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Trout, Bellinger prevail in tight MVP races

@RichardJustice
November 14, 2019

Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger began the 2019 season in such different places in their careers that it would have been a stretch to imagine them being mentioned in the same breath. As one attempted to build on a legacy of greatness, the other was very much a work in

Mike Trout and Cody Bellinger began the 2019 season in such different places in their careers that it would have been a stretch to imagine them being mentioned in the same breath. As one attempted to build on a legacy of greatness, the other was very much a work in progress.

That changed on Thursday when Trout was voted the American League Most Valuable Player for the third time in six seasons, and Bellinger won in the NL for the first time.

This year’s MVP balloting had a Southern California flavor with two players from one market winning for the 12th time -- Trout of the Angels and Bellinger of the Dodgers.

Past MVP Award winners: AL | NL

Trout became the 11th three-time MVP in history and the sixth in the AL. Only Barry Bonds, with seven MVPs, all in the NL, has won more. Ballots were submitted before the start of postseason play.

Trout was on a hunting trip in Iowa when he learned that he’d won again.

“It’s definitely pretty surreal being in the same conversation as Bonds -- pretty incredible,” Trout said. “To have the same number of MVPs as [teammate] Albert [Pujols] is pretty special. See what he did over his career. Being in the conversation with the all-time greats means a lot.”

How our reporters voted in MVP race

Both races were close. Trout edged out Astros third baseman Alex Bregman by getting 17 of 30 first-place votes and 355 total points. Bregman got all the other first-place votes and finished 20 points behind Trout. A’s shortstop Marcus Semien was third with 228 points.

Bellinger got 19 of 30 first-place votes in the NL with runner-up Christian Yelich, the 2018 NL MVP, getting 10 and Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon one.

Players with the most MVP Awards

Bellinger, who was the NL Rookie of the Year in 2017, choked back tears when he was informed of the MVP decision. His dad, Clay, a former Major Leaguer, also cried.

“I haven’t cried in a long time,” Bellinger said. “I think the last time I cried was when my dog died. I haven’t seen my dad show emotion. When he did, that really hit me. It’s just a dream come true. You play as a kid and dream of it and never think you’ll be in that position.”

Bellinger credited his father at several points during the celebratory news conference, saying, “Not many words I can use for it. Growing up, the biggest thing he told me all the time was to respect the game, hustle when no one’s looking. He was there for me every single day. He was my coach growing up. He dropped everything he could to come and throw. I owe everything to him.”

Greatest MVP seasons in MLB history

Trout, 28, has finished first or second in MVP voting in seven of his eight full seasons. He won this season despite a right foot condition that required surgery and sidelined him for the Angels’ final 19 games. He led the AL in fWAR (8.6), OPS (1.083) and OPS+ (185).

Trout said the thought that the injury might cost him the MVP Award crossed his mind.

“When I got hurt, it was definitely in the back of my mind,” he said. “You have so much time on your hands, you can only sit back and watch. What [Bregman] did in the second half of the season was incredible. It was killing me. I’m very excited, very humble. It was a fun race down to the end.”

Trout’s 72.5 career bWAR is already higher than a bunch of Hall of Famers, including Alan Trammell (70.7), Ron Santo (70.5) and Tony Gwynn (69.2). He could pass Joe DiMaggio (78.1) in 2020.

Bregman played 22 more games than Trout and compiled his numbers for a team that won 107 games and a third straight division title. Bregman scored 12 more runs and hit 10 more doubles than Trout, and he was only an eyelash behind in other categories.

As for Bellinger, he won after a season that featured 47 homers, 34 doubles and an NL-leading 351 total bases. He was the Dodgers’ best defensive player at first base, right field and center field.

Statistically, he and Yelich could hardly have been closer. However, Yelich suffered a broken right kneecap on Sept. 10 and missed the Brewers’ final 18 games. Bellinger hit three more home runs, but Yelich had a higher OPS (1.100) and OPS+ (179).

“We’re pretty good buddies,” Bellinger said of Yelich. “I think he pushed me to be a better player. He’s an unbelievable player and a better dude. It’s really cool to build friendships throughout the game.”

Bellinger’s name was dotted across the leaderboard: third in OBP (.406), second in slugging (.629), second in runs (121) and second in extra-base hits (84). He was third among NL outfielders with 19 Defensive Runs Saved and tied for fourth with 10 outfield assists.

The Dodgers may not have been exactly sure what to expect from Bellinger on Opening Day, since he struggled against left-handed pitching in 2018 and did not start three of the five 2018 World Series games.

He blew those doubts away in 2019 with a .982 OPS against lefties and a .386 OBP.

“It was a very humbling experience for personal reasons,” he said. “I know that wasn’t the player I wanted to be. I needed to find a way to be more consistent with myself.”

