Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros fouls off a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 4, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. Houston won 7-6. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)

MLB: Making a case for each American League MVP candidate

Mookie Betts, right field, Boston

Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox scores on a two-run rbi double from Hanley Ramirez #13 against the Oakland Athletics in the top of the fifth inning at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 2, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Mookie Betts #50 of the Boston Red Sox scores on a two-run rbi double from Hanley Ramirez #13 against the Oakland Athletics in the top of the fifth inning at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 2, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

It seemed no one had it picked but Mookie Betts’ teammate Xander Bogaerts – or so he tells us.

“I had it from day one. I had it from Spring Training…people looked at me like I was crazy, but I see him every day and you see what he’s able to do, man. It’s special,” the Boston Red Sox’s shortstop said.

Bogaerts, who had his own 26 game hitting streak earlier in the season, is not kidding. Betts is second in American League WAR, fourth in AL RBIs, fifth in AL batting average, and is playing outstanding defence out in right field.

If there were a most improved award as there is in the NBA, Betts would also be a strong contender for that. The 23 has smashed his marks from last year, when he hit at .291 with 18 home runs and 77 rbis.

This year, those numbers are .319, 30 and 98, with plenty of baseball to go. Obviously, this candidacy looks a whole lot better if Boston edge the Toronto Blue Jays for first spot in the AL East, but it’s pretty strong in its’ own right.

Josh Donaldson, third base, Toronto Blue Jays

Josh Donaldson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays circles the bases after hitting his third home run of the game in the eighth inning during MLB game action against the Minnesota Twins on August 28, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Josh Donaldson #20 of the Toronto Blue Jays circles the bases after hitting his third home run of the game in the eighth inning during MLB game action against the Minnesota Twins on August 28, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Some players fall off, even if only slightly, after winning an MVP award. Not reigning AL king Josh Donaldson.

Donaldson is hitting better this year than last year’s MVP campaign – far better. Both his on base and slugging percentage is higher, meaning his OPS is up from .939 to .988.

As a third baseman, Donaldson is only above average. He isn’t quite where Betts is as a glove, and his numbers are slightly down on the Red Stocking also.

But given how incredibly tight this top gun race is in the AL, people will use perhaps outdated metrics, such as team success, to determine a winner. Right now, Donaldson’s Blue Jays lead the Red Sox by one game.

Mike Trout, centre field, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hits a double in the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 30, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Mike Trout #27 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hits a double in the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 30, 2016 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Mike Trout is still regarded by many as the best player in Major League Baseball, and that’s definitely fair enough.

He has a top five batting percentage of .320, and leads the Majors in WAR with 9, the next best being Mookie Betts’ 7.7.

But it may be the case that we see the same narrative we have so often seen for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim centre fielder and one time MVP, that being that his team is not good enough for him to win the award.

But it’s not just that the Angels are bad. They’re terrible. Only once before has a team been this bad and had their star player win the MVP – Alex Rodriguez with the 2003 Texas Rangers.

Rodriguez only ended up winning the award because he was the standout in an otherwise fairly evenly matched pool.

The only season Trout has won the MVP – 2014 – was the only year Anaheim has made the playoffs since his career began. There’s no not chance of that happening this year, but very, very little.

Jose Altuve, second base, Houston Astros

Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros fouls off a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 4, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. Houston won 7-6. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
Jose Altuve #27 of the Houston Astros fouls off a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington on September 4, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. Houston won 7-6. (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)

I’m not saying the voting for this award won’t be close, because it definitely will, but it is still definitely Jose Altuve’s to lose.

As mentioned earlier, it may be unfair and simplistic, but a fair amount of weight will be added to the claims of Mookie Betts and Josh Donaldson given their teams’ successful seasons.

The Houston Astros are by no means terribly far behind – 5 wins behind both Toronto and the BoSox. But right now they still sit a few wins back of one of the wild card spots, and Houston missing the playoffs would be a huge dent to Alutve’s case.

The pint-sized second baseman has by far the best numbers of the group – first in the entire MLB in batting average (.351), second in AL on base percentage (.411) and third in slugging percentage (.567).

Other impressive stats include a league leading 26 stolen bases (79% success rate), second best strikeout percent and WAR at 10.3 and 7.2, third in doubles in the Al and an improvement on home runs from 15 to a career high 22.

These numbers are as impressive as they come in the Majors. Yes, all three players listed above Altuve rank above him in certain metrics, but overall, it is the Astros’ rocket who gets my nod as AL MVP.

A big September would make it almost certain.

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