Alex Bregman Will Not, and Should Not, Win the AL MVP Award

On Tuesday morning, the editorial board for the Houston Chronicle made a pretty questionable decision. The decision was to publish this article by sports columnist Brian T. Smith, who suggests that Houston Astros infielder Alex Bregman should take home the American League Most Valuable Player Award by virtue of the Astros’ team win/loss record.

I like the Chronicle, and I love and appreciate their coverage of the Astros. It’s good to get that out there before I head into the rest of this article.

Proposing that anyone other than Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout should win the AL MVP is one of the most preposterous things to possibly argue in the year of our lord two-thousand and nineteen. Trout, who will eventually retire as one of the five or 10 greatest players to ever lace up a pair of cleats, will absolutely win and maybe unanimously (if someone doesn’t vote for Trout, they should not have a say in the award voting).

I mean, the Angels right-hander is so far above everyone else in the AL that there shouldn’t even be a discussion. Across some short stints over the year, analysts have mentioned MVP-caliber seasons from guys like Matt Chapman, Joey Gallo, Jorge Polanco, and DJ LeMahieu, among others, all while Trout runs circles around the whole competition. Let’s take a look at the major-league leaders in FanGraphs wins above replacement.

  1. Mike Trout (LAA), 8.6
  2. Christian Yelich (MIL), 7.7
  3. Alex Bregman (HOU), 7.5
  4. Cody Bellinger (LAD), 7.3
  5. Anthony Rendon (WSH), 7.1
  6. Ketel Marte (ARI), 7.1
  7. Marcus Semien (OAK), 6.8
  8. Mookie Betts (BOS), 6.3
  9.  Xander Bogaerts (BOS), 6.2
  10. George Springer (HOU), 5.9

See! Nobody is even close to Trout! He has almost one full win over last year’s National League MVP, Yelich, and another guy who is having a historic season in the senior circuit, Bellinger. Trout is going to win in a landslide. Baseball analysts are just so obsessed with The Fresh New Thing every year and are always putting someone else on a pedestal as if Trout isn’t the best player alive by a mile.

Bregman has been better than every AL player — aside from the best player since Barry Bonds — in 2019. I contend that Bregman is the best option to be the runner-up to Trout in the AL MVP race, and his 2019 season has proved it. Nobody wants to be second-place, but it’s a major accomplishment to be almost as good as 2019 Mike Trout, and Bregman is deserving of that honor. And that is a big deal, and every Astros fan should be proud of it.

The Astros infielder has had a career-best season to follow-up a 2018 campaign that concluded in a top-five AL MVP finish. He’s hitting .296/.420/.583 with 37 home runs, 105 RBIs, 110 walks compared to just 79 strikeouts, a 1.004 OPS, and a 165 wRC+. He has been stellar defensively, posting seven FanGraphs defensive runs saved at his customary third base position, as well as a .984 fielding percentage in 53 starts at shortstop in Carlos Correa‘s absence.

And yet he trails Trout in many significant statistical categories, most importantly the rate stats seen below.

But of course, the argument in favor of Bregman isn’t really about individual player performance, because I have not seen or heard any mainstream baseball media member who genuinely believes Bregman has been better than Trout this season. It’s about rewarding someone who has more or less carried their team to the postseason (which, of course, makes absolutely zero difference on which player has more value), even though Bregman plays for a stacked team that would probably be top-five in the majors even without him.

The Astros lead all Major league Baseball teams in weighted runs created plus (wRC+) at 125, whereas 100 is league average. This offensive stat is calculated the same way as OPS+, meaning it’s adjusted for park factors and league environments and measures just how dangerous a club can be at manufacturing runs all throughout their batting order.

That 125 wRC+ is not only first in baseball by a large margin (the New York Yankees are next closest at 118), but it’s the second-best mark in the modern history of big-league baseball (since 1901). Only the 1927 “Murderer’s Row” Yankees, at 126, had a better single-season wRC+. Of course, Bregman has been perhaps the biggest part of this historically good offense, but he’s certainly not doing this alone.

Houston also leads baseball in expected fielding independent pitching (xFIP), which is a regular FIP measurement but instead uses projected batted-ball numbers rather than actual statistics. The Astros’ combined team xFIP is 3.83, while also leading the majors in strikeouts per nine innings with 10.24. So not only is their offense the best in baseball; their pitching staff, as a whole, has an argument for being the preeminent collection of arms in MLB.

This is why team record should have no impact on the MVP voting process. Trout or no Trout, the Angels aren’t a playoff team, but if you take Bregman off the Astros, they likely still win the American League West division. Team win/loss shouldn’t be something voters even consider because MVP is an individual award.

