the Braves are on their way to winning the NL East. I’m not sold on Freeman winning consecutive MVPs, but he’s clearly in the conversation down the stretch. His 4.1 WAR and 136 wRC+  trail Muncy’s 4.6 and 143, but it’s close enough that either could move up or down.

Finally, there’s Soto. The Nationals were 59-85 and Soto is a legitimate MVP candidate and possibly the first NL MVP since Andre Dawson in 1987 on a last-place team. 

Soto: 97 runs, 137 hits, 17 doubles, 2 triples, 25 home runs, 83 RBIs, 233 total bases, 9 stolen bases, 83 strikeouts/119 walks, .309/.454/.525, 159 wRC+ , 5.2 fWAR, 5.9 bWAR

Tatis: 91 runs, 115 hits, 27 doubles, 0 triples, 38 home runs, 90 RBIs, 256 total bases, 25 stolen bases, 128 strikeouts/55 walks, .283/.368/.629, 160 wRC+ , 5.5 fWAR, 6.1 bWAR

Harper 87 runs, 131 hits, 32 doubles, 1 triple, 23 home runs, 72 RBIs, 261 total bases, 12 stolen bases, 110 strikeouts/81 walks, .307/.421/.611, 170 wRC+ , 5.7 fWAR, 5.0 bWAR

When you look at the season-long numbers for Soto, Tatis and Harper, there’s not much difference. Soto has the most hits and runs. If the award is solely for most home runs and highest slugging, Tatis is the clear winner. Harper has the most total bases, highest wRC+  and highest fWAR. Adding total bases plus walks, Harper has 342, compared with 311 for Tatis and 352 for Soto. If all three are on non-playoff teams, I’d take a much more serious look at Soto. It’s really hard to look past Soto, who’s leading baseball with 119 walks. Pitchers are afraid to pitch to him even while he’s on a 59-win team that will be lucky to win five or six more games the rest of the season. 

If voters look only at home runs and slugging, Tatis will win the MVP. But with just over 20 games left, you can’t really make a case that he deserves to be anywhere close to -200 while his team is fading from the playoff race. I’d bet the Phillies to make the playoffs at + 450, and if I didn’t already have Soto at higher numbers I’d grab some at 40-1 here. The MVP race isn’t over yet, and Tatis shouldn’t be a -200 favorite.

 

 

AL MVP

DraftKings 

Shohei Ohtani -5000

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. + 1400

FanDuel

Shohei Ohtani -7000

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. + 1500

BetMGM

Shohei Ohtani -5000

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. + 1600

Guerrero will be a perennial MVP favorite. He’ll likely end up hitting more home runs than Ohtani, the Blue Jays are probably going to make the playoffs and Guerrero might even win the Triple Crown. All of that still won’t be enough to unseat Ohtani for MVP. Ted Williams didn’t win the MVP when he hit .400 or in either of his Triple Crown seasons. Precedent exists for Guerrero not winning the MVP while winning the Triple Crown, but there is no precedent for what Ohtani is doing this season.

AL Rookie of the Year

DraftKings

Randy Arozarena -170

Adolis Garcia + 300

Wander Franco + 750

Luis Garcia + 1200

Ryan Mountcastle + 1800

FanDuel

Randy Arozarena -175

Adolis Garcia + 250

Luis Garcia + 1200

Wander Franco + 1600

Ryan Mountcastle + 2500

BetMGM

Randy Arozarena -175

Adolis Garcia + 300

Wander Franco + 750

Luis Garcia + 1200

I wrote last week about how Franco’s 38-game on-base streak helped him surge ahead of the field from all the way at the back a month ago, when he was 100-1, to 4-1 and even + 350 a couple of places. Then immediately after getting on base for the 38th straight game, Franco pulled his hamstring and was on the injured list by the next morning. 

I suspect the Rays, with a huge lead in the AL East, will be cautious with Franco. Ideally he’ll be back Monday for the opener of the home series against the Blue Jays and the final 12 games of the regular season, which would get Franco to about 72 to 74 games played, enough for him to break Frank Robinson’s rookie on-base record. If he does that, it might be enough to jump Arozarena. I don’t think Garcia is much of a threat to take votes from Franco. If news breaks that Franco is coming back, I will likely grab that 16-1 number at FanDuel. 

