The MVP Race In the American League

It is mid August, usually around now we are talking about the division races. However, this season it looks like in the American League, the Red Sox, Indians and Astros will win their respected divisions easily. With the second wild card the only A.L. race. The big question this season, the historic competition of the potential American League MVP battle.

We have a potential triple-crown winner in J.D. Martinez and he isn’t even the favoriteMVP on his own team. Most experts alike would say that the Red Sox favorite is Mookie Betts. Betts leads the league in average, hovering around that .350 mark, while playing gold-glove defense in the outfield. Cleveland Indians Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor, can easily make a viable case for the award as well. As they have anchored the juggernaut Indians infield with their gloves and bat. Those two dynamic tandems could actually cancel out votes and give way to the perennial MVP favorite Mike Trout. There is a stigma around Trout that suggests he shouldn’t be MVP because the Angels never truly become a playoff threat. However, his statistics with the modern day WAR stat, wins-above-replacement, have him again a potential choice.

The MVP Case For Red Sox’

As of August 12th, the Red Sox record is an absolute absurd 50 games over .500. This could very well be the greatest Red Sox team in history, as it could contend to break the 116 win mark last held by the Seattle Mariners in 2001. The leaders of this Red Sox team are certainly Betts and free-agent acquisition J.D. Martinez. Martinez now stands at .333, 37 home-runs, and 104 RBI. And again, it is August 12th! Meanwhile, Betts, the everyday center/right-fielder, who even has played a game at second base, is setting the tone atop the A.L., with a .350 average, 26 home-runs and 99 runs scored. Betts leads the A.L. in overall WAR at 8.1, due to his five-tool play. He also just recently hit for the cycle against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The MVP Case For Indians’

There is not a better left-side of the infield in baseball than Cleveland’s Ramirez and Lindor. They have been staples on Terry Francona’s team now for the last four seasons. The Indians have been dominant in the central for three years now and lead the division by 12 games. Along with a tremendous pitching staff led by Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, it is Lindor and Ramirez who set the pace for the offense and defense. Lindor is hitting .292, 29, 74, while Ramirez’ line sits at an impressive .298, 34, 84. Ramirez also is fourth in the league in WAR. Their sub .300 averages, could hinder the Indian’s chances.

The MVP Case For Trout

Ahh the wonderful stat of wins-above-replacement. This should be considered the “Mike Trout statistic” as it always seems to help his MVP case. The Angels made headlines early in the season, as this looked like their year to cause havoc in the West, especially with the two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani. Well that has since faltered, as it looks like another season where LA will miss the playoffs. Trout usually gets consideration, even when the team does not make playoffs, when other playoff team’s players aren’t having incredible statistical years.  That’s not the case this season. However, Trout still has a league leading offensive WAR of 7.2, while hitting .309, 30, 60.

The baseball purists usually tend to the best overall player on the best team. While the modern statistic experts tend to favor the wins-above-replacement stat. Right now, you have to like Betts’ chances.

Sandy Koufax Was The Greatest Pitcher Ever

The debate over who the greatest pitcher ever was is as old as the game itself. Some say it’s Cy Young because of his 511 wins. Others say it’s Nolan Ryan because of his longevity. But while he’s well known to many, Sandy Koufax doesn’t get the full credit he deserves. That’s partly because he only had six strong seasons. But I argue that those were the greatest six seasons any pitcher has enjoyed in the game of baseball. That makes Koufax the greatest pitcher ever.

Let’s start with just a few of Koufax’s accolades. He was a six-time All-Star. The mangreatest pitcher ever threw FOUR no-hitters, including a perfect game. He was a two-time World Series MVP. He was the 1963 National League MVP when he pitched 11 shutouts. That’s just for starters. Let’s take a look at his actual numbers.

Koufax had 2,396 career strikeouts in just twelve seasons. After twelve years in the majors, Nolan Ryan had 2,686. That’s just 290 more than Koufax had after twelve years. So imagine if Koufax had played for twenty-seven seasons like Ryan did. In fact, while Ryan holds the single-season strikeout record with 383, that’s just ONE more than Koufax’s original record. In other words, only a pitcher like Nolan Ryan could top Koufax, and that’s just barely. While many will argue that Ryan is better, Ryan played twenty-seven seasons in the majors, longer than anyone else. Ryan also never won a Cy Young Award while Koufax won three. So if you put their best years side by side with each other, Koufax edges out Ryan not just quantitatively, but through sheer dominance in the regular and postseasons.

Koufax Was The Greatest Pitcher Ever

According to ESPN, Koufax would have finished a longer career with 334 wins, 4,377 strikeouts, and a 2.76 ERA. And that’s only if he’d played another eleven seasons. It’s hard to tell what he would have done if he’d gotten Tommy John surgery and continued to play (it wasn’t around yet).

