MLB Betting: AL & NL MVP Odds at All-Star Break
by Alan Matthews - 7/16/2014
I didn't do a spring AL & NL Most Valuable Player preview story this season, but you will have to take my word for it that my choices back then were Toronto's Jose Bautista in the Junior Circuit and the Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton in the National League. I still have a shot on getting both right, but more so on Stanton.
Bovada has released its All-Star Break updated player futures odds , and the AL MVP favorite is Angels outfielder Mike Trout at 2/3. He was the spring favorite too, but I hate going chalk in these types of situations unless I'm 100 percent sure. I was big on the Angels this spring and certainly thought Trout would be a major factor in the MVP race after finishing second the past two seasons. Trout actually struggled for the first three weeks or so of May as he was striking out a ton and his average was down to .263. But since about May 21 he's been raking and is hitting .310 with 22 home runs, 73 RBIs and a .400 on-base percentage. Trout is pretty clearly the best all-around hitter in the game now, and it was fitting that he was the All-Star Game MVP. It was a passing of the torch from the former face of baseball, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, to the new one in Trout.
I hate to recommend Trout at such short odds, but he's probably going to win it. The Halos are going to be a playoff team, and I think they will win the AL West if they add a starting pitcher -- Ian Kennedy of the Padres has been rumored.
Two-time MVP Miguel Cabrera is the 9/2 second favorite, but there's some voter fatigue with Miggy, and he hasn't been the best hitter on the Tigers, Victor Martinez has (12/1). Martinez is hitting .328 with 21 home runs and 55 RBIs in 10 fewer games than Cabrera, who is at .306/14/75. Cabrera's numbers are going to finish down from his past two years, and he has said he's not fully recovered from the groin tear that gave him problems late last season. Last year at the break, Cabrera was hitting .365 with 30 home runs.
I liked the Jays to have a nice bounce-back season, and they did for a while, although they enter the break injury-ravaged and struggling, now four games back of first-place Baltimore in the AL East. Bautista is 15/1 to win MVP, and he's got nice numbers: .292, 17 home runs and 54 RBIs. If he has a monster second half and the Blue Jays win the division, Bautista still has an outside chance. I'm just not sure Bautista will get much to hit with guys like Edwin Encarnacion, Brett Lawrie and Adam Lind all hurt. Bautista is batting just .217 in July with two home runs, the last dinger on July 2.
The rest of the AL candidates are Oakland's Josh Donaldson (7/1), Seattle Robinson Cano (10/1), Baltimore's Nelson Cruz (12/1), the White Sox's Jose Abreu (20/1), Houston's Jose Altuve (20/1) and Cleveland's Michael Brantley (20/1). Cruz is probably the best value on the board. If he wins the AL home-run and RBI titles (one back in each) and the Orioles take the AL East, Cruz could push Trout. Abreu is the 4/5 favorite to lead the majors in homers with Cruz at 3/2. It's not really even worth mentioning anyone else with Encarnacion (7/1) on the DL.
In the National League, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had been the betting favorite most of the season, but he's now the 9/4 second-favorite to Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen (2/1), the reigning NL MVP. Tulowitzki leads the National League in average (.345) and is tied in home runs (21), but he's probably not going to win for two reasons: Voters are penalizing him because his home splits at Coors Field are so ridiculously better than on the road, and because the Rockies might finish last in the NL West. You have to do something amazing to finish last and win NL MVP (like the Cubs' Andre Dawson did in 1987). Hard to argue with McCutchen as he's hitting .324 (third in NL) with 17 home runs (sixth), 61 RBIs (second) and 15 steals. Just for comparison at last year's break McCutchen was .302/10/49/20.
As for Stanton (4/1), the Marlins were a huge surprise for a while there but seem to be fading and enter the second half at 44-50. If Stanton can at least keep the team in contention for a wild-card spot then he deserves to win because he is carrying that team almost single-handedly. Stanton, who hit a moon shot in the Home Run Derby on Monday, is tied for the NL lead with 21 home runs and leads in RBIs with 63. Stanton is hitting .295, which would be a career-best.
MVP voters like to reward the stars of playoff teams but there's not a Washington National, Atlanta Brave, Milwaukee Brewer, St. Louis Cardinal, Cincinnati Red, L.A. Dodger or San Francisco Giant offensive player having a huge season. Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has the shortest odds of any guy from those teams at 6/1. He's hitting .309 with 12 home runs and 52 RBIs. Very good, but not really MVP numbers so far.
The rest of the NL contenders are Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt (15/2), Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez (14/1), the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw (15/1), and St. Louis' Adam Wainwright (40/1). As good as Kershaw is, I don't see him winning MVP after missing a month. Unless he literally wins every second-half start, which I wouldn't put past him.
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