National League results
1) Cody Bellinger, LAD: 19 (1st place), 10 (2nd place), 1 (5th place) -- 362
2) Christian Yelich, MIL: 10 (1st), 18 (2nd), 1 (3rd), 1 (4th) -- 317
3) Anthony Rendon, WSH: 1 (1st), 1 (2nd), 24 (3rd), 3 (4th), 1 (5th) -- 242
4) Ketel Marte, ARI: 3 (3rd), 18 (4th), 4 (5th), 4 (6th), 1 (7th) -- 198
5) Ronald Acuña Jr., ATL: 1 (3rd), 5 (4th), 7 (5th), 9 (6th), 5 (7th), 2 (9th), 1 (10th) -- 155
6) Nolan Arenado, COL: 1 (3rd), 1 (4th), 6 (5th), 4 (6th), 9 (7th), 2 (8th), 3 (9th), 1 (10th) -- 120
7) Pete Alonso, NYM: 2 (5th), 5 (6th), 6 (7th), 11 (8th), 3 (9th), 2 (10th) -- 102
8) Freddie Freeman, ATL: 1 (2nd), 2 (4th), 5 (5th), 3 (6th), 3 (7th), 1 (8th), 3 (9th), 1 (10th) -- 90
9) Juan Soto, WSH: 1 (6th), 6 (8th), 9 (9th), 4 (10th) -- 45
10) Jacob deGrom, NYM: 4 (5th), 1 (6th), 1 (7th), 1 (8th), 3 (9th), 2 (10th) -- 44
11) Josh Donaldson, ATL: 1 (6th), 3 (7th), 1 (8th), 2 (9th), 3 (10th) -- 27
12) Trevor Story, COL: 2 (6th), 1 (7th), 2 (8th), 2 (9th), 2 (10th) -- 26
13) Jack Flaherty, STL: 1 (7th), 1 (8th), 2 (10th) -- 9
14) J.T. Realmuto, PHI: 2 (8th), 2 (10th) -- 8
T-15) Yasmani Grandal, MIL: 2 (9th) -- 4
T-15) Max Muncy, LAD: 1 (8th), 1 (10th) -- 4
T-15) Stephen Strasburg, WSH: 1 (8th), 1 (10th) -- 4
T-15) Eugenio Suárez, CIN: 4 (10th) -- 4
19) Hyun-Jin Ryu, LAD: 1 (8th) -- 3
T-20) Paul Goldschmidt, STL: 1 (9th) -- 2
T-20) Kolten Wong, STL: 2 (10th) -- 2
T-22) Kevin Pillar, SF: 1 (10th) -- 1
T-22) Max Scherzer, WSH: 1 (10th) -- 1

American League Results
1) Mike Trout, LAA: 17 (1st place), 13 (2nd place) -- 355
2) Alex Bregman, HOU: 13 (1st), 17 (2nd) -- 335
3) Marcus Semien, OAK: 22 (3rd), 6 (4th), 2 (6th) -- 228
4) DJ LeMahieu, NYY: 6 (3rd), 10 (4th), 7 (5th), 1 (6th), 2 (7th), 1 (8th), 2 (10th) -- 178
5) Xander Bogaerts, BOS: 1 (3rd), 6 (4th), 7 (5th), 7 (6th), 2 (7th), 2 (8th), 3 (9th) -- 147
6) Matt Chapman, OAK: 1 (4th), 3 (6th), 10 (7th), 5 (8th), 5 (9th), 2 (10th) -- 89
7) George Springer, HOU: 1 (4th), 2 (5th), 1 (6th), 3 (7th), 7 (8th), 5 (9th), 2 (10th) -- 69
8) Mookie Betts, BOS: 1 (4th), 1 (5th), 4 (6th), 4 (7th), 3 (8th), 2 (9th), 5 (10th) -- 67
9) Nelson Cruz, MIN: 4 (5th), 3 (6th), 3 (7th), 2 (8th), 2 (9th), 1 (10th) -- 62
10) Gerrit Cole, HOU: 2 (4th), 4 (5th), 2 (6th), 1 (7th), 2 (8th), 1 (9th), 1 (10th) -- 61
11) Justin Verlander, HOU: 1 (3rd), 2 (4th), 1 (5th), 3 (6th), 1 (7th), 1 (8th), 2 (9th), 2 (10th) -- 56
12) Rafael Devers, BOS: 1 (4th), 1 (5th), 2 (6th), 3 (8th), 4 (9th) -- 40
13) Jorge Polanco, MIN: 2 (6th), 1 (7th), 2 (9th), 2 (10th) -- 20
14) Austin Meadows, TB: 1 (5th), 1 (8th), 1 (9th), 4 (10th) -- 15
15) Francisco Lindor, CLE: 1 (5th), 1 (7th), 1 (9th), 1 (10th) -- 13
16) Carlos Santana, CLE: 1 (7th), 1 (8th), 2 (10th) -- 9
17) Gleyber Torres, NYY: 1 (5th), 1 (9th) -- 8
18) Eddie Rosario, MIN: 2 (8th) -- 6
19) José Abreu, CWS: 1 (7th), 1 (10th) -- 5
20) Max Kepler, MIN: 1 (9th) -- 2
T-21) J.D. Martinez, BOS: 1 (10th) -- 1
T-21) Yoán Moncada, CWS: 1 (10th) -- 1
T-21) Charlie Morton, TB: 1 (10th) -- 1
T-21) Matt Olson, OAK: 1 (10th) -- 1
T-21) Jorge Soler, KC: 1 (10th) -- 1

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.