At the beginning of September Mike Trout was the clear-cut favorite to be the AL MVP for the third time in his eight year career in the majors.
Unfortunately for Mike Trout an injury he had been playing through, got to be too much and Trout was shut down for the final 20 games of the season due to a neuroma (pinched nerve) in his foot. With Trout out, his chief competition the Astros Alex Bregman tried furiously to catch up. The question becomes: Did Bregman do enough in the eyes of the voters to steal the award away from Mike Trout.
Looking at the numbers
When you do a head-to-head comparison it is interesting how much the numbers match-up. The one key difference to consider is that Trout played in 22 less games than Bregman. Trout had 45 homers to 41 homers for Bregman. Runs batted in favored Bregman 112 to 104 and Bregman also had a slightly higher batting average at .296 compared to Trout’s .291. Walks favored Bregman 119 to 110 and Trout had the edge in stolen bases 11 to 5 over Bregman. Remember all of these categories Trout was leading by a decent margin when he got hurt.
Where Trout has an advantage is WAR of 8.3 to Bregman’s 7.8. Trout also has a higher OPS 1.083 to 1.015 and Trout’s OBP .438 to .423 edge to Trout.
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My partner-in-crime here at Halo Hangout, my co-editor Vincent Page, makes the argument for Bregman saying that he filled-in and stepped up when George Springer and Carlos Correa were both hurt helping the Astros stay afloat. If you look at it though did he actually have that much of an impact, or was more the fact that Astros had two Cy Young pitchers shutting the Astros’ opponents down.
Trout too had to carry the bulk of the load for most of the first half of the season with Justin Upton and also the first six weeks without Shohei Ohtani. In addition in the second half the Angels lost a key piece to their first-half success in all-star Tommy La Stella for basically the whole second half of the season. This is not to mention having most of the pitching staff dropping like flies which put even more pressure on the offense to produce to make up for it.
Leadership in a crisis
So I don’t think that argument should hold any weight in the voting. The biggest thing that I think sets Trout a part from Bregman this year was the way he handle himself and stepped up as a team leader during a crisis, the sudden death of Tyler Skaggs. Trout took the front line with the media along with a couple of others, and then on the field.
Trout hit 13 home runs and drove in 29 runs in an amazing month of July. He scored the first run in the first game back and led the team emotionally that night in a post-game impress conference and also a very heartfelt interview on MLB Network. Then the following night he got the team going with two huge home runs. Then in the first game back in Anaheim a week later when the team honored Tyler Skaggs he started the most magical night of the season with a first inning home run (454 feet) and pointed to the stands where Debbie Skaggs and family were sitting which sparked a six-run first inning.
In addition Trout chose to wear 45 in honor of Tyler Skaggs at the All-Star Game and then spearheaded the idea of everyone wearing #45 on the night the Angels paid tribute to Skaggs. Not that Bregman couldn’t have done the same if there was a tragedy such as the Skaggs death that befell the Astros, but Trout did this and was very valuable to the team in their time of trouble. He gave his teammates someone to lean on and he also was not afraid to show his emotions to the nation in the post-game press conference after that first game in Texas as well as the heartfelt MLB Network interview.
To me this is what sets Trout above Bregman even more than any stats could in the tight race. Trout was extremely valuable to the team in the face of adversity. This is MVP worthy in my book coupled with the stats he put up backing him up.
Trout’s chance to win the award
Bregman got a late push by not having to compete against Trout and took full advantage of it having a strong last couple of months to the season. However, even with the strong finish I still think popular sentiment is that Trout did enough during the 134 games he did play to merit taking home his third AL Most Valuable Player Award in his first eight seasons. The voting will be much closer than it would have been a month ago, but Mike Trout still should prevail.
Even though winning the MVP for a third time will be an honor for Trout, the 28-year old has openly aid he would much rather making the playoffs and compete for a World Series than get a bunch of individual awards. Mike Trout is a very unselfish player and will continue to be that way, but he is also a good leader and a very good person as well. Hopefully the MVP voters will see things the same way.