Why One NL MVP Longshot May Not Be One For Much Longer

Written By Stephen Andress on June 1, 2021 - Last Updated on June 2, 2021

Baseball writers have become increasingly analytical in their voting for awards, and through two months of the season, 2021 NL MVP odds have not caught up with advanced statistical leaders like Max Muncy.

Through April and May, it feels like the one baseball awards market that is unsettled. Each of the others already have big favorites. Angels pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani is a favorite to win AL MVP. Among pitchers, Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole is a favorite to win AL Cy Young, with Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom a favorite to win NL Cy Young.

Then there’s the 2021 NL MVP odds. The Padres’ charismatic young star Fernando Tatis Jr. sits atop the board through two months but at with Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr. at . Each currently has an implied probability of less than 25% to win it across legal sportsbooks.

Might there be room to capture some value in 2021 NL MVP odds as we enter the second third of the MLB season? Recent voting results that have correlated with the now popular and well-respected wins above replacement (WAR) statistic suggest yes.

Let’s take a look.

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Where NL MVP Winners Ranked In Overall WAR

Six consecutive National League MVPs finished first in overall WAR among NL position players. Through two months of the 2021 season, here are the leaders in this category among NL non-pitchers (and their NL MVP odds):

  1. LAD Max Muncy 3.3 WAR ()
  2. CIN Nick Castellanos 2.7 WAR ()
  3. SD Fernando Tatis Jr. 2.5 WAR ()
  4. CHC Kris Bryant 2.4 WAR ()
YearNL MVPNL Overall WAR Rank*
2020Freddie Freeman1st
2019Cody Bellinger1st
2018Christian Yelich1st
2017Giancarlo Stanton1st
2016Kris Bryant1st
2015Bryce Harper1st

*Overall WAR rank among NL position players (non-pitchers)

Where NL MVP Winners Ranked In Offenisve WAR Among NL Position Players

Since 2008, every NL MVP winner has finished first or second in the league in offensive WAR except for Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw in 2014. With how dominant Mets pitcher Jacob deGrom has been, there is an outside chance he could win both the Cy Young and MVP, like Kershaw did, but let’s still look at the leaders in offensive WAR still.

After all, it has still been 11 of the last 12 years in which the NL MVP has finished top-two in offensive WAR.

  1. Fernando Tatis Jr. 3.1 OFF WAR ()
  2. CHC Kris Bryant 2.8 OFF WAR ()
  3. (tie) LAD Max Muncy 2.5 OFF WAR () and CIN Nick Castellanos 2.7 WAR ()
YearNL MVPNL Offensive WAR Rank
2020Freddie Freeman2nd
2019Cody Bellinger2nd
2018Christian Yelich1st
2017Giancarlo Stanton1st
2016Kris Bryant1st
2015Bryce Harper1st
2014Clayton KershawN/A
2013Andrew McCutchen2nd
2012Buster Posey2nd
2011Ryan Braun2nd
2010Joey Votta1st
2009Albert Pujols1st
2008Albert Pujols1st

2021 ML MVP Odds Conclusions: Max Muncy is a live longshot

Max Muncy certainly appears to be a player whose odds currently do not match his overall WAR and offensive WAR rankings. That could present some value, especially for those of you in states with legal sportsbooks that give you the option to cash out early if Muncy moves the board. Even if your book allows that, based on his current numbers, he should be a lot shorter than .

Through April and May, Muncy ranks first in NL on-base percentage (.436), sixth in OPS (.995). He’s projected to hit 39 home runs with 90 RBIs. That doesn’t scream MVP and neither do walks, but it’s hard to ignore how much baseball voters have aligned their vote with overall WAR and offensive WAR. Given that, Muncy is certainly in the mix with odds that should significantly shorten as the season continues.

For those that do not believe in Muncy but want to take a shot at beating the favorites Acuna Jr. and Tatis Jr., overall WAR and offensive WAR also point to former NL MVP Kris Bryant and Reds star Nick Castellanos as contenders.

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