Who has a better case for AL MVP, Mookie Betts or J.D. Martinez?

The MVP is not, nor should be, a contest of who has the most WAR.

Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez
Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, left, greets J.D. Martinez at the dugout after Martinez's solo home run against the New York Yankees on Aug. 4. –AP Photo/Michael Dwyer

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Is it possible that J.D. Martinez could win two of the three Triple Crown categories and still lose the AL MVP award to a teammate? As great as he has been, I think I’d still vote for Mookie Betts if this season continues to play out like it has. Defense matters. Who would get your vote? — Will B.


Well, Mookie has produced 8.1 Wins Above Replacement already this season, per baseball-reference. Martinez has delivered 5.6 WAR. Therefore, Mookie is the MVP. Thanks for your question. I’ll hear you in the comments …

Oh, all right, I know it’s not that simple. The MVP is not, nor should be, a contest of who has the most WAR. Those who are threatened by, don’t comprehend, or simply do not like sabermetrics like to portray those who do as uber-nerds who are beholden to their advanced stats and their stats only. That’s not true — well, the uber-nerd part might be — and it’s certainly not how I look at WAR. It’s one more interesting tool to me, a way to help assess but not completely assess a player’s performance. Who doesn’t want more information? Actually, I think we know the answer to that. Those who don’t want to learn, or those who don’t want a certain narrative shattered.

Betts/Martinez is going to be a fascinating debate if everything holds and their carry on through the end of the season on their respective tracks. Betts is actually trending toward an an all-time great season. A WAR above 8 over a full season is considered an MVP-level performance. Betts is already there with 40-plus games to go.


But Martinez might get there himself, which is remarkable given that he’s primarily a DH, with little to no baserunning or defensive value. Consider: The most WAR David Ortiz ever produced was 6.2, during the 2007 season.

In some ways, this is going to be reminiscent of the 2012 AL MVP race, when Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown. but Mike Trout was the more valuable player because of his base running and defense on top of his extraordinary hitting.

Cabrera won the award. I don’t think Martinez has a real shot this year unless he wins the Triple Crown as well, and that’s going to require him making up some ground in the batting race. (Betts is at .350 right now, Martinez at .333).

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In the end, I think Betts wins the award without much suspense. And I’m not especially concerned about Betts and Martinez splitting the Boston vote. Right now, it’s Mookie’s award to lose.

But what do you guys think? Who would you vote for for AL MVP, Mookie Betts or J.D. Martinez? I’ll hear you in the comments.

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