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Red Sox-Yankees and the battle for last place, possible best offense ever, top non-MVP seasons

Wednesday 9/13/23

Red Sox and Yankees battling it out for fourth place in the division with a doubleheader yesterday at Fenway. I saw after the fact that tickets for the day game were going for $1 on StubHub. I would have gone had I known that. The Yankees took both games as the Sox make their push for last place. The other day they had 23 hits in a game they lost, which is not easy to do. Before the season began, I had the Sox finishing under .500. Well, they're 73-72 now.

Here's an interesting question: Do the 2023 Braves have the best offense in baseball history? Or perhaps I should say, the most consistently excellent?

You may be able to find teams--the 1927 Yankees, for example--with more fire power, but there were guys in even a line-up like that one who were below the league average. Can't say that about these Braves. Here are the OPS+ marks of their nine regulars: 134, 164, 112, 104, 122, 110, 114, 164, 129. They're going to have five guys finish with 30 homers or more. One of those players will be in the 40s, another is already in the 50s.

Speaking of the latter in Matt Olson: He has 51 home runs and 128 RBI, and his teammate, Ronald Acuna, Jr., is going to win the MVP. Actually, Olson might not even finish second, because of Mookie Betts, the best player in the game. And I don't think anyone would object. Between Acuna, Betts, Olson, and Freddy Freeman, you have four players have monster seasons that stand out across a decade. I'm hoping Acuna gets to that 40 homer/70 stolen base mark. The only other guy I've seen who was capable of such a feat was Eric Davis.

A fun question is who had the best season without winning the MVP and who didn't deserve to win the MVP? Betts and Olson could factor into that discussion this year. He didn't finish second--he was third that year--but in 1959, Hank Aaron had what may have been the best season of his career, but Ernie Banks deserved that MVP. Eddie Matthews was second, but I think Aaron was the better player that year.

Those two are two of the greatest home run hitters in the game's history, long-time teammates, and here we have Olson with more home runs in a single season than either of them ever had. With Aaron, consistency of greatness was his thing. He'd just smack forty or so homers every year. Peaks are super, but consistency of greatness is where it's really at when you're determining the best there has been in baseball, and that's why I have Aaron as the fourth best player all-time.

The other player I'd say who had the best season without winning the MVP and not deserving to was Ted Williams in 1957. He was a handful of hits away from hitting .400 again--in his age thirty-eight season--and had the second highest OPS+ of his career at 233. 233!

But from 1956-1957, Mickey Mantle may have been the best all-around baseball player who ever lived. I'm not saying he was. But that version of that player is a candidate.


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