After winning the American League MVP award and leading the Boston Red Sox to the World Series title in 2018, the “hit man” and one of Major League Baseball’s superstar outfielders, Mookie Betts, has been on a roll lately, leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to the 2020 shortened season title.
This season, despite playing 20 games at shortstop and second base due to team logistics, Betts has put up stellar numbers at the plate, hitting .286/.387/.592 (2nd in NL) with 27 home runs (2nd in NL), 65 RBI, a wRC+ of 164 and a bWAR of 4.5 (2nd in NL in wins above replacement per Baseball Reference). Betts is making a strong push to become just the second player in history to win a bi-league MVP award and his first career home run title.
Betts’ tremendous play has helped the Dodgers, who at one point slipped to third place in the NL West, four games behind the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks, go on a 14-6 run since June 20 to take over the division lead with a two-game lead over Arizona.
Betts improves against breaking balls, becomes NL’s best slugger
A big reason Betts was named MVP in 2018 was because he was strong against breaking pitches (curveballs, sliders, knuckleballs, and sweepers), with an OPS of .950.
Betts also has a career OPS of 0.810 against breaking-ball pitches, which is higher than average, but his OPS against them this season is a whopping 1.037. Not only that, but he has hit 11 home runs against breaking-ball pitches, which is even better than his MVP season.
With this significant improvement against breaking ball pitches, Betts, whose career single-season high was 35 last season, has 27 home runs so far this season in 90 games. He’s on pace for his first career 40-homer season, as well as his first career NL batting title, trailing Atlanta’s Matt Olson by three.
A big reason Betts has been hitting so well against breaking-ball pitches this season is that he’s generating a career-high 44 percent of his batted balls for hard contact (batted balls traveling at least 153 mph) against these pitches.
Betts has been particularly strong against breaking balls in the lower part of the strike zone this season (1.575 OPS with 8 home runs in those pitches), which is a result of his more extreme upper-swing than in previous years, as evidenced by the percentage of ground balls he’s hit this season (28%, the lowest in the league).
Some might say that Betts is a flawless hitter this season, as he’s posted a very respectable 1.002 OPS against high fastballs, which are often a weakness of upper-swinging hitters. 안전놀이터
Betts’ bat on fire, competing for MVP with Acuña
Betts led the Dodgers to a shortened season in 2020, his first season after signing a 12-year, $365 million contract with the team, but the next two seasons he was either injured or struggled mightily in the postseason. Betts’ performance was a bit of a disappointment compared to the very high expectations he had when he signed his contract.
This season, however, Betts has been tremendous, leading the Dodgers back to the top of the standings and proving himself to be one of the league’s superstars.
Betts’ stellar performance has reignited the NL MVP race, which had been dominated by Acuña. So far, Acuña (1.007 OPS) has the edge in the race, but it’s not out of the question that Betts could become the second player in history to win both leagues’ MVP awards if he surpasses the 50-homer mark for the first time in his career.
Despite his average size, Betts has been a fearsome home run producer this season, but can he become the best slugger in the NL? As Betts evolves into a slugger, many Major League Baseball fans will be interested to see if he can win his first home run title and the second bi-league MVP award of his career.