​Mookie Betts’ Historic Tear Has Thrust Him Into the American League MVP Race

A great start to the year, boosted by an incredible two-game barrage, has put Betts in the conversation for the American League's MVP award.

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.

Plate Appearances Result
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:

And here’s his measly two-dinger night on Wednesday:

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.

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
2014 654 0.351 0.188 18 12.50% 7.00% 4.8
2015 251 0.374 0.262 14 13.90% 6.40% 2.5

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.

PlayerwOBAHome RunsfWAR
Mike Trout0.412123.5
Manny Machado0.41133.3
Jose Altuve0.40693
Xander Bogaerts0.39162.9
David Ortiz0.469152.5
Robinson Cano0.396162.5
Mookie Betts0.374142.5
George Springer0.388132.3
Dustin Pedroia0.37472.2
Josh Donaldson0.373132.2

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.