Red Sox MVP race heats up between Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez
By Sean Penney
Boston Red Sox stars Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are distancing themselves from the pack in the AL MVP race with a scorching month of August.
This is supposed to be the dog days of summer. The point in the grueling schedule where players feel the weight of a long season. Don’t tell that to the Boston Red Sox. As the weather has heated up, so have Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez.
The two superstars leading the best offense in baseball have been brilliant all season but each has taken their production to another level in August.
Over the 11 games played this month, Betts is hitting a blistering .444/.554/.822 with 20 hits, two home runs, two triples, seven doubles, seven RBI and 15 runs scored.
Over that same span, Martinez is hitting .422/.490/.933 with 19 hits, five home runs, eight doubles, 15 RBI, and 11 runs scored.
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Those lofty batting averages lead all American League batters this month (minimum 25 plate appearances). Martinez (1.424) and Betts (1.376) are first and fourth respectively in OPS in August. Teammate Steve Pearce (1.403) finds himself sandwiched between them with the second-highest OPS this month.
Betts has hit at least .290 with a .884 OPS in every full month this season. His best month was May when he hit .372 with a 1.200 OPS. Barring a brutal slump – the type we haven’t seen Betts slide into this year – he should finish above those levels this month.
Martinez is also having his best month in the midst of a season in which every month has been great. He hit .347 with a 1.037 OPS in June. We’re nearly halfway through this month and he’s poised to shatter those marks.
Betts enters the day with a comfortable lead in the batting title race with his .350 average. Martinez sits behind him in second place in the AL, hitting .333 this season. He also leads the league with 37 homers and 104 RBI, giving him an outside shot at the Triple Crown if his teammate stumbles down the stretch.
These two aren’t merely vying for the batting title. They are the frontrunners for the AL MVP. Neither has been able to separate themselves from the other as they both remain hot at the plate yet they are distancing themselves from the rest of the pack.
Mike Trout recently landed on the disabled list and has fallen behind Betts in WAR, according to both Baseball-Reference (8.0 WAR for Betts, 7.8 for Trout) and FanGraphs (7.8 to 7.6). Trout’s Angels are hopelessly out of the playoff hunt so if he’s not dominating the all-encompassing WAR statistic then it’s hard to give him the MVP nod.
Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez is having a great month (.333/.457/.639) yet his production pales in comparison to what the Red Sox stars have done in August. Ramirez went back-and-forth with Martinez for the league-lead in home runs for a while. Boston’s slugger has outpaced Ramirez this month, putting Martinez ahead by two in that category.
Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor remains in the mix, although his case is weaker than Ramirez’. Aaron Judge will end up missing too much time on the disabled list to be a factor. Matt Chapman will become an interesting darkhorse candidate if the surging Oakland A’s win the west but he doesn’t’ have the offensive numbers to compete with Boston’s candidates.
All of these players are having fantastic seasons but they can’t compare to Betts and Martinez. They entered the month among the top contenders in the MVP race and have further pulled away from their competition over the last two weeks.
Betts has established himself as the best all-around player in baseball. Martinez is unequivocally the best hitter and has transformed a lineup that lacked a true power threat last year. They play for a team that owns the best record in the majors and is knocking on the door to a franchise record for wins.
Based on everything we’ve seen so far this season, a Red Sox hitter should win the MVP. The only question is, which one?