The 2010s decade produced a number of memorable American League MVP seasons. Here, I will attempt to rank them all, from 2010-2019. By nature of them all being MVP seasons, I will be splitting hairs, so I’ll do my best to explain my reasoning in each case.
10) Jose Altuve (2017)
I can comfortably put Jose Altuve’s American League MVP season in last place, and that’s disregarding the whole ‘Houston Astros cheating’ thing. There’s a pretty strong argument to be made that Aaron Judge deserved the award over Altuve in 2017. Let’s look at some stats.
Altuve had a much more attractive batting average, but other than that, what is the argument for him over Judge? Aaron Judge was better at getting on base, better at scoring runs, and better at driving in runs. He was worth more Wins Above Replacement than Altuve. At the very least, there’s no way Altuve should have garnered a 96% share of the vote – a near unanimous selection. The Yankees slugger was a more valuable player than Altuve in 2017. Throw in the whole Astros scandal and it’s not close.
9) Mike Trout (2014)
This was one of the worst seasons of Mike Trout’s career, and he still walked away with the American League MVP Award. That just goes to show how incredible he is, but by Trout standards it falls short of his other MVP seasons. He finished with a career low in batting average outside of the shortened 2020 season (.287) and on-base percentage (.377). He also led the American League in strikeouts. Crazy that his down year would be a career year for so many other players. Still a solid season, and it’s worth noting that Trout probably got some slack from voters who knew he got boxed out by Miguel Cabrera in the two years prior.
8) Miguel Cabrera (2012)
Miguel won the Triple Crown this season, which is certainly an impressive feat, but this wasn’t even his best MVP season. Trout blew everyone out of the water in terms of WAR in 2012, but Cabrera’s statistical accumulation ultimately put him on top for most voters. Miggy led the league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in, slugging percentage, OPS, and total bases. The first Triple Crown since 1967 took home the award this time around, and it was certainly deserved, but Cabrera had even more in the tank for the next season.
7) Josh Donaldson (2015)
This is one of those years where it probably should have gone to Mike Trout, but the Angels organization held him back and LA missed the playoffs by a game. Donaldson, on the other hand, led the Blue Jays to an AL East title and paced the American League in RBI, runs, and total bases. He also finished with multiple career-highs, including a .568 slugging percentage and 41 home runs. Trout lapped everyone in WAR, but the Bringer of Rain put together a very memorable year, especially for Toronto fans.
6) Mike Trout (2019)
Alex Bregman had Trout beat out for WAR, but Trout was far and away the best hitter in baseball this year. He led the American League in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS+, hitting a career-high 45 home runs with a career second-best 104 RBI. He did all that despite missing almost a fifth of the season with a foot injury. Mike Trout did enough in his 134 games to earn the American League MVP Award, clearly separating himself as the best hitter in the league.
5) Miguel Cabrera (2013)
This is the season where Miguel Cabrera didn’t win the Triple Crown, but he had a much more impressive statistical year. Compared to his 2012 year, 2013 Cabrera had a higher WAR, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage with the same number of home runs and just two fewer RBI. He led all of MLB in batting average, OBP, and slugging. This was peak Miggy.
4) Josh Hamilton (2010)
People forget just how awesome Josh Hamilton was in his peak years. His 8.7 WAR in 2010 was the third-highest among all AL MVPs this decade. He won the batting title, hitting .359 with a league-leading .633 slugging percentage. His career-high 1.044 OPS led the majors. Hamilton also hit 32 home runs and knocked in 100 runs. His complete offensive dominance helped lead the Rangers to the playoffs.
3) Justin Verlander (2011)
A pitcher winning the MVP Award is uncommon, and it takes a truly exceptional year for them to win the honor. There have only been four seasons since 1985 in which a pitcher won both the Cy Young Award and the MVP Award. Verlander’s 2011 campaign should be considered among the greatest American League MVP seasons of the last 20 years. He led the major leagues in wins, starts, innings pitched, strikeouts, ERA+, WHIP, and hits per nine innings. Verlander compiled 250 strikeouts and posted a 2.40 ERA. Easily up there with the most impressive individual seasons by a pitcher of all time.
2) Mike Trout (2016)
Mike Trout is the greatest player of this generation, and 2016 was one of the greatest seasons of his career. He led the American League in on-base percentage, runs, walks, and OPS+ while slashing .315/.441/.550 and producing a 10.5 WAR. He hit 29 home runs, tallied 100 RBI, and stole 30 bases over 159 games. Trout did it all this year, on both offense and defense. Of course, the Los Angeles Angels squandered his productivity and missed the playoffs.
1) Mookie Betts (2018)
Mike Trout was undoubtedly the best player of the 2010s, but Mookie Betts had the greatest individual season of the decade. He registered the highest WAR of any MVP since Barry Bonds in 2002 with 10.7 Wins Above Replacement. Among all these other American League MVP seasons, Betts had the second-highest batting average, third-highest on-base percentage, and second-highest slugging percentage. He hit 32 home runs, stole 30 bases, and won both a Gold Glove Award and Silver Slugger Award. He is also the only player on this list other than Altuve to have won the World Series in his MVP year. Betts’ incredible all-around play fueled Boston’s 108-win season. Imagine how insane this year would look if he didn’t miss 26 games with an injury. Plus, he was able to beat out Mike Trout, who had one of the best seasons of his career in 2018.
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