Go Figure: Why the World Series MVP Award is up for grabs

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts celebrates his RBI single against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning in Game 3 of the World Series. With his glove, with his feet, with his bat, with his heart -- the former American League MVP has a knack to make a difference in ways that don't readily translate in this metrics-mad era.

    Los Angeles Dodgers' Mookie Betts celebrates his RBI single against the Tampa Bay Rays during the fourth inning in Game 3 of the World Series. With his glove, with his feet, with his bat, with his heart -- the former American League MVP has a knack to make a difference in ways that don't readily translate in this metrics-mad era. Associated Press

  • Tampa Bay Rays' Brandon Lowe hits a home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game 2 of the World Series. Sometimes, it doesn't take an extraordinary Series to win the MVP. A third-year second baseman, Lowe was mired in a 4-for-51 slump heading into Game 2. Then, with a pair of opposite-field home runs, he keyed the Rays' 6-4 triumph.

    Tampa Bay Rays' Brandon Lowe hits a home run against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game 2 of the World Series. Sometimes, it doesn't take an extraordinary Series to win the MVP. A third-year second baseman, Lowe was mired in a 4-for-51 slump heading into Game 2. Then, with a pair of opposite-field home runs, he keyed the Rays' 6-4 triumph. Associated Press

 
By Matt Baron
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 10/24/2020 6:37 PM

Major League Baseball's biggest stage, the World Series provides the forum for plenty of subplots. But a recurring one that is already heating up centers on who will be the Series' Most Valuable Player.

Some years, such as 2014, an emerging star like San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner takes over to crowd out all other performers to nab the MVP honor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Other years, an unlikely supporting character commands a brief spotlight -- catchers Pat Borders (1992, Blue Jays) and Rick Dempsey (1983, Orioles) and shortstops David Eckstein (2006, Cardinals) and Bucky Dent (1978, Yankees) fit this mold.

As for 2020, the matter of who will emerge with the honor is up for grabs. One thing is almost certain: The recipient will come from the winning team -- which has been the case every year, except once, since Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Johnny Podres was the inaugural honoree when the award was established in 1955.

More about that unique instance later; meantime, here are three leading contenders to align with L.A.'s 2-1 Series lead heading into Saturday.

Mookie Betts, Dodgers

With his glove, with his feet, with his bat, with his heart -- the former American League MVP has a knack to make a difference in ways that don't readily translate in this metrics-mad era.

Is there a box score line yet for "incredible leaping catch to thwart a home run?" Even though his postseason batting numbers, this year and over his career, have been pedestrian, Betts is never far from top contention for this honor.

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Q1. In the Dodgers' Game 1 victory, Betts walked and stole two bases in the same inning -- a feat accomplished by only one other player in World Series history. Who was it?

(Rickey Henderson, Babe Ruth, Bert Campaneris)

Brandon Lowe, Rays

A third-year second baseman, Lowe was mired in a 4-for-51 slump heading into Game 2. Then, with a pair of opposite-field home runs, he keyed the Rays' 6-4 triumph.

Sometimes, it doesn't take an extraordinary Series to win the MVP -- just some well-timed moments, such as Jermaine Dye's 2005 MVP for the White Sox, aided by his driving in the winning (and only) run in Game 4 of the Sox sweep of the Houston Astros.

Though he whiffed three times in Game 3, if Lowe can be in the middle of one other dramatic moment -- enough to fuel a victory -- and if the Rays manage to win the Series, then that may be enough for him to get the nod.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

If that plays out, then he would join an exclusive club: only one second baseman has ever won the Series MVP.

Q2. That World Series MVP-winning second baseman is also the only player get the award despite his team losing the Series. Who was it?

(Marty Barrett, 1986; Joe Morgan, 1972; Bobby Richardson, 1960)

Walker Buehler, Dodgers

Realistically, the only way Buehler figures to get the award is if the Series goes seven games -- his next turn won't come up, otherwise.

On Friday Buehler struck out 10 in six innings and was in absolute control with consistent first-pitch strikes giving him the edge in almost every confrontation. If there is a Game 7, and Buehler pitches well -- great wouldn't likely be necessary -- then that may be more than enough.

Q3. Among pitchers who have started at least 10 postseason games, only one has held opponents to a lower batting average than Buehler's stingy .179 mark. Can you name this active pitcher?

(Charlie Morton, Gerrit Cole, Jon Lester)

Random stat of the week

In the "Never Heard of That One Department," the Game 3 broadcast on Fox brought a trivia gem tied to Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy's plate patience. En route to drawing his 18th walk in his 15th postseason game of 2020, he had his 31st plate appearance in which he worked the count to at least three balls.

Q4. Muncy has a good shot at breaking the all-time single-season playoff mark in this curious "three-ball minimum" category: 35, achieved in 17 games by whom?

(David Ortiz, Ryan Howard, Barry Bonds)

Answers: 1. Babe Ruth; 2. Bobby Richardson; 3. Gerrit Cole; 4. Barry Bonds

• Matt Baron supplements his baseball brainpower with Retrosheet.org for research.

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