ESPN’s Dan Szymborski has an interesting look at baseball’s MVP races and argues why Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout should still be the top candidate in the American League. Of course, we know the case against Trout: The Angels aren’t going to make the playoffs, so his performance has apparently played out in a vacuum of meaninglessness. Szymborski presents a chart that lists how much a team’s World Series odds would decrease minus the individual performances of key players. The top two players here are Indians right-hander Corey Kluber and Cubs slugger Kris Bryant. This is the conventional “who means the most to his team” MVP argument. Trout is nowhere to be found, since the Angels aren’t contenders.
Trout is universally regarded as the best all-around player in baseball. He holds a significant lead over Mookie Betts in Baseball-Reference WAR, 9.3 to 7.8 (and 8.4 to 6.9 on FanGraphs). If you asked 30 general managers which player they would want on their team, knowing they would get that player’s 2016 performance, all 30 would likely take Trout. Yet he’s not going to be named American League MVP — and not just because the Angels are 62-77. Voters still love their conventional AVG, HRs, RBIs stat lines. In that department, Trout doesn’t stand out from Betts or Jose Altuve:
Trout: .323, 27, 88
Betts: .316, 30, 100
Altuve: .344, 22, 92
The Mets did go the pure showman route back in 2000, when they invited entertainer Garth Brooks to Mets camp. He went 0-for-17 in what was deemed mostly a charitable endeavor. The Tebow signing is more of a hybrid — some baseball legitimacy with a lot of upside benefit based on the novelty.
For whatever it’s worth, Alderson insisted the signing was made on baseball merits.
“While I and the organization, I think, are mindful of the novel nature of this situation, this decision was strictly driven by baseball,” Alderson said. “This was not something that was driven by marketing considerations or anything of the sort. We are extremely intrigued with the potential that Tim has. He has demonstrated over his athletic career that he is a tremendous athlete, has got character, a competitive spirit. Aside from the age (29), this is a classic player-development opportunity for us. As an organization, we’re going to provide that development opportunity for Tim.”