Alex Bregman deserves the MVP.
But not for the reason that has been force fed down your throat like one of those delicious prime rib sandwiches or smoked port burnt end topped tots that they began selling at Minute Maid Park this year. I may have sampled one or two or three on my last trip there. In fact I might spend a few hundred dollars on a playoff ticket to eat those once again.
No, the narrative of the Houston Astros third baseman besting Mike Trout for the annual most valuable player award has been building up steam in the past two weeks or so. Fans of America’s pastime would be hard pressed to not have been bombarded by a headline, or dozen, proclaiming the former LSU star’s MVP candidacy and most definitely these were produced from any media outlet in ear shot of the American metropolis that was built on swamp land with a large belly of oil underneath it — Houston.
The main argument, and one that is massively lazy at best, that has been made in recent weeks goes along these lines.
The All-Star third baseman deserves to win the honor over two-time AL MVP, and generational talent Trout. Not just because Trout plays for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Country Credit Union Poinesetta Bowl or whatever locale the Halos are desperately repping these days. For crying out loud, just be the California Angels again.
No the argument is that Bregman is playing for a World Series contender that just won a record 107 games and clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason. Trout is on a team that is a dumpster fire once again ending the season 18 games under .500 and firing its manager after one season.
That of course is the epitome of an lazy and tired argument — and one mind you that has never truly mattered or made a difference in the history of MLB.
Trout himself won the MVP in 2016 when his Angels were 14 games under .500. In fact MLB has a history of giving MVPs to players from non-playoff teams such as Texas slugger Alex Rodriguez in 2003 who’s Rangers were 20 games under .500, Chicago’s Ernie Banks won back-to-back MVPs in 1958-59 on losing teams, as did fellow Cub legend Andre Dawson three decades later in 1987, and Cal Ripken Jr. won the AL MVP in 1991 when his Orioles finished 28 games under .500.
Now that we have that pesky math out of the way, I know you were told there would be no math, let’s go ahead and remove “Trout plays for a losing team” is a reason to not vote for the best baseball player on the planet? Great. Moving on.
So does my argument come down to simple numbers?
If you compare Bregman’s stats to that of Trout, who is essentially the reincarnation of Mickey Mantle without the affinity for too much drink and cigarettes, the two stack up evenly — actually more so in Bregman’s favor.
Bregman has a better batting average (.296 to 291), more doubles (37 to 27), more RBI (112 to 104), more walks (119 to 110) and more runs scored (122-110). Trout bests Bregs in home runs (45 to 41) and OPS (1.083 to 1.015). But Bregman’s batting WAR is slightly better (8.4 to 8.3) but don’t ask me how to calculate WAR because it hurts my head to do so. There is that pesky math again — my sincerest apologies dear reader.
Those numbers prove that Bregman is deserving candidate but it does not seal the deal for yours truly. With the two so close statistically, the deciding numbers for me is this. Bregman 156. Trout 134.
That is the number games each All-Star played this season.
Is it fair that Trout’s season ended prematurely with a right foot injury? No but we can’t assume that he would continue to have put up monster numbers. What we do know is that Bregman did.
Not to mention Bregman led the Astros for more than a month earlier this year when the All-Star trio of Jose Altuve, George Springer and Carlos Correa. With Correa sideline after injuring himself during a massage (no that is not a typo), Bregman posted a .984 fielding percentage in 53 starts at shortstop.
There are those damn numbers again.
Look there have been some MVPs that have won playing less than 140 games — actually far less. For the most part though those occurred during strike-shortened seasons (Philadelphia’s Mike Schmidt in 1981, Chicago’s Frank Thomas and Houston’s Jeff Bagwell in 1994) with a few exceptions being Texas slugger Josh Hamilton in 2010 (133 games) and Boston’s Mookie Betts (136) last season.
Regardless of who wins will this MVP race cause later generations to look back with dismay? As we do now with Atlanta’s Terry Pendleton beating Pittsburgh’s Barry Bonds in 1991, Oakland closer Dennis Eckersley beat Minnesota slugger Kirby Puckett the following year or more recently Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins over Colorado’s Matt Holliday in 2007?
If they look at what was popular in music during those years that might cause even more disgust but I digress. Seriously. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch was an actual thing that was acceptable by the masses. And don’t pretend that you don’t have a “Good Vibrations” cassette hidden somewhere either dear reader. We know you do.
No this MVP race won’t be viewed through that critical historical prism because those were egregious missteps (so was Marky Mark). This is not.
But for my money, longevity during a season should be valued just as much as numbers — and it should be a contributing, if not the deciding factor, when the two player’s numbers are so equal. That makes Bregman the more deserving candidate than Trout even though it won’t result in him actually being named MVP — at least this year.