Eric Hosmer is having a career season for the Royals, putting up the kind of offensive numbers fans envisioned when Dayton Moore made him the #3 overall selection in the 2008 draft. With the Royals in pennant contention led by Hosmer's hitting, there has been talk that perhaps Hosmer could be in the running for American League Most Valuable Player.
Weekly reminder that Eric Hosmer is your AL MVP— Jourdan Case (@TheJourdanCase) June 11, 2016
Hosmer is a legitimate MVP candidate. That I'm pretty sure of— Cody Tapp (@codybtapp) June 1, 2016
"I think he's going to win the MVP this year" - Mike Sweeney on Eric Hosmer #Royals— 610 Sports Radio- KC (@610SportsKC) June 3, 2016
Does Hosmer have a chance to become the only Royals player in history besides George Brett in 1980 to win MVP? Let's take a look at some of the leading contenders, as well as what Westgate Sports Book has as its most recent AL MVP odds.
|Manny Machado BAL||+300||.317||.380||.605||17||42||158||3.6|
|Robinson Cano SEA||+350||.298||.350||.564||19||53||149||3.2|
|Mookie Betts BOS||+700||.290||.338||.515||14||49||122||3.2|
|Mike Trout LAA||+1000||.302||.409||.540||14||47||161||3.4|
|David Ortiz BOS||+1200||.342||.421||.715||18||59||193||3.2|
|Xander Bogaerts BOS||+1500||.352||.400||.520||9||46||141||3.5|
|Mark Trumbo BAL||+1500||.279||.330||.555||20||51||131||1.0|
|Eric Hosmer KCR||+2000||.320||.380||.523||12||44||138||1.5|
|Todd Frazier CHW||+2000||.198||.296||.449||19||44||104||1.0|
|Jose Altuve HOU||+2000||.341||.422||.537||10||38||161||3.7|
|George Springer HOU||+2000||.268||.354||.472||15||41||124||3.0|
|Josh Donaldson TOR||+2500||.278||.390||.571||17||46||155||4.0|
What the odds mean is that if you bet $1 on Manny Machado at +300, you will win $3.00 if he wins MVP. Some of the odds are a bit curious, for example Todd Frazier is hitting under the Mendoza Line and has been less valuable than Paulo Orlando, by WAR, but he is second in the league in home runs, I suppose. Other players having seasons worthy of MVP discussion would include Michael Saunders, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz, Evan Longoria, Carlos Beltran, and even Salvador Perez, who has nearly twice as much WAR as Hosmer at 2.7.
But it is Eric Hosmer who has garnered the MVP talk, most likely because he has become the face of the franchise with his iconic run home in last year's World Series, the fact he plays a marquee position, and his good lucks and penchant for the spotlight don't hurt. He has put up excellent numbers this year, but are they MVP-type numbers? He is currently fifth in the league in batting average, ninth in on-base percentage, 19th in slugging percentage, 25th in home runs, 17th in RBI, and 30th in WAR (according to Baseball-Reference). Do these numbers stack up?
Let's look at the numbers of the last fifteen MVP hitters (pitcher Justin Verlander won MVP in 2011).
|2015||3B Josh Donaldson||.297||.371||.568||41||123||152||8.8|
|2014||CF Mike Trout||.287||.377||.561||36||111||168||7.9|
|2013||1B Miguel Cabrera||.348||.442||.636||44||137||190||7.3|
|2012||1B Miguel Cabrera||.330||.393||.606||44||139||164||7.2|
|2010||LF Josh Hamilton||.359||.411||.633||32||100||170||8.7|
|2009||C Joe Mauer||.365||.444||.587||28||96||171||7.8|
|2008||2B Dustin Pedroia||.326||.376||.493||17||83||123||6.9|
|2007||3B Alex Rodriguez||.314||.422||.645||54||156||176||9.4|
|2006||1B Justin Morneau||.321||.375||.559||34||130||140||4.3|
|2005||3B Alex Rodriguez||.321||.421||.610||48||130||173||9.4|
|2004||RF Vladimir Guerrero||.337||.391||.598||39||126||157||5.6|
|2003||SS Alex Rodriguez||.298||.396||.600||47||118||147||8.4|
|2002||SS Miguel Tejada||.308||.354||.508||34||131||128||5.6|
|2001||RF Ichiro Suzuki||.350||.381||.457||8||69||126||7.7|
|2000||1B Jason Giambi||.333||.476||.647||43||137||187||7.7|
Eric Hosmer's current numbers would put him on a pace to hit .320/.380/.523 with 28 HR 103 RBI and 3.5 WAR. Those numbers would be comparable to Dustin Pedroia in 2008, but that year was a flat year for offensive performance, with no player eclipsing 7.0 WAR or a 1.000 OPS. Pedroia also played second base, a position that requires a lower bar offensively than first base. Ten first basemen have won American League MVP since 1969, not a single one has hit fewer than 30 home runs.
It should be considered that Eric Hosmer is a Gold Glove-winning first baseman, even if the metrics disagree that his defense is the best in the league. However, first base defense is not revered all that much. Mark Teixeira won one of his five Gold Gloves in 2009, led the league in home runs AND RBI for a team that won 103 games, and he finished second to Joe Mauer.
What will help Eric Hosmer is the sportswriter narrative. Hosmer is the flashy leader of the Royals, a team in contention despite many obstacles (injuries, poor pitching, no hitting from DH, etc.). However Hosmer is hardly the only player with narrative on his side, as David Ortiz will be helped mightily by being in his last season, Manny Machado will be credited with Baltimore's surprising performance, Robinson Cano will be credited if Seattle makes the playoffs, and Mike Trout is Mike Trout.
Eric Hosmer is having a fantastic season, a legitimate All-Star season, but he is probably a far cry from MVP unless he comes up with a monster second-half. Knowing how streaky Hosmer can be at times, it wouldn't be out of the question to see him come up with that kind of performance. But as for now, he is probably a long-shot, who will perhaps be in the top ten in voting, but may not even get the most votes among Royals players if Salvador Perez continues to hit.