It would be hard enough to figure out who to pick for MVP futures betting in any given season if the award just went to the best player in the American and National League. Of course, MVP stands for Most Valuable Player, and that means there is a debate every year about exactly what “valuable” means.
The real struggle for MLB futures market bettors – or anyone trying to wrap their head around MVP races, really – is that not only is there an annual debate about how to define “valuable,” but the people who decide are different every year.
The MVP is voted on by two members of the Baseball Writers Association of America in each city in each league, and the voters change on a year-to-year basis.
One year, the electorate may be comprised mainly of voters who believe that when five out of 15 teams in each league make the postseason, the MVP has to come from a playoff team, or at least must have contributed significantly in a pennant race.
Other years, there may be more voters who believe that a great player can provide value by helping a last-place team to be straight-up garbage instead of a flaming pile of garbage. So, how can fans of MLB betting pick a winner for each year’s MVP awards?
2019 AL MVP Odds
Keys for Betting MVP Futures Odds
Play the Field
It’s not a rule, but the MVP almost always is a position player.
Justin Verlander of the 2011 Detroit Tigers and Clayton Kershaw of the 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers are the only pitchers to be named MVP in the 21st century, while usually the Cy Young Award is considered enough to recognize the leagues' best aces.
Nobody has ever won the award while serving primarily as a designated hitter. The most games as a DH for any MVP was 65 by Don Baylor of the 1979 California Angels.
Whether or not this is the way it should be is irrelevant when considering MVP futures markets, but it’s worth considering that there may be a shift as time goes on. J.D. Martinez, who finished fourth in the 2018 American League MVP vote, said the following spring, “There’s no way the analytic guys are going to ever let that happen. For a DH to win MVP they’re going to have to walk on water.”
In reality, a shift of the electorate to being more analytics-friendly would help the case of someone like Martinez when it comes to MVP talk, because advanced stats can help show just how much of a difference a player made both at the plate and in the field, and whether a player not playing defense is really something that needs to be held against him.
Position players always will have an advantage because they simply have more opportunities to contribute to their team, but it’s the move toward analytics among the BBWAA that got Edgar Martinez, the namesake of the annual award for the best DH, to the Hall of Fame.
For both designated hitters and pitchers, the route to the MVP is a superlative season in which the rest of the field is generally muddled. This will usually be difficult to see coming before a season starts, but seeing the MVP race start to shape up that way in midseason can give an advantage to savvy futures bettors.
Partly because of the way voting is structured on the two-ballots-per-city system, the common public assumption that players from huge markets have an advantage in awards voting does not apply.
Since the end of the Vietnam War, the New York Yankees have had Thurman Munson, Don Mattingly, and Alex Rodriguez (twice) win the MVP. Oddly enough, none of those MVPs came in years when the Yankees, the most successful team in the history of the sport, won the World Series.
When Mookie Betts won the 2018 American League MVP with the Boston Red Sox, he became the third straight award winner from a team that won the World Series, following Kris Bryant of the 2016 Chicago Cubs and Jose Altuve of the 2017 Houston Astros.
While voting takes place at the end of the regular season, ensuring that postseason performance is not taken into account, there is something to be said for the concept of selecting the best player from the best team.
That last bit is important, because it seems to represent an emerging trend since the expansion of the playoffs.
Where once you might feel confident picking Barry Bonds to win the MVP at the start of a season, then later Albert Pujols, in the first seven seasons of Mike Trout’s career, an average annual WAR of 9.1 was enough to garner… two MVPs.
Someone of Trout’s caliber would rightfully be the favorite for the MVP every season, but the fact that the award doesn’t routinely get presented to the best player in the game shows why futures betting on the MVP can be exciting and fun, even if it’s always a challenge.
2019 NL MVP Odds