With bat flips and a home-run trot highlighted by a dance around the third turn, Padres phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. enjoys putting on a show in a game forever resistant to showboating. Times are changing, however, and even many old-school purists are beginning to embrace Tatis’ flair.
At 22, Tatis might be the most entertaining young player in baseball, although competition is abundant for that unofficial title.
He’s also facing fierce competition for the official title of National League Most Valuable Player, an opposite-coast two-player race between a power hitter in San Diego and an overpowering pitcher in New York. Mets ace Jacob deGrom has been so dominant that he’s favored to win an award typically owned by everyday players.
“It has to be so extraordinary for a pitcher to win it, but that’s the case,” Westgate SuperBook baseball oddsmaker Ed Salmons said. “The numbers for deGrom are historic.”
At BetMGM, deGrom is the + 125 favorite to win the NL MVP, slightly ahead of Tatis at + 150. It’s important to note those odds do not reflect oddsmakers’ opinions. MGM Resorts director of trading Jeff Stoneback said deGrom is favored mostly because he has attracted three times more money than Tatis in the prop pool.
DeGrom opened the season at 50-1 odds, and the book’s liability is on the long shot. Tatis opened at 9-1.
A two-time NL Cy Young Award winner, deGrom is 7-2 with a 0.69 ERA, 0.53 WHIP and 122 strikeouts in 78 innings. His ERA is the lowest by a pitcher through 13 starts since earned runs became an official stat in 1913. His scoreless-innings streak was stopped at 31 Saturday, when deGrom threw 18 pitches of at least 100 mph.
The last NL pitcher to win the MVP was the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw in 2014, and he was the first to win it since the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson in 1968.
“I still think a lot of voters will have the thought of not giving it to a pitcher because he pitches every fifth day, when he’s healthy, so there will be some reluctance,” said Vinny Magliulo, VSiN oddsmaker and lifelong Mets fan.
A few things need to happen for deGrom to claim the MVP. He must remain dominant and healthy, and the Mets, who held a three-game lead in the NL East, must continue to win.
“I would say if deGrom stays healthy, because he’s doing stuff never done in the history of the game, he has to win it,” Salmons said. “But that’s if he stays healthy, and that’s a big if.”
DeGrom has dealt with minor injuries this season, including a sore right shoulder, a tight right lat and side and a stiff back. Tatis also has had injury problems and recently said he’s playing at 75% with a left shoulder that was partly dislocated early in the season.
Tatis, who had a three-homer game Friday, was putting up power numbers (25 home runs, 55 RBIs) that are more impressive considering he had missed 19 of the team’s 80 games. He was batting .294 and was tied for second in the majors with 16 stolen bases.
The Padres (47-33) were trailing the Giants (50-28) and Dodgers (48-31) in a tight three-team race in the NL West, but San Diego has won seven of the last eight against the Dodgers.
“If the trends continue with Tatis’ numbers and the Padres’ success against the Dodgers, (the award) will probably go to Tatis,” Magliulo said. “The Padres are a legit team, and Tatis is a fan favorite. You watch this kid and he loves playing the game. It’s pretty refreshing.”
Remember when the Padres signed Tatis to a 14-year, $330 million contract in February and some critics questioned the team’s wisdom? Tatis might have sold himself short.
“If you look at it five years from now, you might say, ‘How could Tatis agree to that?’ ” Salmons said. “It’s 100% it will be a bargain.”
One negative in Tatis’ case is his defense — he had made 17 errors at shortstop. One positive in deGrom’s case is his offense — he’s batting .414 (12-for-29) with six RBIs.
One player who could work his way into the MVP race in the second half is Ronald Acuna Jr. The Braves’ 23-year-old outfielder was batting .282 with 21 homers, 47 RBIs and 16 steals. BetMGM lists Acuna as the third choice at + 375. But Atlanta (37-40) is underachieving and needs to get hot.
Health permitting, the deGrom-Tatis MVP debate will go to the wire in early October.
It’s Sho time
The Blue Jays’ Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who was tied atop the majors with 26 homers, is the even-money favorite in the AL MVP race. BetMGM lists the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani as the + 105 second choice. Ohtani had 26 homers and 60 RBIs in addition to his work in 11 starts as a pitcher (3-1, 2.58 ERA, 82 strikeouts in 59.1 innings). If the two-way workload does not wear him down after the All-Star break, Ohtani should win the award.
The preseason favorite, Angels outfielder Mike Trout, has slipped to 40-1 odds. Trout has been out since May 17 with a calf injury and is not expected to return until late July. Trout, considered the best player in baseball for most of the last 10 years, is suddenly the second-best player on his team.
BetMGM lists the Rays (+ 160) as AL East favorites ahead of the Red Sox (+ 175) and Yankees (+ 275). Boston is 6-0 against the Yankees and went into Tuesday with a 48-31 record, one game in front of Tampa Bay and 7.5 ahead of fourth-place New York.
“The Red Sox are for real and not going away,” Magliulo said. “The Yankees are in trouble, no doubt.”
The Yankees appear emotionally flat, an indictment of manager Aaron Boone, and the flawed roster is the fault of general manager Brian Cashman. In the old days, heads would be rolling in the Bronx. Boone and Cashman are in trouble if things don’t change soon.
The Yankees need to make a bold move, and Washington ace Max Scherzer is the most coveted pitcher who could hit the trade market. Scherzer has a no-trade clause and his agent, Scott Boras, said a contract extension would be required in any potential deal. It’s a more complex situation now that the Nationals had won 12 of 15 to get within three games of the Mets. It’s becoming increasingly likely Scherzer won’t be traded.
So the news gets worse for Boone and Cashman, and the forecast for Yankees’ futures wagers is not bright.