5 amazing facts about your 2018 MVPs

Betts, Yelich posted even better seasons than you think

November 16th, 2018

Outfielders of the Red Sox and of the Brewers enjoyed sensational 2018 seasons, showing off well-rounded skill sets that helped lift their clubs to the postseason.

Both were rewarded with some special hardware on Thursday night, when the Baseball Writers' Association of America handed out the American League and National League Most Valuable Player Awards. The first-time winners ran away with their trophies. Betts received 28 of 30 first-place votes in the AL, while Yelich nabbed 29 for the NL honor.

Betts, Yelich win first career MVP Awards

In recognition of their success, here are five amazing facts about each 2018 MVP:

Betts

:: AL Most Valuable Player voting totals ::

1. Betts' superb combination of hitting, defense and baserunning made his 2018 one of the most productive seasons in recent history. His 10.9 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference, was the highest by a position player since Barry Bonds' 11.8 in 2002. Only Bonds (who also had 11.9 in 2001), Cal Ripken Jr. (1991) and Joe Morgan (1975) had reached 10.9 in any season since Boston's own Carl Yastrzemski posted a remarkable 12.5 in 1967. Betts is now tied for second in Red Sox history in that category with Ted Williams (1946).

Perhaps more impressively, Betts was just 25 years old this season, turning 26 on Oct. 7. Hall of Famers Babe Ruth (1920), Lou Gehrig (1927) and Mickey Mantle (1956, '57) are the only other position players 25 or younger to post a WAR that high.

2. Betts' WAR was a result of his excellence in all three phases, and that shows in the components that go into that metric. He became only the fifth player in MLB history to have a season in which he produced at least 50 batting runs, 15 fielding runs and five baserunning runs above average, joining (2012), Alex Rodriguez (2000), Rickey Henderson (1990), and Willie Mays (1958, '64).

3. Betts (32 home runs, 30 stolen bases) and Cleveland's became MLB's first two 30-30 men since Trout and in 2012. Betts also posted a sensational 186 OPS+ -- 100 is league average -- a mark that ranks third all-time out out of 62 30-30 campaigns. Only Bonds, in 1992 and '96, has done better.

  1. On April 17 in Anaheim, Betts smacked three home runs. About two weeks later, on May 2 at Fenway Park, he launched three more against the Royals, marking the 22nd time in MLB history that a player put together multiple three-homer games in the same season. But Betts was no stranger to the feat, having also accomplished it in 2016. He joined Johnny Mize (1938, '40) as the only players to pull that off twice.

    Betts is one of just 17 players with at least four career three-homer games, and the first to reach that point before turning 26.

    5. It didn't much matter what pitchers threw Betts. He slugged .660 against fastballs (four-seamers, two-seamers/sinkers and cutters) and .611 against other pitch types. He slugged .702 against pitches in the upper third of the zone, .655 in the lower third, .667 in the outer third and .576 in the inner third -- plus .775 on those right down the middle. Betts' 16.2 percent chase rate was one of MLB's lowest, yet even when he did go out of the zone, his .394 slugging percentage ranked near the top of the league.

Yelich

:: NL Most Valuable Player voting totals ::

1. Yelich enjoyed a stellar first half (.292/.364/.459), but his performance after the All-Star break was truly spectacular. In 65 second-half games, Yelich batted .367/.449/.770 with 25 home runs and 67 RBIs. That 1.219 OPS was the highest in a second half (minimum 200 plate appearances) since Ryan Howard in 2006. Looking at a park- and era-adjusted offensive metric like wRC+, Yelich's 220 was the best since Bonds' 234 in '04. Only Bonds (each year from '01-'04) had reached 220 or better since Mike Schmidt in 1981.

2. While most of the Triple Crown focus was on Red Sox DH J.D. Martinez in the AL, Yelich snuck up with a huge closing burst and nearly earned the first in the NL since Joe Medwick in 1937. Yelich easily took the batting title with a .326 average, tied for third with 36 homers (two behind NL leader ) and tied for second with 110 RBIs (one behind ). The last NL player to finish in the top three in all three categories was Yelich's Brewers teammate, Braun, in 2012.

3. How overwhelming was Yelich down the stretch? From Aug. 11 through the end of Milwaukee's postseason run, he reached base safely in 52 of his 54 games, including 36 contests in which he earned his way aboard multiple times. During a 13-game stretch to end the regular season -- when the Brewers went 11-2 and won their division in a Game 163 tiebreaker -- Yelich went 21-for-43 with 14 walks and 13 extra-base hits to produce a .488/.621/.1.116 slash line.

  1. Yelich hit for the cycle against the Reds twice in less than three weeks, doing it in Cincinnati on Aug. 29 and in Milwaukee on Sept. 17. He became only the third player since the turn of the 20th century to produce multiple cycles in the same season, joining Brooklyn's Babe Herman (1931) and Arizona's Aaron Hill (2012). Yelich was the first to do it twice against the same team.

    5. Yelich had no trouble hitting the ball to the deepest part of the ballpark. Of his career-high 36 home runs, an MLB-best 21 went to the middle third of the field. A's slugger was second, with 19. Yelich's .795 slugging percentage to the middle of the field ranked third in MLB, among 281 hitters with at least 50 batted balls in that direction.