2018 AL MVP: Betts, Trout and JD
JD Martinez had one of the most historical seasons at the plate, almost pulling off the Triple Crown. He finished first in RBIs but second in home runs and batting average. While almost accomplishing one of the games rarest feats, it doesn’t necessarily make him a shoe in for AL MVP. When taking advanced statistics into account, this battle will be one for the ages.
Off the basic statistics we can see that JD Martinez ranked in the top 3 in the AL for all offensive categories above except for stolen bases. However, if we dig deeper into advanced offensive statistics we can see a different story.
Advanced metrics reveal that Mookie Betts and Mike Trout have been more valuable to their teams than JD Martinez. In fact, Betts’ wins above replacement (WAR) is almost double that of JD Martinez. That is because more goes into WAR than just offensive categories. WAR measures a player's overall value in the game by interpreting how many more wins he's worth than a replacement-level player at that same position. This is where defensive metrics can be brought into play and may be the deciding factor in this year’s MVP race since all of these men have close offensive numbers.
Outs Above Average (OAA) considers all catch probability plays from there, players are given an Expected Catch % and an Actual Catch %. The table above represents those numbers and shows how Mookie Betts and Mike Trout are exceptional fielders, Mookie catching 3% more of batted balls than expected, and Mike Trout catching 2% more. Meanwhile, JD Martinez has a -7 OAA with a -5% differential between expected catch percentage and actual catch percentage. Lastly, directional metrics were taken to show each fielders range. Outs Above Average going back (OAA BACK) and Outs Above Average coming in (OAA IN) display an outfielder’s range. Betts has recorded more OAA IN (6) than Trout (2), but surprisingly Trout has recorded an impressive 6 OAA while ranging back, which is tougher on an outfielder than coming in on a ball. Martinez recorded -5 OAA BACK and 0 OAA IN. Lastly, 5-star plays are plays that have a catch probability from 0-25%. Speedy outfielders usually flourish on plays like this and we see that above with Betts catching 9.5% of those and Trout catching 9.1%.
The 2018 AL MVP race will surely be an exciting one and go down to the wire. An MVP candidate whose team makes the playoffs doesn’t automatically help them win the award. The numbers above show that Trout has been just as valuable to the Angels even though they didn’t make the playoffs, as Mookie Betts has meant to the Red Sox. JD Martinez astounding season at the plate cannot be overlooked either, but defensive metrics cast a different light. Mike Trout has won the award twice in his career (2014 & 2016), while neither Betts or Martinez have ever won the award. Will we see a first-time winner of the award again this season like we did last year, or will Trout be taking home what would be already his third MVP award in the 26-year old’s 8-year career? November 15th we’ll find out.