MLB MVP 2018: Final Odds and Predictions for AL and NL Awards

Andrew Gould@AndrewGould4Featured ColumnistNovember 15, 2018

Mookie Betts is favored to win the 2018 American League MVP award.
Mookie Betts is favored to win the 2018 American League MVP award.Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

For most of the season, both the American League and National League MVP races promised riveting suspense in contests too close to call.

Entering Thursday's grand reveal, there's no disputing who will win each award.

Unveiling the three finalists removed some uncertainty from the equation. Thanks to the early tease, fans know that J.D. Martinez could not overcome the handicap of spending most games inside the dugout as a designated hitter. Nor could Jacob deGrom fight the stigmas of both pitching and residing on a losing club.

Besides, Christian Yelich and Mookie Betts made it easy on voters down the stretch. Each league's premier position player presents a clean choice with eye-popping stats of all varieties. And hey, they also help avoid a semantics seminar by playing for division champions.

Let's examine each open-and-shut race with a look at the latest odds, relayed by OddsShark.


American League

  • Mookie Betts, OF, Boston Red Sox: 4-17
  • Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels: 9-2
  • Jose Ramirez, 3B, Cleveland Indians: 8-1

MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 20:  Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run against Walker Buehler #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game Six of the National League Championship Series
Stacy Revere/Getty Images


Muscle memory almost prompted a lament about the injustice of Mike Trout losing another deserved AL MVP award just because his team stinks. This year, however, he wasn't the league's best player.

That's not the norm for the transcendent outfielder, who has received the honor twice despite finishing five of seven seasons atop FanGraphs' AL WAR leaderboard (four on Baseball Reference).

As frightening as it is for the rest of the league, Trout is getting better in the batter's box. He recorded the highest adjusted OPS (199 OPS+) of his career by batting .312/.460/.628 with 39 home runs in 140 games.

Yet when Betts wins, it won't be just because he played for the 108-54 Boston Red Sox. 

The outfielder was simply better, posting a .348/.438/.640 slash line with 32 homers, 30 steals and an MLB-high 129 runs scored in 136 games. While his also spectacular 186 OPS+ fell short of Trout, the AL Gold Glove Winner made up the difference by registering 20 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS).

Jose Ramirez still deserves immense recognition for batting .270/.387/.522 with 39 homers, 34 steals and 8.0 fWAR. Put him in the NL, and he would still make a credible victor despite cratering (.174/.322/.315) in September.

A slow finish should not blind voters from a stellar campaign, so it's comforting to see him fend off Martinez, Alex Bregman and Cleveland Indians teammate Francisco Lindor for the final slot. Yet the late snide made him a distant third in a stacked competition.

It would be interesting to see how who would prevail if Trout lapped Betts in WAR and other significant categories. Because the Los Angeles Angels went 80-82, it's possible his teammates would have cost him another individual distinction.

Fortunately for voters, they did not have to deal with that dilemma this time. As the best player on the best team, Betts is the easy call.

Predicted Winner: Mookie Betts


National League

  • Christian Yelich, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: 10-23
  • Javier Baez, 2B/SS, Chicago Cubs: 23-10
  • Nolan Arenado, 3B, Colorado Rockies: 17-2


Betts will likely win AL MVP honors over Mike Trout because of his superior defense and the Boston Red Sox's success.
Betts will likely win AL MVP honors over Mike Trout because of his superior defense and the Boston Red Sox's success.Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

The NL leader in WAR on both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference didn't even make the final cut.

While voters rightfully overlooked Jacob deGrom's misleading 10-9 record to give him the NL Cy Young Award, the New York Mets ace could not overcome numerous biases blocking his MVP path.

Even if he procured double the victories—a perfectly plausible outcome considering his 24 straight quality starts to conclude 2018—a starting pitcher on a fourth-placed team never stood a chance of taking home an honor almost always reserved for position players on playoff squads.

Yelich, Javier Baez and Nolan Arenado check both boxes. Yet with deGrom out of the running, the award clearly belongs to Yelich.

The Milwaukee Brewers outfield created separation in a once wide-open race by batting .367/.449/.770 with 25 of his 36 home runs after the All-Star break. He led the NL in batting average (.326) and slugging percentage (.598) while falling one run (118) and RBI (110) shy of each top spot.

His eight long balls in the final 15 games propelled the Brewers into a tiebreaker for the NL Central crown. They beat the Chicago Cubs 3-1, with three more hits from their marquee offseason acquisition. 

Baez batted .290 with 34 homers and 21 steals while delivering commendable defensive versatility across the infield. He also, however, settled for a .326 on-base percentage on account of a 4.5 walk percentage. No qualified NL player whiffed more or chased a higher rate of pitches outside the strike zone.

As a member of the Colorado Rockies, Arenado must deal with critics who will credit his success to Coors Field. The denunciation holds some weight in this instance; the third baseman wielded a 1.106 OPS at home that dropped to .772 away from his hitter-friendly home park.

His 132 weighted runs created plus, a statistic that measures a hitter's value while controlling park factors, trails 13 NL hitters who logged at least 400 plate appearances. Baez finished one point lower, but Yelich's 166 led the Senior Circuit.

An impossible race to call for months turned into one without a hint of drama. While deGrom would have delivered some suspense as a finalist, there's no plausible case to make for Baez or Arenado to upset Yelich.

Predicted Winner: Christian Yelich


Note: All advanced stats are courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.