Mookie Betts’ Historic Tear Has Thrust Him Into the American League MVP Race
Mookie Betts made Boston Red Sox history Tuesday, becoming the first leadoff hitter in Boston history to launch three home runs in a game. He darn near made even more incredible baseball history Wednesday night, hitting two more taters and flirting with becoming the first player in the history of the sport with consecutive three-homer games.
The dude is truly on one right now.
Let’s recap, in a plate-appearance-by-plate-appearance fashion, what Betts has done over the past two games.
|Tuesday At Bat 1||Home Run|
|Tuesday At Bat 2||Home Run|
|Tuesday At Bat 3||Line Out|
|Tuesday At Bat 4||Home Run|
|Tuesday At Bat 5||Ground Out|
|Wednesday At Bat 1||Home Run|
|Wednesday At Bat 2||Home Run|
|Wednesday At Bat 3||Walk|
|Wednesday At Bat 4||Ground Out|
|Wednesday At Bat 5||Walk|
That table is adorable and all, but who wants to read about home runs when you can watch them. It’s like looking up Rome on Google Earth instead of seeing it in person.
Here’s Tuesday’s three-bomb outing:
.@mookiebetts was on another level last night. He became the 1st #RedSox leadoff hitter to ever hit 3 HRs in a game!https://t.co/BhYiW5wUjO
— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) June 1, 2016
And here’s his measly two-dinger night on Wednesday:
.@mookiebetts took it easy tonight and only went deep twice. https://t.co/xd8OMAf4co #ThrillOfTheGamehttps://t.co/PjSvqheD34
— MLB (@MLB) June 2, 2016
In all, he’s 5-for-8 with five home runs, five runs, seven RBI’s and two walks over the past two games.
Maybe the most impressive thing about his two-night barrage -- other than, you know, crushing five jacks in two games -- is how he’s playing a baseball version of around the world with his taters.
Mookie Betts spray chart for the last two days... Solid HR approach, all fields. pic.twitter.com/94WlWozFZs
— Daren Willman (@darenw) June 2, 2016
Betts hit five long balls from May 1st to May 30th, and he mashed five dongs from May 31st to June 1st. Obviously, he’s not going to sustain this pace, but the two-night power surge is bringing attention to his fantastic season.
After racking up 4.8 Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) as a rookie last season, Betts came into the year on the short list of the best young players in baseball, which is a tough club to get into with so many young superstars -- like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant and Nolan Arenado -- tearing it up.
Not many people (shameless plug) had him challenging to be the best player in the American League, but that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Betts’ strikeout rate and walk rate are both down a touch from his rookie season, but I’m guessing the Red Sox aren’t complaining. Betts has more than made up for it by going bonkers in the power department.
|Plate Appearances||wOBA||ISO||Home Runs||K%||BB%||fWAR|
Through 53 games, roughly one-third of the season, Betts is in the thick of the race for American League MVP honors.
Like Josh Donaldson said at his MVP press conference last year, “You know going into a season that if you’re ultimately going to win an MVP, you’ve got to put up better numbers than Mike,” with Mike being Mike Trout.
That logic still applies this year, and it figures to apply for the foreseeable future.
Trout and Manny Machado have to be leading the MVP race, but Betts -- and MVP-caliber teammates Xander Bogaerts, David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia -- figure to get a boost from playing on a winning team. Boston is second in our power rankings, and we give them an 82.1% chance of making the playoffs.
Not only do the best players on winning teams historically fare better in MVP voting, but Betts will have a great chance to rack up counting stats -- especially runs and RBI's -- because he hits at the top of the Red Sox’ filthy lineup. With all of the great advanced stats we have at our disposal, things like wins, RBI's and runs scored shouldn't matter anymore, but they still matter and Betts will excel at all of them
Betts has more work to do to catch some of the elite performers in front of him, including a few teammates, but the five-homer onslaught of the last two nights has helped put him in position to challenge for an MVP award in his age-23 season.