The 2016 season might be remembered as the year of the millennial when it comes to the MLB most valuable players.
Kris Bryant took home the National League award and and Mike Trout won in the American League, marking the fourth time in MLB history that the MVP from each league was 25 years old or younger on the final day of the regular season. It was the the first such finish since 1974, when Jeff Burroughs and Steve Garvey won it.
What made Mike Trout great
Mike Trout had another phenomenal season, leading the majors with 10.6 Wins Above Replacement. His .441 on-base percentage was the best in the AL. His .991 OPS ranked second.
Trout is an outstanding hitter and historically crushes pitches in the middle and lower part of the strike zone (his batting average by year the past four seasons — .348, .325, .324 and .326). But he’s gradually shored up a weakness against pitches in the upper part of the strike zone.
From 2011 to 2013, Trout hit .168 and slugged .340 against those pitches. That dropped to .076 and .152 in 2014, then bumped back to .170 and .372 in 2015. But in 2016, Trout pushed his numbers to a more respectable level — his batting average against those pitches was .234 in 2016, his slugging percentage was .438.
Trout’s baserunning elevated his value. He stole 30 bases in 37 attempts and ranked second in Fangraphs.com’s stat that measures baserunning value, based on stolen-base success, ability to take extra bases on hits, and success in avoiding outs on the bases (Mookie Betts ranked first).
What Trout has done, relative to others, is unprecedented. Trout is the first player in MLB history to lead the majors in the offensive component of Wins Above Replacement five straight seasons.
— Mark Simon
Trout’s best moments
Robs grand slam: Aug. 7 at Mariners
Trout has nine home run robberies since he debuted in 2011, the most of any player in that span. In August, he robbed Leonys Martín of a grand slam in a game tied 1-1. And Trout did it on his 25th birthday.
150th career HR: May 28 vs Astros (off Dallas Keuchel)
He hit his 150th career home run in late May, off 2015 American League Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel. Trout fell just one long ball shy of a 30-homer, 30-steal season.
30th stolen base: Oct. 2 vs Astros
Trout had stolen 82 bases in his first two full seasons combined in 2012-13, but swiped just 27 in 2014-15. Trout’s base-stealing speed returned to his game in a big way in 2016. Trout stole his 30th base of the season in the final game of the season.
— Sarah Langs
What made Kris Bryant great
Bryant led the NL with 121 runs scored and 7.7 Wins Above Replacement and ranked fourth in OPS (.939).
As a rookie in 2015, Bryant was an outstanding hitter on pitches on the inner half of the plate, and though that declined slightly in 2016, his numbers were still very good.
But the difference-maker for Bryant was his improvement against the outside pitch. He hit .217 and slugged .330 against those pitches in 2015 and improved to .289 and .474 in 2016. He averaged an extra-base hit for every 96.6 outer-half (or off the outside corner) pitches seen in 2015, and one every 45.9 outside pitches seen in 2016.
Bryant gave himself a chance for more success by cutting down on strikeouts (from 199 to 154, with 44 more at-bats in 2016). He cut his miss rates in just about every way, most notably against upper-half pitches (from 30 percent to 20 percent) and outer-half pitches (from 41 percent to 33 percent).
Bryant also proved to be highly versatile. He made 100 starts at third base and 48 in the outfield, and handled both well. He finished with 10 defensive runs saved, further adding to his overall value.
— Mark Simon
Bryant’s best moments
6 RBIs in Arrieta no-hitter: April 21 at Reds
Jake Arrieta won the day, throwing his second career no-hitter, but Bryant racked up six RBIs in a game the Cubs won 16-0. The six RBIs tied his career high, which he matched again in June in Cincy. Bryant was one of four NL players to record multiple six-RBI games this season.
16 total bases, first career 3-HRs game: June 27 at Reds (Straily, Ohlendorf)
Bryant’s first career three-homer game was one for the ages. He racked up a Cubs-record 16 total bases, getting five hits with the three home runs and two doubles. He was the youngest Cubs player ever to hit three homers in the same game, 10 days younger than Ernie Banks was when he did it.
Game-tying HR facing elimination: Oct. 30 vs Indians (Bauer)
Ballots are sealed before the playoffs begin, but it’s hard to recount his season without showing part of the Cubs’ path to the Commissioner’s Trophy. In the bottom of the fourth inning of Game 5 of the World Series, with the Cubs down 3-1 in the series and 1-0 in the game, Bryant lifted a 1-1 pitch to left-center to tie the game. The Cubs would rally in that inning to take a 3-1 lead and won the game 3-2 … the first of 3 straight victories en route to the championship.
— Sarah Langs