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Handicapping Potential All-Star MVPs

   by ASA - 07/06/2007

Attempting to determine Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game MVP beforehand is no easy task. Thorough research of past MVPs, though, shows certain trends that have developed over the years.

One of the aspects that makes predicting the MVP seem difficult is the division of at-bats among the players. A single player rarely sees more than two at-bats in a game but that hasn’t prevented the starters from stealing the spotlight. Nineteen of the last 25 MVPs have earned starting nods so it is highly likely a starter will take home the trophy again this year.

Another trend that has developed has been the prevalence of infielders – or lack of outfielders – winning the award. Nine of the last 12 MVPs have been infielders, including the last three years when Michael Young, Miguel Tejada and Alfonso Soriano (as a second baseman) took home the crown.

The final All-Star Game tendency, and perhaps the most important, has been the American League’s domination of the Senior Circuit. Aside from the 2002 tie-game debacle in Milwaukee, the AL has won 15 of the last 18 Midsummer Classics with an American League player winning the MVP in all 15 of those contests. If interleague play is any indication, the AL should again topple the NL.

With these trends in mind, let’s take a look at some players who could potentially earn MVP honors:

Justin Morneau, Minnesota Twins: Morneau, the reigning American League MVP, falls into two of the three aforementioned trends as he is an AL infielder. He won’t start because David Ortiz was voted in despite rarely playing the field. Ortiz’s lack of defensive skill could work in Morneau’s favor, though, as Ortiz may get pulled early in order to get Morneau’s glove into the game. Morneau has certainly put up numbers worthy of being the starter as he leads all AL first basemen with 20 home runs and 62 runs batted in.

Russell Martin, Los Angeles Dodgers: Martin has been lauded as baseball’s best all-around catcher this year and he’ll have his chance to prove it in his first all-star appearance. He leads National League catchers in batting average, runs scored, runs batted in and stolen bases and is second with nine home runs. Martin starts and plays the infield so falls into two of the three trends. Additionally, he will be backed up by Atlanta catcher Brian McCann, who hasn’t done enough over the first half to warrant more than one at-bat.

Mike Lowell, Boston Red Sox: Lowell could potentially fall into all three of the above trends, provided the recently-injured Alex Rodriguez steps down due to injury. Rodriguez’s absence would elevate Lowell to the American League starter at third base, qualifying him for all three trends. Another third basemen could potentially replace A-Rod on the AL roster but there aren’t many candidates that are worthy of the honor. That could make Lowell the sole third baseman on the American League roster, ensuring him plenty of opportunities to do some damage.

Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies: Utley, the National League’s starter at second base, has established himself as the cream of the crop among second basemen in baseball and it’s really not even close. A look at the other All-Star second basemen shows Placido Polanco, Brian Roberts, Orlando Hudson and Freddy Sanchez. Not exactly a list of household names. Having two backups in Hudson and Sanchez may take away an at-bat or two from Utley but neither player is really worthy of getting much action.

Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants: Bonds falls into only one of the three recent All-Star Game tendencies but he has additional factors working in his favor. First of all, he is playing in what will likely be his final All-Star Game. Secondly, he is playing in front of his home crowd. Both of these aspects could keep Bonds in the game longer, therefore giving him more opportunities to hit one into McCovey Cove. If he is able to do just that, it would be nearly impossible not to name him MVP, regardless of which team wins.

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