MLB awards week wrapped up on Thursday, with the biggest honor of them all: the Most Valuable Player.
The winner in the American League was Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox. The first baseman feels like something of a throwback, leading the majors in RBI and leading the AL in hits, with a .987 OPS, 167 wRC+, and plus defense. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad pick, though, as he tied for the AL lead in bWAR and ranked third in fWAR while leading a young team to the postseason to break a franchise playoff drought that lasted over a decade.
The National League also chose a first baseman who contributes on both sides of the ball, in Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves. Long considered an underrated superstar, he delivered his best numbers yet in the shortened season. His 187 wRC+ ranked second in the majors (based on a monster 1.102 OPS), and both bWAR and fWAR had him and Mookie Betts as the two NL leaders (with each player leading the other in one version of the metric). Freeman’s Braves breezed to the NL East division title.
Here are the Top 5 finishers in each league, and you can click the header links to see the full results.
- 1B Jose Abreu, CHW (374 points)
- 3B Jose Ramirez, CLE (303 points)
- 2B D.J. LeMahieu, NYY (230 points)
- RHP Shane Bieber, CLE (173 points)
- CF Mike Trout, LAA (172 points)
- 1B Freddie Freeman, ATL (410 points)
- RF Mookie Betts, LAD (268 points)
- 3B Manny Machado, SDP (221 points)
- SS Fernando Tatis Jr, SDP (201 points)
- LF Juan Soto, WAS (172 points)
A few notes: Freeman was 1st-place on 28 ballots (Betts got the other two), while Abreu only got 21 (with eight for Ramirez and one for LeMahieu). Bieber was so dominant that he factored into the Top 5 as a pitcher, which doesn’t always happen (top pitcher in the NL was Trevor Bauer in a distant 10th). This is the lowest Trout has ranked in a full season in his career, after eight straight Top 4 finishes — and even then, he was only one point shy of fourth, which may as well be a tie.
As for the Oakland A’s, despite winning their division and earning the No. 2 seed in their league’s playoffs, they only had one player show up in the voting: closer Liam Hendriks, who was named on three ballots. Hendriks got a 9th-place nod from local expert Susan Slusser, and a pair of 10ths from a Baltimore writer and a Tampa Bay writer, totaling four points in the scoring process. He finished in a three-way tie for 13th place.
It’s just the latest recognition for Hendriks after another spectacular season. He was already named the AL Reliever of the Year, and he tied for ninth in Cy Young voting, where he again ranked as the top reliever. Among pitchers, only Bieber finished higher in the MVP voting, while Hyun-jin Ryu tied Hendriks and Dallas Keuchel also appeared — making Hendriks the only reliever on the list. Sure, 13th place doesn’t sound exciting and he only showed up on 10% of ballots, but only 22 players in the entire AL got mentions and he was one of them. In this case, it really is an honor just to be nominated.
As for the rest of Oakland’s team, it’s somewhat surprising to see nobody else make the cut. But the reality is that there was no singular star in the A’s lineup this year, with the whole squad banding together in more of a group effort. Someone would get hot for a couple weeks, then when he cooled off or got hurt someone else would take his place. Nobody finished the year with amazing numbers, just a lot of really solid contributors, and all the biggest-name stars had off-years and/or got hurt. The top pick is probably Mark Canha, and even he had a .246 average with five homers, so you can understand if voters overlooked him.
As for Chris Bassitt, he finished eighth for Cy Young and several superior pitchers also didn’t make any MVP ballots, so he’s not really a snub even if you give him extra credit for his work on this specific Oakland team. The reality is that their closer really might have been their most valuable player from wire to wire, on a club without any other standout individuals.
Congrats to Hendriks on another well-deserved honor!
A’s MVP history
Here’s the team’s recent history in MVP voting, going back a couple decades. Registering just one player at 13th place is the A’s worst result since 2017, when Khris Davis flew solo in 22nd place:
- 1999: Giambi (8), Stairs (17), Jaha (18)
- 2000: Giambi (1), Hudson (15), Tejada (16)
- 2001: Giambi (2), Mulder (13), Tejada (19), Zito (21)
- 2002: Tejada (1), Zito (13), Chavez (14), Koch (18)
- 2003: Tejada (11), Foulke (15), Chavez (17)
- 2004: Kotsay (14), Durazo (23), Chavez (30)
- 2005: Chavez (21), Street (23)
- 2006: Thomas (4)
- 2007: —
- 2008: —
- 2009: —
- 2010: —
- 2011: —
- 2012: Cespedes (10), Reddick (16)
- 2013: Donaldson (4), Coco (15)
- 2014: Donaldson (8)
- 2015: —
- 2016: —
- 2017: Khrush (22)
- 2018: Chapman (7), Khrush (8), Treinen (15), Lowrie (20)
- 2019: Semien (3), Chapman (6), Olson (21)
- 2020: Hendriks (13)
Other past Oakland winners include Vida Blue (1971), Reggie Jackson (1973), Jose Canseco (1988), Rickey Henderson (1990), and Dennis Eckersley (1992).