We begin with Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts solidifying his hold on the American League Most Valuable Player Award race. Michael Trout of the Angels remains a distant, steady second in MLB.com's poll of its Baseball Writers' Association of America members.Now about the National League race. Yes, that. Take a
We begin with Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts solidifying his hold on the American League Most Valuable Player Award race. Michael Trout of the Angels remains a distant, steady second in MLB.com's poll of its Baseball Writers' Association of America members.
Now about the National League race. Yes, that. Take a deep breath. Matt Carpenter of the Cardinals has a nice lead over Javier Baez of the Cubs and Christian Yelich of the Brewers.
If it sounds like we know how this thing is going to play out, we don't. Not even close. In our seven MVP Award polls so far, Carpenter is the fourth leader. Previously, A.J. Pollock, Freddie Freeman and Nolan Arenado took turns in the top spot.
There's uncertainty behind Carpenter as well. Baez and Yelich are making their highest appearances on the board, as is D-backs first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who is fourth for the first time.
While Carpenter received 16 of 30 first-place votes, five others, including Mets ace Jacob deGrom, got at least one vote. In short, the NL MVP Award race seems to be a reflection of a postseason race in which eight teams are within five games of the five postseason berths, and no team has come close to locking up a spot.
Here's a look at the leaders:
Betts, Red Sox (135 points)
Betts received 24 of 30 first-place votes, and he's on his way to one of the best seasons in Red Sox history. He leads the Majors with a .342 batting average, and he is on track for a 33-home run, 30-stolen base, 47-double year. Betts leads the Majors with 9.7 Wins Above Replacement, and he leads AL outfielders with 18 defensive runs saved. Betts is the first player with at least 40 doubles and 20 stolen bases in four straight seasons.
Trout, Angels (66 points)
Three weeks on the disabled list might cost Trout a third AL MVP Award. If he finishes second, it will be the sixth time in seven seasons in which he has finished first or second. Trout is the first player with three years of 25 home runs, 20 stolen bases and 100 walks by his age 26 season. He and Willie Mays are the only players with three 30-home run, 20-stolen base seasons by age 26. Trout's 62.8 WAR is second only to Ty Cobb through an age-26 season.
J.D. Martinez, Red Sox (40 points)
Martinez is flirting with MLB's first Triple Crown since Jose Cabrera did it in 2012. He leads the AL in RBIs, and he is second to Betts in batting average and to Oakland's Khris Davis in home runs. Martinez has 23 home runs and 70 RBIs in 67 games at Fenway Park.
Others receiving votes: Jose Ramirez, Indians; Alex Bregman, Astros; Davis, Athletics
Carpenter, Cardinals (101 points)
Remember when Carpenter was hitting .160 on May 16? That's about the time two things happened: He was moved into the leadoff spot, and the Cardinals' analytics staff told him he'd simply been unlucky. In 103 games since then, Carpenter has ignited his own game and the Cards' season, slugging 32 of his 35 home runs, scording 84 of his 96 runs and hitting 32 of his 40 doubles. He also has 16 intentional walks and a 1.051 OPS in that span.
Baez, Cubs (67 points)
Cubs manager Joe Maddon points to the intangibles like competitive fire and leadership as reasons why Baez should be the NL MVP Award winner. That may be true, but the things that can be measured make a good case for him as well. He's top 10 in the NL in an assortment of offensive categories, including WAR (fifth), slugging (first) and triples (second). Baez is just the fifth Cubs player to have a 30-homer, 100-RBI year before or in his age 25 season. Ernie Banks, Kristopher Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Ron Santo are the others.
Yelich, Brewers (32 points)
Yelich has been at his best when the games mean the most. Since the All-Star break, he's among the top three in the NL in a long list of offensive categories, including batting average, home runs and slugging. Yelich is also second in WAR, wOBA and wRC+.
Others receiving votes: Goldschmidt, D-backs; Arenado, Rockies; Freeman, Braves; deGrom, Mets; Trevor Story, Rockies; Lorenzo Cain, Brewers; Eugenio Suarez, Reds
Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice.