In 2019, baseball was ruled by the “almighty” home run. The American League alone averaged 232 long balls per team. Now, some say that baseballs were tampered with to allow this. Whether or not the alterations took place, one thing was clear: homers were up in a big way, allowing some of the MVP candidates on our list to write their ticket to a big season. The 2019 MVP race, once again, had more familiar faces in both leagues. However, the National League saw something of a surprise winner in Cody Bellinger. We’re here today to decide whether or not both leagues decided on the correct MVP.
Pieces such as these are always going to be subjective. After all, the decision of MVP is decided purely based on one’s opinion. It’s an informed opinion, but it’s an opinion nonetheless. So, one might see something unexpected below…or something completely straightforward. No matter what, it’s sure to be an exciting discussion.
2019 MVP Race
The American League’s top WAR metrics from 2019 read like a who’s-who of baseball-bashing bats…with one fascinating exception. On the offensive side, names like Alex Bregman, Marcus Semien, Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, and George Springer populate the list. Pitching-wise, the surprising Mike Minor paced all hurlers in the AL in WAR. Not to be outdone, guys like Lance Lynn, Justin Verlander, and Gerrit Cole made the list. In the end, Trout won, but whether or not he deserved it is up to the stats. Let’s see where the chips fall here.
Trout finished third with a 7.9 WAR, but that does nothing to negate his season. He made his eighth consecutive All-Star Game and took home his seventh Silver Slugger. His power stroke was definitely on display, as he cracked a career-high 45 homers and added 27 doubles. He led the league in OBP (.438), slugging (.645), OPS (1.083), and OPS+ (182). His candidacy in the 2019 MVP race was cemented by his sixth career season of 300 or more total bases. Though the Los Angeles Angels star continued to prove his worth, in reality, it might not be enough in our alternate world. Only time will tell.
The Oakland Athletics nabbed a legitimate star when they pulled a blockbuster deal in the 2014 offseason with the Chicago White Sox. The headlining name in the entire transaction may have been Jeff Samardzija. However, Semien is the one that probably made the most significant impact. This was especially true in 2019, as the slugging shortstop crushed 33 homers while playing in all 162 games. He hit .285 with 187 hits, 43 doubles, and 123 runs scored. His defense was top-notch as well, scoring a dWAR of 1.8. His overall WAR, 8.5, was good for second in the league and helped earn him a spot in the 2019 MVP race.
Houston Astros third baseman Bregman put together his best season to date in 2019. He hit .296 with 41 homers and 112 RBI while posting career highs in OBP (.423), slugging (.592), and OPS (1.015). His patience at the plate helped lead him to a league-best 119 walks. It also tied him with Yasmani Grandal for the second-highest walk percentage in all baseball. Finally, he played well at the hot corner, posting a 1.7 dWAR. His first and, currently, only career Silver Slugger wraps things up. His candidacy in the 2019 MVP race is assured, and he deserved every inch of his actual runner-up spot. Whether or not he stays there remains to be seen.
The MVP Should Be…
This one was close, but in a shocking turn of events, our reality sees Bregman becoming MVP, thus denying Trout his third career title. The stat lines read differently. Bregman had an actual breakout year and, in all honesty, has been unable to replicate that success. In hindsight, that might make his potential as an MVP more valid. Yet, of course, there is an argument to be made that it would be the complete opposite. In any case, this is a different world where Bregman does win the AL’s 2019 MVP race.
Unlike their counterparts in the AL, the NL did see one hurler jump into the top three in WAR. The name populated the top of many a chart during this time: Jacob deGrom. Sandwiched around him are the NL’s bronze medalist Nolan Arenado and their WAR champion in real-life MVP Cody Bellinger. As stated previously, Bellinger winning MVP was a bit of a surprise. That’s not to say that his previous two seasons had been poor…but 2019 was something on a whole other level. Nevertheless, his title is in jeopardy here, so let’s jump in and see who deserved to win the 2019 NL MVP race.
Kicking off our Senior Circuit WAR podium is a man who continually combined a powerful offensive approach with some generational defense. Indeed, Arenado made a significant impact on the Colorado Rockies in 2019. Offensively, he cracked 40 or more homers for the third time while batting .297. He had at least 330 total bases for the fifth consecutive season and lowered his strikeout total from 122 to 93. His defense was still outstanding as he posted a 2.5 dWAR and only committed nine errors in over 1,319 innings.
Though not as mind-boggling as his 2018, deGrom still managed an excellent 2019. The New York Mets ace won his second straight Cy Young and pitched to a 2.43 ERA in 204 innings. His 255 strikeouts were good for the league lead, and he posted a sub-one WHIP for the second year. He only walked 44 batters all year and struck out over 31% of the men he faced. All of this helped lead to a 4.6 WPA and a 7.2 WAR. His third career All-Star nod cemented his spot in the NL’s 2019 MVP race.
Like Bregman from earlier, Bellinger had his best career season to date in 2019. The Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder made massive strides in almost all offensive areas. His power was elite as he launched 47 homers with 34 doubles. Through all of this, he maintained a balanced approach to the plate. He hit .305 from 69 walks in 2018 to 95 in ’19. His strikeout percentage was also cut, going from over 23% to just a tad over 16%. In terms of production, he was among the league’s best, driving in 115 runs and scoring 121. Topping it all off was an excellent defensive campaign, leading to his first, and so far only, Gold Glove. It’s easy to see why Bellinger won the NL’s 2019 MVP race. It was an award well-earned.
The MVP Should Be…
This one’s a bit of a no-brainer. Terrific as Arenado, deGrom, and multiple others in the NL were, Bellinger was on another level in 2019. His stat lines read like some legendary ones, and they measure up to them. Unfortunately, his career took a massive downturn in the ensuing years. However, he could call himself the MVP of an entire league for one season. His spot at the top of the 2019 MVP race was deserved. He’d had two great seasons at the significant league level. In 2019, he cemented his position.
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