If voters lean toward a candidate from a team with the best record then a Red Sox player seems likely to earn the award. But which one?
Mookie Betts leads the league with 8.2 WAR. He’s leading the batting title race with a .343 average and owns a league-best .449 wOBA. Betts ranks second in the league with a .430 OBP, .652 SLG, 1.082 OPS, 186 wRC+ and 100 runs scored. His 27 home runs and 24 steals also makes him one of only three AL players in the 20/20 club this season. The best right fielder in baseball once again leads his position with 14 defensive runs saved this season.
He’s not the only Red Sox player vying for that MVP trophy. J.D. Martinez has transformed the lineup with his powerful presence. He leads the league with 38 homers, 106 RBI, and a .662 SLG. Martinez is second in the league with a .331 batting average, giving him a legitimate shot at the Triple Crown. He’s also third in the league with a .441 wOBA and .181 wRC+ this season.
Serving primarily as a designated hitter deprives him of the chance to drive up his value with his glove, which is why he ranks only sixth with a 5.7 WAR.
The case for Martinez being the “most valuable” stems from what his addition has meant to the Red Sox lineup. Boston was last in the league in home runs in 2017. Now they rank third while leading the majors in most other offensive categories. Martinez’ production doesn’t account for the entirety of this improvement but the threat of his bat makes everyone around him in the lineup better.
Betts was the runner-up for the MVP in 2016 with David Ortiz hitting behind him, only to regress significantly at the plate last year. Now he’s back in the race with Martinez protecting him in the lineup. That’s not entirely coincidental.
It’s tempting to add Chris Sale to the list. He leads the league with a 1.97 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 13.5 K/9 and 6.6 pitching WAR. I tend to lean against including pitchers in the MVP mix but those numbers are hard to ignore. Unfortunately, Sale’s second stint on the DL will hinder his chances. Depending on how long he’s out this time, his absence could cost him the Cy Young award that he seemed to have locked up prior to this latest setback.