Red Sox: Mookie Betts, Chris Sale earn AL MVP votes

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Mookie Betts
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 09: Mookie Betts /

Boston Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts and starting pitcher Chris Sale both finished inside the top 10 on the AL MVP ballot.

Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve won the American League MVP award in a landslide but the best hitter and pitcher for the Boston Red Sox still finished inside the top-10 on the ballot.

Right fielder Mookie Betts finished sixth on the ballot with 110 points, while left-handed starter Chris Sale was ninth with 56 points.

Betts, the runner-up in the 2016 MVP race, finished as high as fourth on a pair of ballots and received at least one vote in the five through ten spots. The 25-year old is coming off a bit of a down season at the plate, hitting only .264 with a .803 OPS and 24 home runs. Most major league hitters would call that a successful season, yet it’s a significant drop from the breakout season Betts had last year.

Despite some regression at the plate, Betts still managed to be one of only three AL hitters to top 100 runs scored and 100 RBI this season. Any dip in offensive production was offset by providing immense value in the field and on the bases. He led all outfielders by a wide margin with 31 defensive runs saved and a 20.5 UZR to earn his second consecutive Gold Glove. Betts also swiped 26 bases and finished second in the league with 9.2 BsR, FanGraphs’ metric for evaluating base running.

Add up all the ways Betts can contribute and you can see why he finished sixth among position players with 6.4 WAR.

Sale received one fifth place vote, along with multiple appearances in the six through nine spots on the ballot. He put himself in the MVP conversation with a dominant first half, only to stumble down the stretch to knock himself out of consideration.

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The left-hander still led the league in innings pitched and strikeouts, becoming the first pitcher since Pedro Martinez to reach 300 strikeouts in a season and making a valiant run a the Hall of Famer’s single-season franchise record. Sale’s 2.90 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 6.0 pitching WAR trailed only Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber.

While Sale hit a few rough patches in the final two months of the season, Kluber rode an absolutely dominant second half to overtake the Red Sox ace for the Cy Young. Kluber finished right behind Betts for seventh on the MVP ballot. He and Sale were the only AL pitchers to receive votes.

As great as these two Red Sox stars were this season, Altuve was the clear winner with 27 of the 30 first-place votes. He secured his third career batting title with a .346 batting average and led the league with 204 hits and an 8.3 WAR.

Altuve’s 405 points gave him comfortable margin of victory over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge (279 points). There were many who though Judge would have a shot after smashing 52 home runs in his Rookie of the Year campaign. His penchant for strikeouts finally caught up with him, resulting in a massive second-half slump. Everyone is enamored with the long ball but the MVP shouldn’t go to a guy who led the majors in strikeouts over a batting champ who contributes at an elite level in every aspect of the game.

The Red Sox stars fell short of capturing the hardware but it remains an impressive accomplishment for a team to have two players finish in the top 10. They will aim to add more star power this winter, perhaps by pulling off a trade for NL MVP winner Giancarlo Stanton. Or they could chase free agent J.D. Martinez, who earned some MVP votes despite switching leagues mid-season.

Next: Sale deserved Cy Young award

Regardless of what moves the Red Sox make this winter, they’ll enter next season boasting two of the top stars in the league along with a crop of emerging young talent. There is no MVP on the roster this year but we certainly can’t rule out a Red Sox player taking home the award in the near future.