And it came Thursday, as Betts was crowned the American League MVP.
Betts, the 26-year-old Boston Red Sox outfielder, topped Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels and José Ramírez of the Cleveland Indians to win the award, the Baseball Writers Association of America announced. Betts earned 28 of 30 first-place votes en route to an easy win. Trout finished second with one vote. Ramirez finished third, though it was Betts’ Red Sox teammate J.D. Martinez who received the final first-place vote.
It’s the first MVP win for Betts, who finished second to Trout in 2016 and he became the first Red Sox player to win the award in 10 years. Dustin Pedroia won the award in 2008. Betts is now the 11th Red Sox MVP. Ted Williams won it twice, others on the list are Roger Clemens, Fred Lynn, Jim Rice, Carl Yastrzemski, Jimmie Foxx and Mo Vaughn.
It’s a fitting end to the season for Betts, who seemingly did it all for the Red Sox as they dominated the regular season and continued to dominate in October. Betts hit a league-best .346 but also had a league-best .640 slugging percentage. That’s what happens when you’re both a strong lead-off hitter but you also hit 32 homers and drive in 80 runs. Betts played standout defense for Boston, led the league with 129 runs scored and put together a 30/30 season with his 30 stolen bases.
As the Red Sox quickly proved they were better than the much-hyped New York Yankees in the AL East, Betts was leading the charge. As they became the hands-down best team in baseball, there was Betts. And as they set a franchise record with 108 wins, he was their pied piper.
He faced competition for the award, of course. Trout had another stellar season slashing .312/.460/.628 with 39 homers, but Betts topped him in Wins Above Replacement, which is usually where no one can match Trout. Betts finished at 10.4 WAR compared to Trout’s 9.8. Trout has already won two MVPs, but it looks like Betts will be his perennial competition from here on out.
The same could be said for Ramírez, who ranked third in WAR behind Trout and Betts. His numbers were stellar too — 39 homers, 105 RBIs, a .387 on-base percentage. He just didn’t truly stand out in any way against the other two, who bested him by most metrics.
In the end, Betts was the right choice because he married modern baseball with tradition. So often these awards are about traditional metrics (batting average, RBI) vs. advanced metrics (WAR, on-base percentage). In this case, Betts was best in both.
Best batting average, best WAR, a 30/30 guy and he fit the most tried-and-true eye test: He was the best player on baseball’s best team.
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