The Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced tonight that Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich was voted the Most Valuable Player of the National League. Meanwhile, fellow outfielder Mookie Betts took the prize in the American League.
Yelich nearly pulled off a unanimous win after helping lead the Brew Crew to a stirring NL Central title. Only one first-place vote went to another player, as Mets hurler Jacob deGrom was not-unjustly rewarded for an exceptional season that already netted him a Cy Young Award.
Clearly, though, Yelich stood above the rest of the position-player field. It surely helped his case that he led a resurgent Brewers club, but the 26-year-old turned in a stellar first year in Milwaukee quite apart from what his teammates did around him. In 651 plate appearances, he turned in a .326/.402/.598 batting line with 36 home runs and 22 steals.
That eye-popping offensive output, combined with solid glovework and excellent overall baserunning, left Yelich with a hefty tally of 7.6 WAR (by measure of both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference). Cubs infielder Javier Baez placed second, with Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado finishing in bronze-medal position.
As for Betts, his season was even more compelling, allowing him to stand out even against a field of excellent contenders in the American League. He finished the season with a ridiculous .346/.438/.640 slash while qualifying for the 30/30 club. Plus, he’s widely considered one of the best defenders and baserunners in the game.
It’s a credit to Betts that he was able to top yet another MVP-worthy performance from the incomparable Mike Trout, whose perennial excellence is not diminished by the fact that a rotating cast of others has occasionally matched or bettered him. Indians infielder Jose Ramirez turned in a second consecutive third-place finish.