We are two games into the 2020 Major League Baseball World Series, and the race for the Most Valuable Player Award is wide open! There are currently over thirty individual players that books are still taking action on to win the award, and no player has separated himself from the pack as a clear favorite.
— MLB (@MLB) October 19, 2020
First, we are going to take a quick look back at the history of the award and tell you what type of players tend to win it. And then we are going to highlight five players that show high value to win this year’s award at their current price. Let’s get started!
World Series MVP Award
The World Series started to recognize a series MVP all the way back in 1955, but the award has evolved some over the years. Originally the award was called the Sport Magazine Award, and the first winner was Brooklyn Dodgers starting pitcher Johnny Podres. That is Brooklyn Dodgers, not Los Angeles Dodgers, so, yeah, they have been giving out this award for a long time.
The MVP started out as basically an award that went to the best pitcher in the series, as twelve of the first fourteen winners were pitchers. And while pitchers are still winning the award, most recently last year’s MVP Stephen Strasburg, pitchers have won the award just six times since the turn of the century. Looking back at the last several winners, we see players from all over the field being crowned MVP. Just in the last ten years, we have seen starting pitchers, first baseman, outfielders, third baseman, shortstops, catchers, and even designated hitters win the award.
How Does A Player Win The MVP Award?
We have seen that just about every position on the field has a shot at taking home the award, but what type of performance does it take to win? Last year Strasburg made two starts for the Washington Nationals in the Fall Classic and pitched fourteen innings, allowing just four earned runs with 14 Ks and earned two winning decisions. We have seen several times recently that a pitcher has to have multiple strong outings in the series to win. One great game out of a pitcher just isn’t enough.
That isn’t necessarily the case with position players, though, as sometimes it is one big hit, particularly if that hit comes late in the series, that can get a guy the win. Remember when David Freese single-handedly won game six for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 when he tied the game up in the ninth inning with an RBI triple and then walked it off two innings later with a home run in the eleventh? Ben Zobrist won the award in a similar fashion, when he had the go-ahead RBI double in extra innings to give the Chicago Cubs the game seven win in 2016.
Ben Zobrist, the 2016 World Series MVP. pic.twitter.com/67gy55l7qR
— ESPN (@espn) November 3, 2016
Other players just have monster series from start to finish, and despite not having one shining moment that earned them the recognition, still get the nod. Think David Ortiz in 2013 for the Boston Red Sox when he hit .688. Or Hideki Matsui when he hit .615 with three homers and eight RBI in 2009 for the New York Yankees.
Players have taken multiple routes to the award, which makes it hard to nail down just what type of performance it is going to take to win this year’s World Series MVP Award. With that in mind, here are five players that I think show the most value to take home the 2020 World Series MVP Award.
Corey Seager Los Angeles Dodgers +1000
Corey Seager is fresh off of winning the MVP Award in the National League Championship Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers, when he hit five home runs and drove in eleven RBI. Seager didn’t have a magical moment, in fact, he went 0-5 in the deciding game seven, but his stats were just too strong to be ignored, and he was recognized as the championship series MVP.
Seager got on base three times in game one against Tampa Bay, albeit without picking up a hit, he had three walks, and he scored a run. In game two, he picked up two hits, including a home run late in the game that gave the Dodgers some sweat, as it tightened the game up from a three-run lead to a two-run lead. Had that homer tied the game up, or had the Dodgers come back to win game two, Seager would be the clear favorite right now.
NLCS MVP! 🏆
— Topps (@Topps) October 19, 2020
But LA lost game two, and Seager is the third favorite behind teammates Mookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw. We talked earlier about how players win the award, but one thing that we did not mention, is that the MVP is almost always on the winning team. Only Bobby Richardson in 1960, has won the award without his team winning the series, and all that guy did was hit a grand slam and drive in twelve runs.
If you think the Dodgers are going to win this series, then you need to make sure your MVP bet plays his home games in Hollywood. If you like Tampa Bay to pull off the upset, then you need to have a Ray taking home the honors.
Through two games, Seager is hitting .333 with an on-base percentage of .556 and is slugging .833. He has one home run, one RBI, two runs scored, and a stolen base. If he can continue producing at that same clip, he is a strong candidate to rack up gaudy enough stats to win even if he isn’t able to come through with a clutch hit at some point in the series. At +1000, Seager is currently the highest value play on the board.
