At the start of the season, the roles of Mookie Betts and Jose Altuve were rather similar: play scrappy, play good defense, and get on base. But as the season rolled along, their roles also broadened to include power, high numbers, and batting in the middle of the order instead of at the very top.
For Betts, it’s only his second full season in “The Show” and his numbers have already classified themselves as a career year. Once just a leadoff guy, he’s now surely going to have 30+ home runs and 100+ RBI by season’s end. Not to mention his .316 batting average, as of August 20. He’s tied for first on the Red Sox in home runs (28) and second in RBI (89). With regard to batting average, he’s second on the team to David Ortiz, who is yet another possible candidate for American League MVP.
For Altuve, he’s always been consistent, but never this consistent. His highest batting average of his career was in 2014, when he batted .341 which is absolutely incredible. Somehow, he’s on the right track to topping that, as his 2016 batting average currently sits at .365. Altuve has never been known as a power hitter until this year. He’s second on the Astros in home runs (20) and RBI (80).
When it comes to accolades on the season, Betts and Altuve have their fair share.
In June, Altuve won AL Player of the Month. In July, Betts won the same award. For the week of April 11-17, Altuve shared AL Player of the Week honors with Mark Trumbo of the Baltimore Orioles. Somehow, neither guy grabbed any Player of the Week honors in their prime months (June and July, respectively).
There hasn’t been a month in which Altuve has batted under .300. Since the start of April, by month, he has batted .305, .345, .420, .354, .403. With regard to batting average, Betts has consistently improved his throughout the year. Since the start of April, he’s batted .266, .298, .296, .368, .403. Betts has somehow found a way to top all of his numbers from July — the month in which he was given Player of the Month honors.
Betts’ and Altuve’s numbers are oddly similar, in that they even out. Altuve’s batting average is much better than that of Betts, yet Betts’ is still great. Betts’ power numbers (HRs and RBI) are much better than Altuve’s, but Altuve’s are still very formidable.
That last little paragraph is going to make deciphering the MVP out of Betts and Altuve incredibly difficult.
MVP stands for Most Valuable Player, and it’s given to one outstanding player in both leagues. There will be plenty of other candidates for AL MVP. But the two guys who’ve been consistently good all year have been Betts and Altuve. Neither have slumped.
To come up with the true MVP of the two, the question will end up falling to how their team would have done had they not been so good.
Without Altuve, the Astros wouldn’t have anyone batting over .300. They’d also be missing his team-high in slugging percentage (.579). The power in the lineup would be almost gone considering after Altuve, there’s really only Carlos Correa and George Springer. Even with Altuve, the ‘Stros are ranked no-higher than ninth in the AL in almost every offensive category. The Astros are 65-60. They’re 8.0 GB of the Texas Rangers for first place and 3.5 GB of a Wild Card spot.
Take Altuve out of the Astros’ equation, and you’d have yourself a team whose offensive numbers would plummet and whose place in the standings would take a nose-dive for the cellar.
Without Betts, the Red Sox would still have four other guys currently batting over .300. They’d still also have various run-producers and a few other home run hitters. The Red Sox’s offense ranks number one in the AL in almost every single offensive category. The Red Sox are 70-54. They’re tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for first place in the AL East as well.
Take Betts out of the Red Sox’s equation, and you’d still have a very good offensive team. They’d definitely have less wins, considering Betts has single-handedly won them games, but they’d still be right in the thick of things in the AL East.
Even though Betts has been the better player this year, the Astros wouldn’t even be in possible contention without Altuve. The Astros probably aren’t going to make it to the playoffs. But there’s only one reason why they’re even contending at this point, and it’s Altuve.
Altuve has been much more important to his team due to the lack of producers around him, however Betts has been the all-around better player, which is what the award looks for.
Therefore, as of right now, Betts should win the AL MVP award.