clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NL MVP race: How MLB season so far has impacted odds

We discuss the NL MVP race as the 2023 regular season enters its final month.

Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves at bat during a 3-1 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on September 03, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Labor Day has come and gone, which means we’re about to enter the sprint to the regular-season finish. With so much riding on every game, everything players do is magnified; this is the time where playoff spots — and individual awards — are won and lost. And in no awards race is that more true than NL MVP, which has a chance to be among the most compelling battles we’ve seen since Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera in 2012: Ronald Acuna Jr. has been the frontrunner since April, putting together power/speed numbers the likes of which the Majors have literally never seen ... and yet he might not even be the best right fielder in his own league, given what Mookie Betts has done for the Dodgers during the second half.

September is here, and there’s precious little time left for these two to build their arguments. So, just like we did back in late August, let’s take a look at how the past few weeks and have impacted the NL MVP race over at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Updated NL MVP odds as of Tuesday, September 5

Ronald Acuna Jr. -210 Mookie Betts +140 Freddie Freeman +3500
Matt Olson +15000 Luis Arraez +20000 Bryce Harper +20000
Cody Bellinger +20000

The bar was always going to be extremely high for Freeman (and Olson) given their lack of defensive and base-running value relative to the other contenders, and sure enough, they’ve fallen off the pace a bit over the last few weeks. So that leaves us with a two-man race: Acuna Jr. and Betts, going mano a mano down the stretch. Acuna Jr. and the Braves made a compelling statement this past weekend, swatting two homers while helping his team take three of four from Betts and the Dodgers in L.A. Still, Betts is in the midst of an all-time heater, batting nearly .400 in the second half while doing just about everything (and playing just about everywhere) for Los Angeles. These are probably the two best non-Ohtani players in the game, but who represents the best value for bettors?

NL MVP race: Takeaways and best bets

Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers (+140)

As amazing as Acuna Jr. is and has been, I still think Betts is going to win out in the end. Though his metrics have been diminished somewhat by the Dodgers’ need to move him around — from right to center to second base to even shortstop — Betts remains the better and more valuable defender, meaning that Acuna Jr. has to be the clearly better hitter in order to overtake him for the title of league MVP. The Braves superstar simply hasn’t done that: Betts leads him by some 30 points of OPS and nine points of OPS+, with almost identical OBPs but a significant edge in SLG. The fact is that Acuna Jr.’s gaudy stolen-base total, and the novelty of becoming baseball’s first-ever 30/70 man — certainly nothing to sneeze at — is the thing that’s buoying his candidacy, and given the inflation of steals around the league in the first year under a drastically different set of rules, I think voters will discount that somewhat. Stats like WAR have also become more and more decisive in these sorts of debates, and Betts has a healthy lead in bWAR at the moment (7.9 vs. 6.8). Maybe Betts cools off over the final weeks, but if he doesn’t, voters will look at the season-long resumes and decide that the Dodgers star is more deserving of the honor.