Breaking Blue 2015 AL MVP

The final installment of our awards series, one that will surely resonate with Jays fans, the American League MVP.

John Havok – Josh Donaldson

Mike Trout made this very close by the end of the season. At the end of August, Donaldson had this award in the bag due to his hot stretch and Trout’s cold snap. Then September happened and Trout was on fire, leading his team on a near miraculous run to fall just 1 game short of the second AL Wildcard spot. Had the Angels got in, I think the MVP conversation would be very different. Trout actually leads Donaldson in nearly every rate stat there is, and only trails him in counting stats like RBI and runs scored by large margins. The thing with those two stats though, they are also largely due to other players in the lineup around a player, and there’s no question who had the better surrounding cast. There’s a legitimate argument for Mike Trout, but what tips the scales for me is Donaldson’s WPA(win probability added) and RE24(for those unfamiliar, its a measure of run expectancy from the start of play, to the end of play). His marks in both stats led the American League whereas Trout was second in both stats. Donaldson gets my vote for 2015, but I will say that if I were building a team from the ground up tomorrow Trout would be my first choice.

Spencer Estey – Josh Donaldson

Donaldson leads the American League in context-based offensive statistics like RE24 and WPA, and exceeded his primary opponent, Mike Trout, in defensive value according to UZR and DRS. His context-free aggregate stats (e.g. wRC+, WAR) are comparable to Trout and the other league leaders and he exceeded the values of those other players when considering context. Donaldson will win the award and some will brand that as a function of his team making the playoffs, but I really do believe that he was more valuable to the Blue Jays than Trout was to the Angels in 2015.

André Godin – Josh Donaldson

This is probably Jays’ fan bias speaking but I feel that Donaldson was the story of the season. The fact that someone of his calibre was even traded was a huge story in and of itself but then he went to prove emphatically that there was really absolutely no reason for it to happen. He delivered an MVP calibre season and led the Jays to their first post-season berth in nearly a quarter of a century. Not everyone agrees about the purpose of this award and how much stats should factor into the decision but this race is a statistical dead heat anyways so you have to consider other factors.

Nikolai Ballevski – Josh Donaldson

Donaldson and Trout are so close in Fangraphs’ “dashboard” sabermetric stats. The AL is lucky to have three super close awards races this year in the MVP, ROY, and Cy Young.
The facts that Trout ended up edging Donaldson in WAR by 0.3 wins and batting average by a hair aren’t enough to overcome Donaldson’s leads in context dependent stats (RE24, WPA), certain traditional stats (RBI, Runs), and the MLB standings. Donaldson also has the narrative on his side since he was traded to Toronto in the offseason and he can be viewed as the single biggest reason that Toronto is finally in the playoffs again. I think Donaldson will win the AL MVP and I think it will be justified. At this rate, we might look back at Trout’s 20 year career some day and wonder why he *only* won like, 7 MVP awards.

For an award that really does have 2 clear choices, both with great arguments I’m surprised we came to a consensus on Donaldson, even though this is a Jays’ blog. Donaldson did perform decent in the playoffs, but didn’t have any standout moments like some other bat-flipping Jays’ players, but his 2015 season as a whole was one that will have Toronto fans talking all winter long while looking ahead to 2016 and another deep run into the playoffs.

Featured image courtesy of

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Author: John Havok

I've been a baseball fan since the mid 1980's when I was finally old enough to understand and follow the game. I love new sabermetric analytics since it forces people to question and in many cases debunk longstanding "truths" of baseball. I'm currently in the insurance industry, and in my spare time I watch any and all baseball I can find, and annoy my wife to death by then talking, arguing, and writing about it.

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