The World Series is one of the most celebrated season-ending championships in all of world sports. It’s certainly one of the oldest continual championships, having produced winners every year since 1903. Winning a World Series ring is a big deal for players and fans of the winning team – just playing in a World Series game can be a career-defining moment for a pro baseball player.
Predicting the World Series MVP Award means figuring out who is likely to win the award and placing a bet on that person. Betting on a future award winner doesn’t have to be a crazy gamble. You can look at past award winners and other betting trends to help you make an informed decision.
The list of World Series MVP winners is small, and it’s saturated with the names of giants of the sport. Today’s post is all about helping people make intelligent predictions about the possible winner of the award. I’ll share some of my personal trend analysis and strategy so that your bet on this MLB season award can be a confident one with a decent chance of paying off.
World Series MVP Award History
Let’s start with the award’s full name.
As of 2018, the award given to the best player in the World Series is known as the Willie Mays World Series MVP Award. It was named in honor of Willie Mays, and the award’s trophy now depicts Mays’ iconic 1954 World Series catch. It’s so iconic, it’s known simply as The Catch.
In a now-famous photo showing the play, you can see Mays body stretch balletically toward the outfield fence, where (just feet from colliding with the wall) Mays’ glove is just milliseconds from catching Vic Wertz’ deep fly ball. It’s a ridiculous over-the-shoulder on-the-run out that has no equal to this day in MLB history.
Without that catch, the Giants lose Game 1, and a Cinderella World Series sweep against the much-favored 1954 Cleveland Indians (who’d won a then-record 111 games out of 154) never happens.
Given every year since 1955, the World Series MVP Award is meant to go to the player who had “the most impact” on his team’s performance in the sport’s final championship. The award is decided by what MLB will only describe as “a committee of reporters and officials present at the game.”
Over the past 65 years, we’ve had 68 World Series MVP Award winners, due to multiple awards handed out in a couple of seasons. Analyzing the positional trends and other features of these winners can help us make smart bets and avoid throwing good money after bad on a reckless proposition.
World Series MVP Award Trends
Baseball is nothing if not a statistically rich sport. We’ve got years of trends and statistics we can analyze when considering who might win the Willie Mays Award.
The three trends below can turn making a World Series MVP Award bet from a goofy risk to an informed part of your betting strategy.
A Pitcher is Most Likely to Win
29 of the 68 MVP Award winners have been pitchers. That means pitchers win this award about 42% of the time. Just four of those 29 players were relievers, meaning that this award goes to starting pitchers more often than any other position.
Use this knowledge when handicapping the World Series MVP Award race – a starting pitcher is far more likely than any other player to win, and you should bet accordingly.
As a caveat, I’d like to point out a trend that’s developing slowly but surely related to pitcher MVPs. Since the year 2000, we’ve only had 5 starting pitcher winners – and these were for spectacular performances. Remember Curt Schilling and the bloody sock? In fact, more third baseman (7) than pitchers have won the award in the last 21 seasons.
Some Positions Almost Never Win
I can only find one second baseman to ever win the championship MVP – the Yankees’ Bobby Richardson in 1960, who won on the strength of a .367 batting average, 12 RBIs, and a pivotal grand slam at the top of Game 3. You can pretty much write Richardson’s win off as an anomaly. He’s literally the only player from a losing World Series team to ever be named the Series MVP.
While we’re on the subject of basemen, only three MVPs played first base – Willie Stargell did it for the Pirates in 1979 with a ridiculous .400 BA, and Donn Clendenon did it with the Mets in ’69 by hitting three HRs in a five-game series, a feat only equaled in 2008 by Ryan Howard.
The only first baseman to win the MVP award in the past 42 seasons was Steve Pearce of the Boston Red Sox, whose 1.167 slugging percentage and two homeruns in the final game of the series made him the obvious choice. Pearce is also an outlier, the very definition of a streaky player, with freak stat years peppering an otherwise obscure career.
I can only find two players who’ve won the Series MVP as designated hitters, but that’s understandable since the position didn’t exist before 1973-1974. It’s also worth noting that both DH winners have occurred in the past 12 seasons. I suppose you could build a betting strategy around the relatively higher likelihood of a DH winning the award overall.
Catchers May Soon Get Their Due
The Royals’ Salvador Perez won the World Series MVP Award as a catcher, turning in a .364 BA while catching all 51 innings of the series. Before Perez, the most recent winner from the catcher position was Pat Borders for the Blue Jays in 1992, and all he had to do was record a .450 BA and hit an uncharacteristic go-ahead home run in a pivotal Game 4.
The late 70s and early 80s were the heyday of the MLB pitcher, with 5 World Series MVP Awards won by catchers between 1972 and 1983. Guys like Johnny Bench and Steve Yeager were as much a part of those team’s batteries as their starting pitchers. With starting pitching once again rising to dominance over solid hitting, expect teams to value the guys with the catcher’s mitts. We could see another catcher’s renaissance in the near future.
World Series MVP Award Betting Strategy
Here are some tips from my own experience placing bets on the Willie Mays World Series MVP Award.
Over the past ten seasons, the only MVP winners that I would consider superstars are Madison Bumgarner in 2014 and Stephen Strasburg in 2019. The other guys are all solid players, but they’re not the sort of names that kids want to see on their baseball card. Did anybody outside of St. Louis know the name David Freeze before he won the Willie Mays Award? I doubt it. It’s not usually the biggest name that wins the prize, and you can almost guarantee that the winner will hit around fifth or sixth in the batting order.
Consider Taking “the Field”
Think about it – an award that goes to a relative unknown is the perfect chance to take the field over the book’s preferred winner. I’d take the field over a team’s top hitter in literally any World Series, just based on recent history and the dynamics of the game of baseball. In most situations, MLB betting sites recognize this trend and you won’t get a great number taking the field over a 1st or 2nd big bat. When the opportunity arises and you like the odds, bounce on it.
Ignore Closers and Relievers
Mariano Rivera won the Willie Mays MVP Award in 1999 as a closer, and for good reason. He put the lights out with 5 scoreless innings, 2 saves, and 3 critical Ks. But we’re not likely to see a non-starting pitcher win the award for a while. The reason is complicated, but just look to the award trends for confirmation. Before Rivera, you’d have to go all the way back to Rollie Fingers’ 1974 award, based on 6 Ks and 2 saves in critical games, to find another winning reliever. These guys just aren’t as critical to a team’s success as they used to be.
Betting on the eventual winner of the MLB World Series MVP Award winner means making futures bets. That’s a prop bet, something that a lot of bettors are scared to take part in.
I think this kind of bet can be handicapped as effectively as any straight-up or run line wager. A little bit of analysis, some knowledge of trends, and an effective bankroll strategy are all that you need to avoid the pitfalls of MLB season awards betting and take advantage of value available in the World Series MVP lines at your favorite sportsbook.