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2017 Fantasy Baseball: AL MVP Race

The AL MVP race is shaping up to be one of the closest races in history. It pits one of the bigger players (physically) and against one of the smallest players in history. Then, there are a few guys thrown in. Some bring power while others add defense, speed, and hitting to create their value. Most are playing on playoff teams, so that consideration goes by the wayside. Still the question always comes whether we should vote for the best player or whether we should vote for the player perceived to be more integral to his team’s success.

So, I will try a balanced approach when handicapping the race. We will pick the top five players (with apologies to Mike Trout) that are on playoff teams. We will consider four statistical categories and then we will talk a little about intangibles. The four categories include total points (which we have addressed on every position player in previous articles), bWAR, fWAR, and Bill James’ total runs. You may not be familiar with total runs. He combines runs created, defensive runs saved, baserunning runs, and a positional adjustment to create total runs. The rankings in parenthesis represents their ranking within the group.

Jose Altuve— Houston Astros

Total Points: 505 (1st)

bWAR: 8.5 (1st)

fWAR: 7.6 (2nd)

Total Runs: 156 (T-2nd)


Altuve has clinched his third batting title in four seasons and has four consecutive seasons with 200 or more hits. The Astros seemed like a team of destiny in the first half, but injuries and slumps got them lapped by the Indians. Still, Altuve has been there even when his other big time teammates (Carlos Correa and George Springer) missed time with injuries.

Mookie Betts— Boston Red Sox

Total Points: 492 (3rd)

bWAR: 6.2 (4th)

fWAR: 5.2 (5th)

Total Runs: 156 (T-2nd)


Betts is by far the most valuable defender on the board. That is why he is in this race in spite of the fact that his offensive numbers don’t jump off the page. Of course, different platforms treat defense differently. Yet, most trust defensive runs saved (a part of the total runs formula) as king. In that formula, he has saved more than 30 runs this season.

Aaron Judge— New York Yankees

Total Points: 488 (4th)

bWAR: 7.9 (2nd)

fWAR: 8.1 (1st)

Total Runs: 161 (1st)


Out of all of the teams in the playoffs, the Yankees and the Twins were the biggest surprise. The Twins don’t have any MVP candidates, so that leaves Judge as the obvious beneficiary. It could be argued that he was far more important to their success than any other player was to his team. Of course, 51 home runs doesn’t hurt either.

Francisco Lindor— Cleveland Indians

Total Points: 485 (5th)

bWAR: 5.3 (5th)

fWAR: 5.9 (4th)

Total Runs: 148 (4th)


You could make a credible argument that Trout should be here because he is a better player. The problem is two-fold for Trout. First, his team didn’t make the playoffs. Second, he missed six weeks and finished below Lindor in total runs and total points. Lindor’s candidacy only makes sense if you want to go with one of the players on the best team in baseball (according to run differential). He still belongs in the top five though.

Jose Ramirez–Cleveland Indians

Total Points: 499 (2nd)

bWAR: 6.4 (3rd)

fWAR: 6.1 (3rd)

Total Runs: 146 (5th)


He may have more on this side than anyone. Essentially, he was the Indians’ hottest player when they were on their 22 game winning streak. He suffers a little when you include defense, but some voters don’t think about defense at all. How you finish the season matters and there might not be a hotter guy on the list than this guy.

Final Verdict

It depends on the way you want to handle the MVP award. It is hard to deny that the best player component is a dead heat between Judge and Altuve. Altuve was the runner up last season, so he might get the nod based on the “wait your turn” theory. Yet, it is hard to deny the force that Judge has become and what effect that has had on the Yankees’ fortunes this season. Many of the races in the four tangible categories could come down to a hot weekend to close out the season. Will all of these players play? It’s hard to imagine that three meaningless games could determine the race, but it is possible.

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2017 Fantasy Baseball: Total Points-- Right Fielders

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2017 Fantasy Baseball: NL MVP Race

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