Mookie Betts is not leaving the MVP voting in the hands of the baseball writers this season. The Boston Red Sox outfielder basically got jerked last year when Mike Trout was awarded a sympathy, or “makeup” MVP, if you will.
So far, Betts' biggest advantage over the other candidates is the fact that he doesn’t strike out. I know you’re saying "everybody strikes out in baseball." Well, yeah. But entering Wednesday night’s game, Betts hadn’t struck out in 128 consecutive regular-season plate appearances.
That's a Tony Gwynn, razor sharp, batting eye.
Naturally, as soon as the media gets a whiff of this and starts talking about it, Betts’ streak ends. Mookie is a deft two-strike hitter as he survived 60 two-strike counts during his streak, before Blue Jays starter Francisco Liriano finally struck the Red Sox star out in the fourth inning on Wednesday. Then, Betts remarkable struck out twice in a game in a 4-1 Red Sox win over Toronto on Thursday.
Before those flurry of whiffs, his last strikeout in the regular season was in September of 2016 against the Baltimore Orioles; a remarkable 129 regular season plate appearances ago.
It's also the longest streak in the majors since Juan Pierre went 147 plate appearances without striking out for the Florida Marlins in 2004, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Not since Denny Doyle in 1975 (159 plate appearances) has a Red Sox player gone so long between strikeouts.
Betts is doing this in the midst of a strikeout rush in MLB as guys are trying to hit everything out of the park. It’s not like Betts is a slap hitter either. Betts swatted 31 homers last year as he finished second to Trout in the MVP voting.
To break his magnificence down further, according to Tim Kurkjian on ESPN, Betts swung and missed five times in the entire season in 2016 and he’s doing this “in the middle of the batting order, where you have to be aggressive and produce runs."
He's also got a wicked glove to match.
Last season, 102 players struck out at least 100 times, an increase from 63 players in 2006. Since Baltimore Orioles reliever Oliver Drake fooled Betts with a splitter in the sixth inning of a game last Sept. 12 at Fenway Park, four players -- Byron Buxton, Randal Grichuk, Danny Espinosa and Chris Davis -- have each struck out more than 40 times.
Betts is hitting a sizzling .347 and looking like a 2017 Tony Gwynn of sorts. He says the streak isn't a huge concern for him. It's more for us baseball nerds.
Mookie surely likes the props, but the actual streak never meant anything to him to begin with.
Mookie Betts on his streak: "It's pretty irrelevant. An out's an out, so I don't care about it." https://t.co/n3Mqx6RFWT— Tim Britton (@TimBritton) April 19, 2017
It’s just amazing to watch a guy make consistent contact and be a true student of the game. It is a lost art it seems in hitting approaches today.