Clayton Kershaw Los Angeles Dodgers +450
We could ramble on for hours about Clayton Kershaw’s well-documented struggles in the postseason. It seems like just about every year, the Dodgers hit the postseason as heavy favorites to win it all, only to come up short, with Kershaw getting the lion’s share of the blame when he spectacularly blows up at some point. That history has to be weighing heavily on Kershaw and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, but it didn’t stop Roberts from going to his best pitcher in game one against Tampa Bay.
Kershaw hadn’t pitched overly well in the 2020 postseason, as in his previous three starts prior to the World Series, he worked seventeen innings and allowed eight runs. That included a brutal outing against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS, where Kershaw got clubbed for four earned runs in just five innings, and the Dodgers got blown out. But Dave Roberts never seems to care much for the numbers and started Kershaw in game one anyway, and he was spectacular.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 21, 2020
Kershaw pitched six innings and gave up just one earned run on only two hits while striking out eight. It was a vintage Kershaw performance, and he led his team to victory. Potentially more importantly, for the Dodger’s chances of winning this series, he gave the LA bullpen a much-needed break after they were used and abused in the NLCS. What makes Kershaw such an attractive play right now is that he is very likely going to start game five on full rest.
We don’t know exactly how this series will play out, but game five could potentially be an elimination game for LA. If Kershaw can have another solid performance, and pick up his second win in five games, and clinch the Dodgers first World Series title since 1988, you might as well give him the award right now. There are a lot of what-ifs in that scenario, but no player has a clearer path to winning than Kershaw does.
One other scenario that could lead Kershaw to win would be if he pitches well in game five, and the series ends up going to a game seven. Kershaw would be on two day’s rest, but could be called on to work out of the bullpen, as LA has used him like that in the past.
Randy Johnson came out of the bullpen for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001 to pick up his third win of that series in relief, and with how this series lays out, we could see something similar out of Kershaw this year. On the other side of the coin, playoff Kershaw could reappear, and he could get hammered in game five, and would then be completely out of the running. There is still a lot of work to do, but this could be the year that Kershaw finally exercises those demons and breaks through.
Brandon Lowe Tampa Bay Rays +2200
Brandon Lowe didn’t get a hit in game one of the World Series, but with Tampa Bay managing just six hits on the night, most of these Rays players didn’t get a hit in game one. But Lowe more than made up for it last night, as he was the hero of game two for Tampa Bay. Lowe set the tone in game two when he smashed a first-inning home run off of Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin. Lowe then followed that up with a second home run in the fifth inning, this time a two-run blast, to give the Rays a 5-0 lead, that they never gave up.
Lowe’s name was being tossed around in the AL MVP talk early in the season when he hit nine home runs in the month of August. But after a late-season slump that saw him hit just one home run in his last eleven games, he fell from regular-season MVP consideration. Lowe had been hitting terrible in the postseason before last night’s explosion, as he was hitting just .109 in fifteen games.
We saw in August that when this kid gets hot, he has absolutely hit the baseball hard, and if he can find a way to put a couple more balls in the stands and the Rays win the series, he is going to be right near the top of the MVP conversation. Lowe also fits a mold of player that the committee likes to reward from time to time. We have seen several instances in the past where a relative unknown wins the award.
It just got Lowe’d here pic.twitter.com/rxWuiK3uhr
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 22, 2020
In 2018, Steven Pearce won the award for the Boston Red Sox, despite being nowhere near the best hitter or biggest name on the Boston roster. Ben Zobrist had a great career as a utility guy, but he only hit more than twenty home runs in a season once, and his 2016 World Series MVP Award is clearly the highlight of his career.
Other players that weren’t exactly household names when they won the award are Scot Brosius, David Eckstein, Mike Lowell, and David Freese. That’s not to say these guys weren’t good players, but the World Series features the best talent in the game, and none of those guys were the best player on their team, just like Brandon Lowe isn’t this year for Tampa Bay.
Diego Castillo Tampa Bay Rays +10000
Here is an interesting guy that most people aren’t talking about right now, Tampa Bay Rays closer Diego Castillo. It isn’t surprising that Castillo isn’t on most people radar’s in this series just yet, as he has only thrown three pitches in this series. So, why do I think that Castillo is worth a lottery ticket type of play at 100-1 odds? Well, first off, he is absolutely nasty on the mound.
Those three pitches he came in and threw in game two last night were the stuff hitters have nightmares about. 98-MPH fastball that paints the corner? Check. Wicked breaking ball that makes the hitter look silly on a check swing to strikeout and end the game? Check. A huge save that helped turn the tide of this series? Check.
