Posted on November 16, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The MVP Award, the crown jewel of MLB award season, was announced Thursday night and both leagues had runaway winners. Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers took home honors in the National League after winning 29 of the 30 first-place votes. Mookie Betts of the Boston Red Sox won by nearly as much in the American League, garnering 28 of 30 first-place votes. Both are first-time MVP winners and both are just 26 years old, meaning the best may be yet to come for Yelich and Betts.
“This is unbelievable… it’s really special,” Yelich said. “It’s really hard to put into words what this means. You never dream of ever winning an award like this. It’s been amazing.”
Needless to say, the trade the Brewers made to acquire Yelich last winter has paid off nicely. A year ago, Yelich played a supporting role while former Marlins teammate Giancarlo Stanton took home MVP honors. This year, with a new club, Yelich took center stage as the best player in the N.L.
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“To think about doing that a year ago,” Yelich said of the symmetry with Stanton. “It didn’t even cross my mind that I might be in those same shoes a year (later).”
Yelich was good early in the season but simply exploded during the second half to help carry the Brewers to the NL Central title and eventually the NLCS. After the all-star break, Yelich hit .367 with an OPS of 1.219. Of his 36 home runs, 25 came during the second half. On the season, he finished with a .326 batting average and an OPS of 1.000, which turned out to be more than enough to hold off both Javier Baez and Nolan Arenado, who finished second and third in the voting, respectively.
If not for one first-place vote going to Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, Yelich would have been a unanimous choice. Ironically, deGrom came just one vote short of being the unanimous Cy Young winner. Unanimous or not, Baez in second place was over 150 points behind Yelich in what amounted to a runaway vote in favor of the Milwaukee outfielder.
In the American League, Betts was able to stand out, not just against others in the league, but on a team of stars. He did that by leading the majors in batting, slugging percentage, home runs, doubles, and stolen bases. He also won the batting title in the American League, hitting .346. Betts also became the first player to win the batting title while also accumulating 30 or more stolen bases and home runs. Most importantly, he was the catalyst for the Red Sox winning 108 games during the regular season and eventually winning the World Series.
“It means a lot,” Betts said of winning the MVP. “It’s definitely a special award and something that I cherish. But I think the most important thing is that we won a World Series and got to bring a trophy back to Boston.”
Mike Trout finished a distant second in the American League voting, as he and Betts’ teammate J.D. Martinez each earned one first-place vote. However, no one came close to challenging Betts. While Yelich won MVP because of an exceptional second half, Betts was outstanding from start to finish. He had no extended slumps and had one of the most remarkable individual seasons in recent memory.
Oddly enough, the best may be yet to come for both of these players. Yelich and Betts each flashed plenty of potential in recent years and managed to put it all together in 2018. The kicker is that both are only now entering their prime. It wouldn’t be a shock to see either Yelich or Betts win another MVP award in the years to come.