Red Sox players receive surprising votes on MVP ballots

BOSTON, MA - JULY 25: Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox high fives teammates after scoring during the sixth inning of a game against the Baltimore Orioles on July 25, 2020 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Major League Baseball season was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JULY 25: Alex Verdugo #99 of the Boston Red Sox high fives teammates after scoring during the sixth inning of a game against the Baltimore Orioles on July 25, 2020 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts. The Major League Baseball season was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images) /
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A pair of Red Sox players each received a vote on MVP ballots.

The MLB Most Valuable Player awards were announced Thursday night with Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu taking home the hardware in the American League. The Boston Red Sox had no business inserting anyone into the conversation considering the miserable season they had yet two of their players each received a vote.

Alex Verdugo received one fifth-place vote which earned him six points in the scoring system, enough to finish in 12th place in the AL. It’s a bit of a head-scratcher why one writer deemed Verdugo worthy of being in the top-five while nobody else cast his name on their ballot.

His first year in Boston was certainly a success story that deserves some attention. Verdugo ranked fifth in the league with a .308 batting average and sixth with 1.9 WAR.  Fifth place might be a stretch but a solid case can be made that Verdugo was among the top dozen players in the AL this season.

The lack of recognition stems primarily from his team’s lack of success. The Red Sox finished with the third-worst record in the league and fourth-worst in the majors. Fair or not, many voters believe the term “most valuable” is reserved for those who contributed to a team in the playoff race.

The Los Angeles Angels, who finished a mere two games ahead of Boston in the standings, were the only non-playoff team in the AL with players who finished ahead of Verdugo.

Mike Trout is an automatic on every ballot regardless of how his team performs. He came in fifth place this year, the lowest he has finished in his nine full major league seasons.

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Anthony Rendon finished 10th despite that his addition to the roster did little to improve the team’s fate. Rendon was third on the NL ballot last year and has a pair of top-six finishes on his resume so the track record earned him some votes. His 1.8 WAR was 12th in the league and slightly higher than Trout’s (1.6 WAR) so Rendon’s inclusion on the ballot isn’t unwarranted.

Verdugo and the two Angels were the only players from non-playoff teams who received more than one point in the scoring system. A few players from bad teams were given a 10th-place vote to put them at the bottom of the list.

That includes Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who finished fifth in last year’s breakout campaign. His production didn’t dip dramatically this season but his team sinking to the bottom of the division caused Bogaerts to fall to 17th.

Bogaerts tied for 30th in the league with 1.4 WAR, making the vote cast for him questionable based on this year’s production. The FanGraphs version of the metric was far more favorable, ranking him 10th in the league with 1.9 fWAR. Bogaerts wasn’t a serious candidate for the award but it isn’t crazy to think he belongs in the top 10.

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If the Red Sox were in the playoff hunt then Verdugo and Bogaerts would have finished much higher on the MVP ballot. With the return of their top starting pitchers and a few free-agent additions to solidify the rotation and bullpen, Boston could be back in the mix next year. That bodes well for their top position players entering the MVP conversation in 2021.