Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts became the latest player to deny Mike Trout a third American League MVP award, while Milwaukee Brewers outfielder and Thousand Oaks native Christian Yelich captured the National League MVP in a nearly unanimous vote.
Betts joins elite company among those who have stood in Trout’s way since the Angels outfielder debuted in 2012: Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera finished just ahead of Trout in 2012 and 2013, while former Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson forced Trout into second in 2015. Trout won in 2014 and 2016, finishing fourth in 2017.
Trout had to settle for a fourth second-place finish in 2018, which ties a record he shares with Albert Pujols, Ted Williams and Stan Musial. Betts ran away with the award after hitting .346 with 32 home runs for the eventual World Series champions. Betts received 28 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. Trout earned one first-place vote, while another went to Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez.
Despite the relatively marginal support at the top of the ballot, Trout presented a compelling case. He missed time in August with a wrist issue, but still played in more games (140) than Betts (136). Trout led the sport in on-base percentage (.460) and on-base plus slugging percentage (1.088) — setting career highs for himself in the process in both categories.
Betts, of course, was far from a slouch. He finished with a .438 OBP and a 1.078 OPS, both of which ranked second among hitters who qualified for the batting title. Betts led baseball in wins above replacement, according to both FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference. He also played on a team which won 108 games, which likely aided his cause with some voters.
The consistency of Trout remains remarkable. His worst finish in his seven full seasons is fourth. For context, 2017 MVP Jose Altuve landed in 14th place this season.
Cleveland third baseman Jose Ramirez took third, followed by Martinez in fourth and Astros infielder Alex Bregman in fifth. Martinez often serves as the designated hitter, which hurt his cause, but he did lead the American League in RBIs (130) and total bases (358)
Shohei Ohtani, the Angels’ two-way star who won rookie of the year on Monday, did not receive a vote on any of the 30 American League ballots.
Yelich received 29 first-place votes from the writers. The only other player to get a first-place vote was Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom, who won the Cy Young Award on Wednesday. DeGrom finished fifth in the MVP voting.
Cubs infielder Javier Baez finished second, followed by Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado in third and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman in fourth. Two Dodgers received consideration, with Justin Turner finishing 14th and Max Muncy finishing 15th.
Acquired during Miami’s firesale last offseason, Yelich rode a monstrous second-half performance to win the MVP hardware. He hit .367 with a 1.219 OPS after the All-Star break, finishing the season with 36 homers, 110 RBIs and a 1.000 OPS for the champions of the National League Central Division.