Even Steven pic.twitter.com/sL7Rd5cZPG
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 22, 2020
Castillo has been basically unhittable all season long, and while he wasn’t the closer for much of the year, the Rays incumbent closer, Nick Anderson, has been getting pounded in the postseason, and Castillo looks to be the guy the Rays are going to lean on for late inning outs in this series. In eight postseason appearances this year, Castillo has pitched 8.1 innings and has allowed just one earned run, and has eleven strikeouts.
In his postseason career, all coming with Tampa Bay in the last two seasons, Castillo has made twelve appearances and has a 0.63 ERA in 14.1 innings to show for it. He has nineteen Ks in those fourteen and a third innings of work and is a pitcher that can be called upon to set guys down late in the game. Castillo is going to need to get a lot more work in this series if he wants a real chance at winning, but he is only going to win the award if the Rays win the series, and the Rays are only going to win this series if they need a closer to finish out games.
There isn’t a lot of history of relievers winning the award, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented. John Wetland won in 1996 for the New York Yankees when he had four saves, and Mariano Rivera won in 1999, again for New York, when he pitched 4.2 scoreless innings and picked up a win and two saves. Castillo has the stuff to get the job done, now he just needs the opportunity. It is high risk, high reward, but if Castillo can pick up a save again in game three tomorrow night, the odds on him are going to drop significantly.
Charlie Morton Tampa Bay Rays +2500
I know, I know, it is hard to back a guy to win the MVP Award when he has yet to make a single appearance in the series, but hear me out here. Charlie Morton is a proven postseason winner. This year, he has made three starts for the Rays in the playoffs and is a perfect 3-0 with a 0.57 ERA. It doesn’t get much better than that. The Rays turned to Morton in a must-win elimination game in game seven of the ALCS against the Houston Astros, and all Morton did was pitched 5.2 innings and allow no runs on just two hits with six Ks.
When you look back at Morton’s history pitching in elimination games, he has always found a way to pitch his best when everything is on the line for his team. In elimination games, Morton is 4-0 with a 0.46 ERA in four starts. He became just the fifth pitcher ever to have five consecutive playoff starts while giving up one earned run or fewer in each of them.
— MLB (@MLB) October 18, 2020
We know that this guy can pitch, and in the playoffs, he is on another level. But the reason I like him so much right now is where he falls in this Rays rotation. Morton is going to get the start tomorrow night in game three. Assuming he can continue his absolutely absurd level of production in the postseason, and pitch well, and win in game three, he will potentially be set up for another appearance in this series.
If this series goes seven games, Charlie Morton is nearly certain to be on the mound for Tampa Bay. On top of what he has done in elimination games in the past, he will be on full rest, and assuming that he pitches well in game three, could end up being the hero of this series in game seven. Morton could have that combination of great stats, and a big moment with a game seven win, that would easily put him over the top for the MVP Award.
Clutch Charlie pic.twitter.com/t5ADCTXJdF
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) October 18, 2020
I know there is a lot of what-ifs in this scenario, and several things have to go right for Morton to even have a shot to pitch in a game seven, let alone win it. But something about this Rays team tells me that they aren’t going to go away as quietly as most people think.
If the Dodgers are staring down the barrel of a fired-up Rays team with Charlie Morton pitching in a spot that he is never not amazing, they are going to be in really bad shape. It’s a gamble, but you have to make the play now because if you wait until after Morton dazzles in game three, the odds will drop so much that he may no longer be worth a play.
For those of you that are paying extra close attention, you may have noticed that I have more Rays on this list than I do Dodgers. I talked above about the fact that the player winning the award has to be on the team winning the series, so I guess maybe some of you have caught on to the fact that I am picking the upset in this series, as I see the Rays winning it in seven games.
When you are looking to make prop bets like this one, you have to go with your gut on how you think the rest of the series is going to play out. Maybe you hedge your bets just a little by taking your favorite player from both teams and have a shot no matter what team wins. Or maybe you take a stand, have an opinion, and fire hard on one side to win the series and only back their players. That’s the stance I am going to take.
They always say that fortune favors the bold, and this late in the year is not the time to be afraid of having a strong opinion. Thanks for reading, and make sure that you stay tuned to TheSportsGeek all week long, where we will bring you all of the sharp betting advice that you need to make money betting on the 2020 Major League Baseball World Series!