Betts claimed the MVP award after an all-around, wire-to-wire performance that helped the Red Sox win the most games in the majors before they captured their fourth championship in 15 years. Yelich was similarly electric from start to finish, but he was particularly productive as the Brewers made their unlikely late-season push to win the NL Central. Betts beat out Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout and Cleveland Indians third baseman Jose Ramirez; Yelich bested Chicago Cubs second baseman Javier Baez and Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado.
Twenty-eight of 30 first-place votes went to Betts on the AL ballot; Trout received one and finished well behind Betts in second place. (Boston slugger J.D. Martinez, who finished fourth, got the other first-place vote.) Yelich received 29 first-place votes, with the other going to New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom, who won the Cy Young Award on Wednesday. Washington Nationals starter Max Scherzer, who finished second in Cy Young voting, was 10th on the MVP list after receiving two third-place votes. Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon finished 11th.
“There were just a lot of things that went right,” Betts said on a conference call with reporters Thursday night.
“It was awesome to share it with close friends and family, and people who had a huge impact for most of my life,” said Yelich, who watched the announcement from his home in Southern California, wearing a Los Angeles Fire Department hat. “I told them this moment is as much about them as it is about myself, and we can all share it together.”
Betts was named MVP as the centerpiece of the World Series champions, considered one of the more dynamic teams in baseball history after the Red Sox tore through the New York Yankees, Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers in the postseason. Betts led the majors with a .346 batting average — 16 points ahead of Martinez. He also scored 129 runs, drove in 80, smacked 32 home runs batting leadoff and stole 30 bases. Betts was also dynamic in right field, collecting his second Gold Glove award last week, and he led all players with 10.4 wins above replacement, according to FanGraphs.
Betts’s win was not the only accomplishment on the AL side. Trout finished in the top two of AL voting for the sixth time in his seven full major league seasons, an unprecedented run that included a rookie of the year award at 20, MVP awards in 2014 and 2016, and now four runner-up finishes. In 2017, the only season he was outside of the top two, the 27-year-old finished fourth. Trout led the AL with 122 walks and a .460 on-base percentage, hit .312 and finished with 39 home runs, But that amounted to just 79 RBI, largely because of the inept Angels offense surrounding him. He likely would have needed higher run production (though he did score 101 himself) to edge Betts for the award. Betts finished second in MVP voting in 2016 and finally got to the top Thursday.
“Obviously I wanted to win [in 2016], just being in that spot,” Betts said. “You never know if you’ll ever make it back, so I’m just taking it in. It’s everything I imagined and more.”
Yelich grabbed the NL’s top honor by leading the league with a .326 average, a .598 slugging percentage and a 1.000 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. He hit 36 home runs, posted 110 RBI, scored 118 runs and finished with 34 doubles, seven triples and 22 stolen bases. Like Betts, he was a reliable defensive presence in the outfield and anchored a surprising Brewers team that won an NL-high 96 regular season games and finished one victory short of the pennant.
Baez hit .290 with 34 home runs and a league-high 111 RBI. Arenado was right behind him and deGrom finished with a microscopic 1.70 ERA, but the writers decided Yelich was the near-unquestioned choice to stand with Betts above everyone else.
“If I knew that was going to happen, I would have been a lot less nervous than I actually was,” Yelich said of getting all but one first-place vote. “I was pretty nervous going into it, but obviously I had my friends and family around, and you’re hoping for the best. But it’s an honor.”