There are those who say Koufax’s first six years keep him from standing as the greatest pitcher ever. They have a worthy argument. Koufax only won 36 games in his first six seasons, an average of six wins a season. He was wild on the mound during those first six years too. But how many pitchers can anyone point to and cite the dramatic turnaround Koufax had between 1960 and 1961?

Through strikeouts, dependability, and sheer dominance, Koufax was the greatest pitcher ever.

Andrew Benintendi Picked A Great Time to Heat Up

As the Boston Red Sox blazed out of the gate to a 17-2 start this season, the bat of Andrew Benintendi was nowhere to be found. But it didn’t matter. The rest of the offense picked up the slack, and then some. Through the month of April, he batted .274 with 23 hits, 15 runs batted in, a .376 on-base percentage, a .440 slugging percentage, and only managed to hit one home run.

His struggles at the plate were largely overshadowed by the rest of the offense. Namely Andrew BenintendiJ.D. Martinez and Mookie Betts, who had much less trouble hitting dingers. The duo captivated Boston. Betts emerged as a surefire MVP candidate and Martinez warmed the hearts of Red Sox Nation as a home run of a free agent signing. Pun intended.

But those struggles were never ignored completely. Between the lines of the Red Sox’ historic start was curiosity as to where the production from Boston’s handsome left fielder had gone. Then the calendar turned to May, and the beautiful swing of Andrew Benintendi started making things happen. And the timing could not have been better.

Andrew Benintendi Back In Form

Hanley Ramirez was designated for assignment on May 25th. Mookie Betts was shut down with a left abdominal strain that same week. Later placed on the 10-day disabled list, Betts is still out of the lineup. And all of a sudden the Red Sox lineup was missing some serious offensive firepower. Benintendi’s missing bat finally started to show up, resulting in a drastically more productive month of May. Improving upon his batting average (.349), on-base percentage (.411), slugging percentage (.633), hit total (38), RBI total (23), and HR total (6), he finally returned to the form we know and love.

And it gets better. Benintendi’s month of June is off to an even better start. Against the reigning champion Houston Astros on June 2nd, Benintendi launched a ball into the Milky Way to put the Sox ahead for good and secure the team’s 40th victory. He then put another one into orbit the following night en route to a 9-3 win. His power surged helped the Sox salvage a series split against one of the best teams in the nation. Thanks in large part to him, the Boston Red Sox were the first team in the league to win 40 games.

At 41-19, the Boston Red Sox have the best record in Major League Baseball. And while Benintendi may not have contributed early on, he is more than making up for it now.

Mookie Betts Is Looking Every Bit Like the AL MVP

Since his first appearance on the MVP ballot three years ago, the question has notMookie Betts been if, but when Mookie Betts will take home one of the most coveted honors in Major League Baseball. Betts’ sophomore campaign in 2015 yielded a .291 batting average, 18 home runs, 77 runs batted in, and lots of optimism for this promising young outfielder.

In the following season, Mookie started turning heads and looked as deserving of the MVP as any. He drastically improved his numbers and played his way into his first All-Star Game as a starting outfielder. He also took home a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger, and finished as the runner-up for American League MVP, falling just 45 points short of Mike Trout. His numbers regressed slightly in 2017 after batting a career-best .318 in 2016, but still returned to the All-Star Game and finished 6th in MVP voting. His play to begin the 2018 campaign has Mookie Betts emerging as a favorite to take home MVP honors at last.

Mookie Betts 2018 MVP?

Over the first eight games of the season, the Boston Red Sox were working on the best start in the history of the franchise. Mookie Betts’ bat, however, was nowhere to be found. After recording only one RBI on a lone solo home run in that eight-game span, Betts has since flipped the script entirely. In 31 games, the 25-year-old right fielder has swung his way into the league-lead for home runs (13), batting average (.360), runs (36), and slugging percentage (.825). This power surge has fueled Boston’s offense and helped the Red Sox maintain their top-two 25-10 record. It has also landed Mookie Betts in the history books.

On May 2nd, Betts returned to the starting lineup after hamstring tightness held him out for two games. Boston’s red-hot leadoff hitter picked up right where he left off. Betts hit three home runs for the second time this season, this time on a trio of solo dingers. The Red Sox’ 5-4 win against the Kansas City Royals was Betts’ fourth 3-HR game in his career, passing Ted Williams (3) for the most in franchise history.

No Signs of Mookie Monster Slowing Down

Just days after rejoining the lineup, Betts exited Sunday’s game when a throw from first base struck his right shoulder as he was heading to second base. This latest setback did not slow him down either, as he reprised his leadoff role in Boston’s next game on Tuesday. And he didn’t just return, he notched two hits against Yankee ace Luis Severino, including a clutch RBI triple that tied the game before the Yankees went back up for good.

