MLB MVP Award Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 3/30/2011
Betting on the MVP award in either the American League or National League is generally much easier than betting on the Cy Young Award winner in either circuit. Here’s why: Cy Young winners, at least of late, can come from last-place teams. That almost never happens with the MVP.
For example, Felix Hernandez won the AL Cy Young last year despite playing on a Seattle Mariners team that lost 101 games, easily the most in the AL and only fewer than the sad-sack Pittsburgh Pirates. In 2009, Zack Greinke won that award despite playing on a Kansas City Royals team that finished with 96 losses and tied for last in the AL Central.
The MVP winners are almost always the best player on a playoff team. Reigning NL winner Joey Votto was the top player on the NL Central-winning Reds and 2010 AL winner Josh Hamilton was easily the best hitter on the AL West-winning Texas Rangers. You won’t find an American League MVP from a bad team since Alex Rodriguez won the first of his three MVP awards, this one in 2003 with the last-place Texas Rangers. The last NL winner from a last-place team was Andre Dawson in 1987 with the Chicago Cubs.
So when betting on the league MVPs, simply identify the four playoff teams. Then you should be able to narrow your list to a player or two on those four clubs. With that said, let’s take a look at the favorites in both leagues, according to MLB MVP odds from Bodog, and then the best longer-shot value predictions for betting.
Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (11/2): I don’t like these odds at all, frankly. Cabrera is a beast, no doubt. He was focused and in shape last year following an alcohol-related arrest near the end of the 2009 season that may well have cost the Tigers the division. In 2010 Cabrera finished second to Hamilton for AL honors, when Cabrera led the league with 126 RBI while batting .328 and hitting 38 home runs. And the Tigers should be in contention this year, although I’d rate them behind the White Sox and Twins in the Central. Plus, how focused will Cabrera be? Of course he had that ugly DUI arrest on the eve of Spring Training, and he is reportedly getting treatment. Maybe he gets totally focused again and is even better this year with the help that Victor Martinez will bring to the lineup. Or maybe Cabrera slips up and has another alcohol problem and is away from baseball for awhile. These odds are too short.
Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox (6/1): This guy is the chic pick of many experts after coming over in a trade this offseason with the Padres. Last year Gonzalez played with a torn labrum in his right shoulder and still finished fourth in the National League MVP voting. Gonzalez hit at least 30 homers in each the of the past four seasons, and that number should grow getting out of Petco Park and with the short right-field porch in Fenway. Still, how will he react to playing in the media frenzy in Boston after playing in relative anonymity in his hometown of San Diego? He’ll put up monster numbers, no doubt, but I like Carl Crawford (12/1) on the Red Sox better.
As for best value, I’d go with the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira at 15/1. And you will know right away whether this is wasted money. The Yanks obviously will contend and Teixeira has managed at least 30 home runs and 100 RBI in each of his past seven seasons. If he can avoid being wretched in April for once, those numbers could climb to 40 and 125 – he hit .256 with 33 homers and 108 RBI last year. Teixeira will need to hit closer to his career second-half average of .299.
Albert Pujols, Cardinals (3/1): Betting on this league has been easy of late: Take an NL Central player. With Votto winning last year, someone from that division has taken the past three NL MVPs – largely due to Pujols’ two the previous two seasons (of his three career). The Cards’ star has never finished one of his big-league seasons with worse than a .312 batting average, 32 homers and 103 RBI. So he’s going to be in the conversation every year and is the overwhelming 3/1 favorite for 2011. However, I think the Cardinals slide back a bit with Adam Wainwright out, and will Pujols’ impending free agency affect him at all?
Votto, Reds (11/2): He was simply stellar last year in leading the Reds to their first playoff berth since 1995. Votto batted .324 with 37 homers and 113 RBI, finishing in the top four in the NL in eight offensive categories -- Votto had the NL's highest on-base (.424) and slugging (.600) percentages. While Votto no doubt should be a force for years, he did have career bests in batting average, home runs, RBI and on-base percentage. So that smells a lot like a “career” year that would be hard to top. And he won’t win a second NL MVP in 2011 without topping last year’s numbers.
For best overall value I’d say Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder, who happens to be in a contract year. The Brewers should contend in the NL Central this year. And check out Fielder’s career numbers: He has been a beast in the past two odd-year seasons: 50 homers and 119 RBI in 2007 and 46 homers and 141 RBI in 2009. Last year he “slipped” to .261 average with 32 homers and 83 RBI.
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