Up until he injured his left knee running out a ground ball in mid-August, Harper looked like the presumptive NL MVP. He was hitting .326/.419/.614 with 29 home runs, 87 RBI, and 92 runs scored in 472 plate appearances. With a month and a half in the season to go, Harper appeared to be on his way to perhaps 40 homers and certainly 100 RBI and 100 runs, both large, round numbers that voters love.
Harper, however, wouldn’t return until September 6. He finished out his regular season, just five more games, with three singles and two walks in 20 trips to the plate.
Trout, like Harper, appeared to be in the midst of his best season up until he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. He was batting .337/.461/.742 with 16 home runs, 36 RBI, 36 runs scored, and 10 stolen bases in 206 plate appearances.
Trout returned on July 14, missing a month and a half of game action. Though he remained a stellar player, Aaron Judge and Jose Altuve had captured the nation’s attention. While the Yankees and Astros sped towards playoff berths, Trout’s Angels finished 80-82. Trout barely qualified for the batting title, but the lost time and his team’s lackluster performance surely impacted voters. Trout’s overall numbers: .306/.442/.629, 33 home runs, 72 RBI, 92 runs scored, 22 stolen bases in 507 PA. He led all of baseball with a 1.071 OPS and led the AL in on-base and slugging percentage.
Harper and Trout weren’t the only players who were underappreciated in MVP balloting, but they are the most compelling non-winners. Trout is not without hardware, having won the AL MVP Award in 2014 and ’16. Harper won the NL MVP Award in 2015. Had the injury bug not bit them so severely, they might’ve added more trophies to their mantels.