Franco (July): 10 runs, 22 hits, 3 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs, 9 RBIs, 20 strikeouts/5 walks, .256/.293/.430

Franco (August): 26 runs, 31 hits, 8 doubles, 0 triples, 3 home runs, 19 RBIs, 8 strikeouts/9 walks, .313/.382/.485

Franco (September): 7 runs, 11 hits, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 1 home run, 3 RBIs, 1 strikeout/3 walks, .367/.424/.633

Arozarena (July): 14 runs, 19 hits, 5 doubles, 0 triples, 4 home runs, 8 RBIs, 23 strikeouts/6 walks, .244/.314/462

Arozarena (August): 15 runs, 25 hits, 5 doubles, 1 triple, 4 home runs, 11 RBIs, 28 strikeouts/8 walks, .362/443/.638

Arozarena (September): 9 runs, 9 hits, 2 doubles, 0 triples, 1 home run, 4 RBIs, 11 strikeouts/3 walks, .281/.385/.500

Garcia (July): 9 runs, 19 hits, 6 doubles, 0 triples, 3 home runs, 8 RBIs, 30 strikeouts/4 walks, .216/.274/.386

Garcia (August): 19 runs, 25 hits, 8 doubles, 0 triples, 6 home runs, 14 RBIs, 42 strikeouts/9 walks, .227/286/.464

Garcia (September): 8 hits, 3 runs, 1 double, 0 triples, 0 home runs, 2 RBIs, 11 strikeouts/2 walks, .190/.244/.214

Garcia did most of his damage in May and was rewarded with a trip to the All-Star Game. But since then his numbers have trended down, which isn’t surprising. A ratio of 169 strikeouts to 30 walks is not nice, and it does not make up for his 29 home runs. His .245 average and .293 on-base percentage aren’t helping either. I don’t see any reason Franco is listed below Garcia. Franco might not win, but he’ll get more votes than Garcia. 

Arozarena had his best month in August, but he has been fairly consistent all season. His totals of 19 home runs and 13 stolen bases are very good — not great, but very good. His ratio of 151 strikeouts to 47 walks is not great, either, but the Rays lead the league in strikeouts and seem OK with guys who strike out a lot. But the odds indicate people think Arozarena will win by default because Franco got hurt and nobody else is really doing anything. Luis Garcia has a fringe case as a pitcher, but mostly he’ll get second- and third-place votes. And Ryan Mountcastle has the same problem as Adolis Garcia. I wouldn’t consider Mountcastle for first-place votes on the 46-win Orioles. There’s no reason to reward players on the Orioles or Rangers for their inability to win games. 

If Franco comes back healthy and plays the final 10 or 12 games, he’ll have a chance to break the rookie on-base record. If he doesn’t come back by Monday or Tuesday, Arozarena will have a better chance to win, essentially by default. 

If you are wondering whether any precedent exists for Franco to win Rookie of the Year while maxing out about 70 games, the answer is yes. Willie McCovey won the 1959 NL Rookie of the Year despite playing only 52 games.

McCovey (1959): 32 runs, 68 hits, 9 doubles, 5 triples, 13 home runs, 38 RBIs, 2 stolen bases, 35 strikeouts/22 walks, .354/.429/.656

Franco (2021): 49 runs, 70 hits, 15 doubles, 4 triples, 7 home runs, 36 RBIs, 2 stolen bases, 35 strikeouts/22 walks, .285/.347/.463

 

Make/Miss Playoff Odds

I made these bets the week of Aug. 10. 

DraftKings playoff odds

Blue Jays Yes + 115

Mets No + 180

Braves Yes + 225

Padres No + 300

Astros No + 750

Phillies Yes + 100

FanDuel playoff odds

Yankees Yes -110

This week I am adding: 

Red Sox No + 110

Mariners Yes + 1500

Cardinals Yes + 425

Phillies Yes + 450

Padres No -280

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