For the same reason Jacob deGrom won the National League Cy Young Award on a non-playoff team in 2018, Mike Trout will almost certainly win the AL MVP. When you’re that much better than your competition, it doesn’t matter what your club does over the season.

10 Responses

  1. raul jones

    Bregman will have more total bases, more runs, more walks, more RBIs, higher defensive WAR… and you say not even close?

    Gotta stay on the field to be most valuable.

    Reply
    • PeytonTruth

      agreed! He clearly highlighted above that bregmans stats are much much better, other than slugging/HR

      Reply
  2. [email protected]

    It just sounds like you’re a Trout Fanboy. The race is actually very close, despite your bias. And you should probably finish the season if you want to be considered. Bregman spent a third of the season at a different position. That’s a big deal. Your logic makes no sense: If Bregman isn’t on the team, the Astros still make the playoffs.Yes. But that same logic applies to Trout, without Trout, the Angels still blow. For you to dismiss anyone that thinks Bregman is worthy of MVP as ludicrous is a very stupid and ignorant opinion. It’s actually very hard to play at an MVP level with your team having a multitude of elite players. Bregman will lead with more total bases, more runs, more walks, considerably less strikeouts, more RBI’s, a higher defensive WAR (at two different positions), considerably more hits, more doubles, more extra base hits, a higher Batting Average. Bregman will finish with an OPS over 1.000 (barely lower than Trout’s), 40 HRs (5 less than Trout), and a WAR over 7.5 (not considerably less than Trout). The scales tip in Bregman’s favor and you even provided all the evidence to support it. Youre just a Trout FanBoy and a Bregman Hater.

    Reply
    • Tom Dorsa

      Thanks for reading! For what it is worth, I am a lifelong Astros fan and Bregman is my favorite player in the game. If he wins the MVP Award, I will be ecstatic for him and for the Astros organization. He has had an incredible season and has blossomed into arguably the best third baseman in the Majors this year, however, I just cannot comprehend gifting someone other than Trout (the best player in MLB by a mile) the award on account of counting stats and team records. Of course there is value in staying on the field and playing consistently over the season, but I truly feel like it’s not even close enough to consider those outside factors. I absolutely respect other peoples’ opinions on it, but Trout would have my vote ten times out of ten and I will be pretty baffled if the Angels center fielder doesn’t win the award.

      Reply
  3. Dan

    Since you are so obsessed with using WAR to determine value, you mentioned that without Bregman, the Astros would still win the AL West. Well, subtract his WAR from their record then. That would put them in second place behind the A’s.

    Also Bregman played all of June and July with basically the Astros AAA team, while Springer, Correa, Altuve, and Diaz were all on the shelf. Bregman consistently produced and the Astros still won games. How did Trout do with his healthy team?

    If Springer had remained healthy all year, or if Alvarez had played all year, we would be having a very different discussion. Springer is at 38 bombs in 116 games played, and Alvarez has 27 in less than 90 (I know he’s a DH). Springer was the leading MVP candidate until he got hurt. Yet Trout gets to keep his award when he misses a month?

    I get it, Trout is a WAR machine. In a season where no one is close in numbers, let him have it. But Bregman is close. The only thing really he is behind on is slugging. If Bregman can get to 42 HRs and keeps his OPS over 1.000, how do you give it to a guy on a losing team that didn’t play the last month?

    Reply
  4. Andrew Ho

    But, but, the narrative y’all…Secondly, the coasts’ medias cannot fathom a second Astro winning the MVP over their golden boys (Judge, then Trout)

    Reply
  5. William Bradshaw

    Wow. Does Trout pay people to write these articles? Saying Alex Bregman should not and will not win the MVP is asinine. He absolutely deserves to win and if the voters don’t get pulled in by garbage articles like this he will win.

    Reply
  6. stephen Bookmyer

    I agree that Mike Trout is probably the best player in baseball right now. Most Valuable? Define that for me. So is Mike Trout so valuable that the Angels would be in 5th place in their division without him versus 4th place? Bregman has done a lot this year including logging a lot of hours at shortstop to fill in for Correa. Offensively I think it’s closer than most people think. And oh yea the Astros just have the best record in baseball this year. It’s just Trout is the popular vote, but maybe not the right vote.

    Reply
  7. K Dorsey

    As a life long Angels fan, and Trout fzn, I say Lemahieu is the most VALUABLE player. He’s been the glue to the Yankees and their jv roster. Trout may be the best but Lemahieu is definitely the most valuable to his team.

    Reply

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