Trout and Acuna jump to MVP leads

Means and Woodruff rate as top pitchers so far

Mike Trout and Ronald Acuna Jr. have taken early leads in the Most Valuable Player races in their respective leagues.

And I do mean early. Not even a quarter of the season has been played, and the playoffs are still more than four and a half months away.

Yet there’s always a temptation to handicap the MVP standings, no matter how premature the process might be. I’ve used a simple system to generate my rankings, pegging them to each player’s base balance.

A quick refresher course: I tabulate the number of bases that each batter has reached on his own, adding all bases attained through hits, walks, hit batsmen, stolen bases, sacrifice hits, and sacrifice flies. (The latter two are included because they gain bases for the team, if not the player himself.) Then I divide the resulting total of bases by the number of outs the batter has made.

The result is BPO, bases per out, which is a better measure of offensive ability than batting average, slugging percentage, or even the revered (and confusing) OPS.

Trout leads the American League with a superhuman BPO of 1.525, based on 93 bases and only 61 outs. Acuna tops the National League at 1.295. The collective BPO for all big-league batters this year is .661. (All of these stats are as of May 8.)

Keep that last figure in mind. I then calculated each batter’s base balance by multiplying his total outs by .661, determining the number of bases the typical hitter would have reached under the same circumstances.

If you multiply Trout’s outs (61) by the big-league BPO (.661), you wind up with 40 bases. His actual total of 93 bases is 53 above that norm. That difference — 53 — is his base balance, the stat that I used to calculate the following rankings. Acuna’s base balance of 49 puts him atop the NL. Both he and Trout hold substantial leads over their respective runners-up.

Base balance can be used in reverse for pitchers. Their goal, of course, is a negative number, which indicates that they have allowed fewer bases than the major-league average.

The early Cy Young Award rankings are not as clear-cut as the MVP standings. John Means of the Orioles leads the American League with a balance of minus-45 bases, with Gerrit Cole of the Yankees close behind at minus-39. And Brandon Woodruff of the Brewers tops the National League at minus-37, chased by Wade Miley of the Reds at minus-33.

Below are the top-10 rankings for all batters and pitchers in each league, followed by the team-by-team leaders on both sides of the ball. All numbers, once again, are as of May 8. We’ll check back periodically as the season progresses.

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American League MVP

National League MVP

American League Cy Young

National League Cy Young

Team leaders