- BetOnline has Cody Belinger as NL MVP favorite with Christian Yelich a close second
- Ronald Acuna Jr. has jumped from +2500 to +1800
- Is it a two-horse race? Does Acuna offer value?
With the second half of the MLB season set to start, it’s time to turn our attention to awards. Namely NL MVP.
Despite a breakout performance from Josh Bell, Cody Belinger and Christian Yelich have dominated the odds.
But even though there’s a huge drop off to the rest of the field, could a dark horse steal the honor?
Odds to Win 2019 National League MVP
|Player||Team||2019 NL MVP Odds at BetOnline|
|Cody Bellinger||LA Dodgers||-125|
|Christian Yelich||Milwaukee Brewers||+150|
|Josh Bell||Pittsburgh Pirates||+1200|
|Freddie Freeman||Atlanta Braves||+1400|
|Nolan Arenado||Colorado Rockies||+1800|
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||Atlanta Braves||+1800|
*Odds taken 07/09/19
As you can see from looking at the latest NL MVP odds, things are shaping up for the Bellinger/Yelich showdown. It’s basically been this way since the games started to matter. Nolan Arenado opened as the favorite on March 4th, but has plummeted (relatively speaking) since June.
A game of M-V-P with Yelich and Bellinger ?? pic.twitter.com/Yw2h1juoSH
— Kent Murphy (@ReaIKentMurphy) July 9, 2019
Meanwhile, the Braves have two NL MVP candidates in Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman. Acuna was as high as +900 to start May, and now is rebounding after a big dip.
Statistical Comparison of NL MVP Candidates
|Ronald Acuna Jr||.292||21||53||.377||.506||3.1|
When looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why Bellinger and Yelich are top of this year’s clash. Among the top six NL MVP candidates, they are top-two in everything except RBI.
2019: Yelich, Bellinger
2001: Bonds, L. Gonzalez
1998: McGwire, Sosa, G. Vaughn pic.twitter.com/DShRLbCjhW
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) July 5, 2019
The interesting thing about this field, however, is the consistency behind them. If either slows down, a standard second half from Arenado should garner some buzz. And Freeman will surpass his average statistical floors according to Baseball Reference.
The name on this list we know the least about? Acuna.
Acuna Lurking in NL MVP Race
Going back to our NL MVP odds tracker, it becomes pretty simple to break down Acuna’s season. He launched himself into contention at the beginning of May, fell off in early June and July, and he’s in the picture once again.
So let’s explore those phases.
Acuna 2019 Statistical Breakdown
|Month||AVG||HR||RBI||OBP||SLG%||NL MVP Odds|
|Mar 28 – May 2||.273||6||20||.385||.482||+900|
|May 3 – June 3||.281||5||14||.333||.439||+2000|
|June 4 – July 2||.322||9||18||.403||.602||+2500|
|July 3 – Present||.278||1||1||.409||.444||+1800|
The one thing we notice right away, is that Acuna’s odds got worse during his two best periods of the season.
#Braves Ronald Acuña Jr. since 2018 All-Star Break:
A lot of pitchers sharing this look. pic.twitter.com/nZwIC8hwp5
— Grant McAuley (@grantmcauley) July 8, 2019
While that doesn’t make sense at first, then you mix in Bellinger and Yelich.
On May 2nd, they sat at +250 and +300 respectively. Since then, both of their odds have improved. Which means it isn’t what Acuna is or isn’t doing that’s affecting his chances, it’s the other two.
2018 Second Half Stats for Top NL MVP Candidates
|Ronald Acuna Jr.||.322||19||45||.403||.625||14|
All of these numbers are from the second half of 2018, which is Acuna’s rookie season and Bellinger’s second.
Despite an injury, Arenado posted strong numbers. Bellinger, meanwhile, fell off from his first half. The two hottest hitters are Yelich and and Acuna, and it isn’t particularly close.
Most fWAR from the 2018 ASG to the 2019 ASG:
10.4 Christian Yelich
9.4 Mike Trout
8.6 Max Scherzer
7.7 Jacob deGrom
7.6 Matt Chapman
7.2 Cody Bellinger
6.7 Alex Bregman
6.6 Ronald Acuña Jr.
6.6 Mookie Betts
6.5 Anthony Rendon
6.1 German Marquez
6.1 Gerrit Cole
— Jeremy Frank (@MLBRandomStats) July 8, 2019
Yelich’s second half was historic. It won him the MVP. But Acuna overcame a first half where he hit .249 with seven home runs. It won him the 2018 NL Rookie of the Year. And if he repeats it? It could win him the 2019 NL MVP.
Is Ronald Acuna Jr Worth it in NL MVP Race?
At +1800? Hedging with him isn’t a bad idea. Not to take anything away from Bellinger, but this second half will be defining. He’s fallen off post All-Star break in his two seasons, and even though it’s a small sample size, Acuna turned it on in a big way.
If you’re not in for a deep dive? Buying now on Yelich may be wise. While we can’t expect another historic August, he’s been better in the second half the last two seasons.
If either Yelich or Acuna enjoy a second half surge? This may be the best value you get them at for a while.
Let's have fun and keep it civil.