We’ll wrap up our All-Star break updates of Major League Baseball’s biggest awards by looking at the current NL MVP landscape. So far this week, we’ve looked at the AL Cy Young and NL Cy Young races and the AL MVP race.
With each one, we’re aiming to take stock of who the current favorites are to win the award, whether or not they can sustain this performance, and also if the current betting odds make them a good return on our investment or if we can identify a long shot bet that might pay off for us.
As of now, the NL MVP race looks like this in the sportsbooks:
Not much has changed from a few months ago other than Bryce Harper dropping out of the race due to injury. But even with many of the same names, we have to ask ourselves a few questions.
Is Paul Goldschmidt a Shoe-In?
It’s no surprise that Paul Goldschmidt is the NL MVP frontrunner since he’s currently putting together a career year. Going into the All-Star break, he’s hitting .330/.414/.590, with 20 HR, 70 RBI, 64 Runs, and five stolen bases. Among all hitters in the National League, that makes Goldschmidt 1st in wRC+, 6th in home runs, 1st in runs scored, 2nd in RBIs, and 1st among qualified hitters in batting average.
It’s hard to argue that’s not an MVP-caliber season.
However, a few things stand out to me that make me hesitate to bet on him for the NL MVP. For starters, he has a career-high .388 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). His career number is .349 so he always runs a pretty high BABIP, but we should expect some batting average regression in the second half.
He’s also sporting an 18.3% HR/FB ratio, which would be his highest since 2019. Now, that’s not too crazy, and he’s hitting more fly balls than he has ever in his career, so the added home run total does make some sense. However, he also plays in a pitcher-friendly park, so continuing to hit this many home runs would be a tough task. Not an impossible one, but one that would require career-best levels for an entire season.
Lastly, the main reason I am not betting on Goldschmidt to win the NL MVP right now is that the +110 odds are not that enticing. It means you’d need to bet $100 to see a $110 profit or win $210 total. Given how many talented hitters are competing with him and how Goldschmidt has never hit at this level before, I’m not sure those odds make for a good bet.
Can one of the Dodger Teammates Rise to the Front?
I’d actually rather place a bet right now on one of the three Dodgers that find themselves in the mix. As of now, Freddie Freeman has the best Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of the three at 4.2. That’s good for 5th-best in the NL. Trea Turner is 6th with a 3.8 WAR, and Mookie Betts is 10th with a 3.3 WAR.
Betts is having a no doubt All-Star season, hitting 265/.340/.523, with 20 HR, 47 RBI, 63 Runs, and six stolen bases. I’m just not quite sure his resume is NL MVP level, and part of that has to do with an injury that has limited him to 73 games in the first half, while his teammate Freddie Freeman has played 90. I think that will hurt Betts too much in the counting stats when it comes to NL MVP votes.
However, Freeman is a sneaky bet. He’s been on fire over the last month, hitting .400/.452/.727 with eight home runs, 25 RBI, and 20 runs scored. As a result, he’s vaulted into 2nd in the NL in batting average, 9th in RBI, 6th in runs scored, 2nd in OPS, and 2nd in weighted runs created plus (wRC+).
The power numbers are not where you’d like to see them, but Freeman has proven over the last few weeks that he remains one of the elite hitters in all of baseball, and there’s a very good chance that he could lead the NL in batting average, OPS, wRC+, and challenge for the lead in runs and RBI when the season is over.
He will do all of that while playing on the team that is likely to finish the season with the best record in the NL. If Paul Goldschmidt slows down in the second half, that could be enough for Freeman to rise to the top of the NL MVP leaderboard. Considering his odds are currently +1000, it’s a really tempting bet. It would mean that if you bet $100 and Freeman wins the NL MVP, you make a profit of $1,000. Who doesn’t like that?
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Is Pete Alonso Worth a Longshot Bet?
Lastly, I know New York Mets fans are wondering if there’s a chance the Polar Bear can emerge as a legitimate NL MVP Candidate. The truth is that there is a chance but it’s pretty slim.
Alonso is 11th among all qualified National League hitters in wRC+, 3rd in home runs, 9th in slugging percentage, and 1st in RBI, so he’s certainly in the mix among some important categories. However, he falls a little short in runs and batting average, even though his .265 average is more than respectable for a power hitter.
Alonso will likely lead the NL in RBI and could contend for the lead in home runs, but without a top-level batting average or strong base total or runs scored, it’s hard to see him leapfrogging some of the names we’ve mentioned above, even if the Mets win the NL East.
Considering Alonso’s odds (+1200) are only slightly behind Freddie Freeman, I believe that a bet on Freeman makes a bit more sense.