MLB Predictions: 2012 AL and NL MVP Award Props Odds
by Alan Matthews - 3/30/2012
At the start of the 2011 Major League Baseball season, my pick for the American League MVP winner for the season was the Yankees’ Mark Teixeira, and in the NL it was Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder.
Well, that wasn’t so prescient. Teixeira had another very solid season with 39 homers and 111 RBI, but that .248 batting average isn’t going to win you any MVP awards. He didn’t receive a single vote for AL MVP. I nailed it in picking a Brewer – unfortunately it was Fielder’s teammate, Ryan Braun. I can’t really fault Braun for winning, but Fielder put up MVP numbers in hitting .299 with 38 homers and 120 RBI. He finished third; in reality, the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp, who finished second, should have won MVP after almost winning the NL Triple Crown.
So that leads me to this season, and the big story for MVP is that it’s completely wide open in the NL with Albert Pujols, a three-time MVP, and Fielder now both in the AL. With those two out of the NL Central, most like the Cincinnati Reds to win that division. And the last time they did that, in 2010, first baseman Joey Votto was the NL MVP. And he has opened as the 7/1 Bovada favorite this year.
Votto’s numbers did shrink a bit last year even though he played 11 more games (161) than his MVP season; Votto hit .309 with 29 homers and 103 RBI. But the Reds had a losing record in 2011 and an MVP is very unlikely these days to play on a non-playoff team.
Following Votto are Kemp at 9/1, Braun at 10/1 and Marlins outfielder Giancarlo (i.e. Mike) Stanton at 11/1.
I’m not sure what more Kemp has to do to win the MVP. Last year he fell just short of becoming the fifth member of baseball's rare 40-40 club, hitting 39 homers and stealing 40 bases to go with his .324 average, 33 doubles and .399 on-base percentage. He won the HR and RBI titles. But the Dodgers had a mediocre record and may well again this year because they didn’t add anything of substance.
I definitely don’t like Braun to repeat. He shouldn’t be on the field for the first 50 games as it is, but that’s an argument for another story. But I expect him to press in a big way as he’s likely to be the target of some negativity all season in the wake of that failed drug test. Plus, he doesn’t have Fielder around to protect him.
As for Stanton, there really isn’t enough of a track record to go on. Yes, the 22-year-old has prodigious power and blasted 34 homers last year. But he still strikes out a ton and doesn’t hit for a high average. I think he’s overvalued right now.
My value pick would be Giants catcher Buster Posey at 25/1. The 2010 Rookie of the Year was the sparkplug behind San Francisco’s run to the World Series title that year. But the Giants’ season went into the tank last season when Posey suffered horrible ankle and leg injuries while blocking the plate in a late May game. Posey is supposedly 100 percent healthy now and he’s the most important player on that team – one that should win the NL West. And if that happens, Posey could win the MVP even without mammoth numbers because he will get the lion’s share of the credit not just for his bat but handling the pitcher. In his rookie season, despite not being called up until nearly June, Posey hit .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBI in 108 games. Translate those numbers to 150 or so games and that will be plenty to win MVP.
AL Race a Tougher Call
With Pujols and Fielder in the Junior Circuit, the AL MVP field is so stacked it’s ridiculous. Pujols has opened as the 6/1 favorite, but I’m not in love with him at that number. I doubt Pujols has much trouble adjusting to a new league – he has hit .348 with 39 homers and 120 RBI in 143 interleague games – but his numbers are trending downward. He failed to reach a .300 average and 100 RBI last season for the first time, although to be fair he was only one RBI and one percentage point off both and only played 147 games. But Pujols’ average, homers and RBI have gone down each of the past three seasons. And he is 32, so injuries may start to become a factor for a guy who has played nearly 2,000 games (including playoffs).
Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez is next at 8/1. He was arguably the AL MVP in the first half of last season as he entered the all-star break hitting .354 with 17 homers and 77 RBI. But then a shoulder problem caused some fatigue in that area and he hit.317 with 10 homers and 40 RBI after the break. Gonzalez is healthy and poised for a monster season. But teammate Jacoby Ellsbury (18/1) could steal some votes away. Ellsbury had a sick 2011 season, hitting .321 with 32 homers, 105 RBI and 39 steals. He finished second to Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander for MVP. Don’t bother betting on Verlander (25/1) to repeat.
The Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera is next at 9/1, with Fielder at 12/1. Cabrera’s power numbers took a dip last year but he was the AL batting champ. He should see more fastballs now with Fielder behind him. I do think Fielder’s power takes a slight dip in spacious Comerica Park. The Tigers are a lock playoff team, but Cabrera and Fielder could take votes from one another.
My value pick in the AL is Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler at 30/1. He is trying to get a long-term deal from Texas – it has a club option year after this season. The Rangers are going to win big and score a ton of runs doing it, thus Kinsler should put up huge numbers again. He became a member of the 30-30 club in 2011, hitting 32 home runs from the leadoff spot along with 30 stolen bases and 121 runs scored. If Kinsler puts up those numbers again but raises that 2011 .255 batting average to where he hit in 2008 (.319), he’s definitely going to be in MVP contention.
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