Capping a memorable awards season Thursday, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs took home American League and National League MVP honors, respectively.
Even though Trout has been the best player in baseball since 2012, his MVP candidacy this year was far from a lock, since writers have ignored players whose teams missed the playoffs in the past.
Bryant was the heavy favorite in the NL after leading the Cubs to the NL Central title and solidifying his standing as one of the best young stars in Major League Baseball.
Here's how the final voting for this year's MVP awards played out, per the Baseball Writers' Association of America:
|2016 MLB MVP Voting Results|
|American League||1st-Place Votes||2nd-Place Votes||3rd-Place Votes||Total Points|
|Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels||19||8||1||356|
|Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox||9||17||4||311|
|Jose Altuve, Houston Astros||0||2||15||227|
|National League||1st-Place Votes||2nd-Place Votes||3rd-Place Votes||Total Points|
|Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs||29||1||0||415|
|Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals||1||11||10||245|
|Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers||0||11||10||240|
The BBWAA chose Bryant over Corey Seager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Daniel Murphy of the Washington Nationals, making Bryant the first Cubs player to be named the MVP since Sammy Sosa in 1998.
Bryant followed up his stellar NL Rookie of the Year campaign by getting better in virtually every category this season.
Per ESPN Stats & Info, the Cubs superstar satisfied all of the statistical measurements for voters old and new:
The 24-year-old's MVP win also puts him in exclusive territory as the fourth player in MLB history to take home the honor one year after being named the Rookie of the Year. Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (2007-08) was the last to accomplish the feat.
Coming into spring training, Cubs manager Joe Maddon told Carrie Muskat of MLB.com about conversations he had with Bryant last year, when the third baseman was briefly sent down to Triple-A to start the season:
I was confident he would respond well. We had some good conversations, me and him, in the office -- very candid, frank, open, all of the above. I got a good feel from him. He was very self-confident. He was disappointed he was not starting with us but had the team goals in mind.
He was straight up with me and looked me right in the eye balls [saying he belonged in big leagues] and I don't blame him. When he got up here, he showed it was true.
It was immediately true, yet Bryant found new ways to improve his game in 2016. The biggest adjustment was changing his swing slightly so he wasn't hitting at a steep upward angle, which can help generate power but also lead to high strikeout totals.
Bryant's strikeout percentage went from 30.6 in 2015 to 22.0 in 2016, per FanGraphs. By making more contact, the 24-year-old increased his home run total from 26 to 39 and went from a .488 slugging percentage to .554.
On Thursday's MLB Network broadcast (via Muskat), Bryant said, "You can't put into words what this means."
Christopher Kamka of CSN Chicago noted the list of accolades Bryant has racked up over the last three years, dating back to his final college season:
If that's not enough, Bryant will start 2017 by getting married in January. That's not a bad run for the 24-year-old sensation.
Switching to the AL, Trout remains the best player in baseball. Per ESPN Stats & Info, the Angels all-world star has had a five-year run fans haven't seen since Babe Ruth:
WAR isn't the be-all, end-all stat by which to determine an MVP, but it does provide a good jumping-off point. Trout finished one full win ahead of Bryant in the category and 1.6 wins ahead of Red Sox star Mookie Betts, per FanGraphs.
That's not criticism of Betts or Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve, the other AL MVP finalists, because both players were fantastic in their own right. It's just a bad time to be an AL player if you want to be in the mix for the top spot.
Per SportsCenter, Trout's name now sits alongside Barry Bonds in MLB history:
After being announced as the AL MVP, the 25-year-old didn't know what to say, per MLB Network PR: "I was surprised. … I'm speechless, man."
Of course, the anti-playoff backlash for Trout was inevitable, per Tony Massarotti of 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston:
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports had some fun with Trout's win by invoking a notable Twitter incident after Wednesday's AL Cy Young voting:
ESPN's Buster Olney provided this incredible stat:
There's no way to argue against Trout. The only knock anyone could try to present against him is that the Angels went 74-88, but you can't punish an individual player for the lack of talent around him.
The BBWAA gets a bad rap for some of its antiquated thinking, though there has been a clear shift in recent years.
Trout and Bryant were the two best players in MLB, and they deserved to be rewarded for their efforts.
The pressure is on for 2017, though Trout and Bryant have shown in their young careers there is no ceiling to what they are capable of doing on the baseball field.