Mookie Betts is the defending American League MVP. He finished second to Mike Trout for that award in 2016. He wins Gold Gloves and Silver Sluggers. He's just about to turn 27 years old. The Red Sox could figure out a way to pay him. The arguments for keeping Betts are many. But beyond payroll and restocking the farm system, what is the best reason to not fork over a $300 to $400 Million contract for 10 to 15 years? Only the most important word in competitive sports: Playoffs.
Mookie Betts vs His Contemporaries
Mookie's greatest and most glaring weakness is performing in the playoffs. Has he made great plays in the field? That catch in right on Altuve, or fan interference, or non catch depending on your point of view, at Minute Maid Park comes to mind.
So yes, he's made defensive plays. But his playoff numbers are downright awful.
In 88 at bats he has hit .227 with a .654 OPS. That includes one home run and four RBI. That is JBJ on a cold streak bad.
But along with Mookie, they've all under-performed in the playoffs. Machado and Harper have similar at bats (89 and 76 respectively). Trout only has 12 at bats, so he's barely been given a chance. But here are the numbers
- Mike Trout: 12 AB, .083 BA, .600 OPS, 1 HR, 1 RBI
- Manny Machado: 89 AB, .213 BA, .650 OPS, 4 HR, 14 RBI
- Bryce Harper: 76 AB, .211 BA, .801 OPS, 5 HR, 10 RBI
In terms of playoff performance, it's a 2019 IPO bubble wrapped in a 2000 tech stock bubble. How long are teams going to pay massive contracts to guys who choke? Harper at least shows his power, but that .211 batting average is hurtful. Just ask the Nationals fans. Mookie looks pretty good among this motley crew. He has the highest batting average at .227. But even here he's tied with Trout (and his 12 at bats) with one measly homer when the pressure is on. Yes, all of these players are proven MVP caliber players during the regular season. But how do we measure success? When the lights are the brightest these guys shrink.
Red Sox Teammates
So how do Bett's teammates measure up in the postseason? Let's take a look.
- Xander Bogaerts, 114 AB, .219 BA, .633 OPS, 2 HR, 10 RBI
- Andrew Benintendi, 81 AB, .272 BA, .729 OPS, 2 HR, 9 RBI
- Jackie Bradley Jr., 65 AB, .185 BA, .703 OPS, 4 HR, 15 RBI
- Brock Holt, 37 AB, .297 BA, .976 OPS, 2 HR, 7 RBI
- Rafael Devers, 45 AB, .311 BA, .884 OPS, 3 HR, 14 RBI
- J.D. Martinez, 77 AB, .286 BA, .925 OPS, 6 HR, 20 RBI
Yes, Xander and JBJ are down there with Mookie in batting average, and helped to contribute to first round playoff defeats in 2016 and 2017. But Devers and Benny have more than stamped their playoff pedigree. JBJ has late game home run heroics against Houston last year. Brock has his postseason cycle in Yankee Stadium. And who could forget Bogaerts taking a walk against Max Scherzer in the 2013 ALCS? That walk (yes, it was a close pitch, Scherzer was pinched) knocked out Scherzer in the 7th on October 19, 2013. A couple batters later Victorino hit a Grand Slam to help send the Red Sox to the World Series.
And then there's J.D., looking positively Manny-like with those numbers.
The regular season matters. Just look at this year. But when the playoffs come around teams that have success have guys that perform. It's a hard pill to swallow, but Mookie is not one of those guys. Pooh pooh it all you want, but if Mookie performed like Brock in the playoffs, the Red Sox would already have given him the massive contract he wants.
Featured Image via The Boston Herald