Mookie Betts is on pace to hit over 60 home runs and drive in over 130 runs, out of the leadoff spot no less. He also leads the league in extra-base hits (26) and total bases (94). And with a spotless fielding percentage to top off his exceptional start to the season, he continues to prove himself as one of the most complete 5-tool players in Major League Baseball, and the early leader in the clubhouse for the American League MVP.

The Betts Case For MVP

Mookie Betts is in the midst of a career year in 2016, and he’s being rewarded for it. Betts was just named American League Player of the Month for July, raising a new question for Red Sox fans—can he win the American League MVP?

Betts has had a good year, sure, but is it enough to earn baseball’s most prestigiousBetts individual award? He has proven to be one of the most versatile players in all of baseball, and that only helps his case. For MLB’s best offense, Mookie has been the unquestioned catalyst. After a slow start, he has raised his average all the way to .311.

It has not been just his average that has impressed fans—Mookie has added another lethal power threat to an already potent Red Sox lineup. Even batting lead-off, Betts has 23 home runs and 74 RBI. Both those statistics are second on the team, only behind David Ortiz. He has combined hitting with above average power and exceptional fielding for a great MVP case.

The 2016 Difference For Betts

Betts has been exponentially better this year compared to last year when he finished in the top 20 for MVP voting. Last year, he did not even make the All-Star team and still got MVP votes. This year, Betts has become a staple in the “league leaders” lists. He ranks 2nd in the American League in hits and extra-base hits, 3rd in doubles, and 5th in batting average. Also, Betts is 4th in the American League in stolen bases, runs scored, and triples. He also leads the league in at-bats and total bases.

It has not just been his hitting that has improved, however. Betts is 3rd in the league among outfielders in fielding percentage (and 1st among right fielders in particular), and 3rd in outfield assists. On the base paths, he’s 4th in the league in stolen bases and stolen base percentage. In July, Betts hit .368 with 5 home runs and 15 RBI, being named AL Player of the Month.

A red-hot July and an already impressive August have definitely increased Mookie Betts’ stock in the MVP race. Personally, I think it’s Jose Altuve’s award to lose. He’s hitting almost .360 and has almost single-handedly led the Houston Astros near a playoff spot. If he stays hot and they get in the post-season, he has to win. However, the Mookie Betts case is clearly one that can not be ignored.

Red Sox Should Make Pedroia Player Manager

The Red Sox have a problem. John Farrell claimed to be embarrassed after the 21-2 shelling the Sox took from the Angels. At this point though it’s hard to trust him. He continues to insert Clay Buchholz into the rotation as if he’s going to suddenly pitch better. Personally, I have a better chance of scoring a date with a supermodel before Buchholz wins another game. Farrell’s bad judgment, along with poor playing in general, should be reason enough to fire him. But who should take over?  If the Red Sox made Pedroia player manager, they’d be gaining a veteran player who knows the team inside and out. MorePedrioa player manager importantly, they’ll get someone who can light a fire under the team.

The Red Sox have been more consistent in this season than in the last two, but there’s room for improvement. Firing Farrell is a good start. He doesn’t strike many as being on total control of the team, and his judgment calls are questionable at best. Pedrioa though has been with the Red Sox for his entire career. As a Rookie of the Year in 2007 and Most Valuable Player in 2008, Pedrioa has led the league in runs, hits, and doubles. He can hit with power, he can steal bases, and he can play solid defense. As Pedrioa begins to enter his mid-thirties, he’ll have to think about his life after playing. Given that he can run, throw, and hit, Pedrioa could effectively coach and manager upcoming players.

Argument for Making Pedrioa Player Manager

Making Pedrioa player manager would make the transition smoother, and the team would already know him well. More importantly, he would be able to light a fire under the team’s collective a$$es, which they really need. Whether the team is tired going into the All-Star break, or not communicating well enough, they need more guidance. Pedrioa has no tolerance for poor playing, and doesn’t let records or fame get in his way of playing his hardest.

In a June 27th game against Tampa Bay, Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez gave up nine runs and eleven hits in only 2 2/3 innings. Before Farrell pulled him, Pedrioa could be seen giving the young southpaw some heated and intense advice on the mound. What did Pedrioa tell him? “Do you honestly think I’m going to tell you that?” Pedrioa replied when asked. “I was talking to him about baseball. I talk to all my teammates, every day. That’s about it.”

Dustin Pedrioa is smart, works harder than any other player, and can rally the team. He’s already a team leader. So with that said, what better guy could the Red Sox gain to take over than Pedrioa? Making Pedroia player manager would allow him to continue playing while taking over the entire direction of the team. It’s fire, determination, and inspiration that the Red Sox need right now. Making Pedroia player manager would not only inspire the team, it would inspire all of Boston.