Mookie Betts Establishing Himself as National League MVP Favorite

It’s very early in the season, and too early to project a season’s worth of baseball because of what amounts to a week’s worth of games. But what Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers is doing is incredible.

On Tuesday night against the rival San Francisco Giants, he hit his Major League-leading fifth home run of the season. Betts is batting .500 through eight games. He has 15 hits in 30 at bats, and he’s reached base safely in 23 of his 38 plate appearances.

He leads the Majors in hits, runs, home runs, RBI, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, total bases, and OPS. And he’s doing it all while playing shortstop — a position he’d played a total of 98 innings in his career before this season.

N.L. MVP Current Odds

When the season began, last year’s winner, Ronald Acuna Jr., was the odds-on favorite to win it again. The Atlanta Braves star was paying +500 a week ago, and now he is at +600. And to be clear, Acuna has done nothing to lower his status as the favorite. Through five games, he is batting .319. He has two home runs, and his OPS is .803.

The reason he has dropped on the odds board is that Betts has elevated himself, going from +650 a week ago to +450 now.

For his part, Dodger teammate Shohei Ohtani has dropped from +750 to +950, and Bryce Harper of the Philadelphia Phillies has gone from +1000 to +900. Harper had been hitless in his first three games of the season, going 0-for-11. Then Tuesday, he hit three home runs, including a grand slam, jumping his OPS up to 1.094.

As for Betts and hot starts, when he won the American League MVP in 2018 with the Boston Red Sox, he had just one home run through eight games, and was 10-for-35 with just one RBI. When Betts was the MVP runner-up in 2016 with Boston, after eight games he was 10-for-38, with two home runs and seven RBI.

This is by far his hottest start to begin a season, and one of the most unusual starts for him, with the games in South Korea, then back to spring training games, and with the position change.

Dodgers as Good as Advertised

L.A. began the season as the favorite to win the World Series, and they had the shortest odds of anyone in baseball to win their division. Through eight games, they have done nothing to make us think they are overrated.

They split in Korea with the San Diego Padres, but took three of four from the St. Louis Cardinals. Through Tuesday, they were winners in the first two games of their series against the Giants.

L.A. is in first place in the N.L. West, now paying -550 to win the division, and their World Series odds are +340. They were at +350 when the season began.

The Dodgers also got new starter Yoshinobu Yamamoto on track in his second start. After failing to get past the first inning in his debut start against the Padres, he threw 5.0 shutout innings against the Cardinals, allowing just two hits and walking no one.

The Dodgers and Betts are every bit the juggernauts we thought they would be.

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