One place baseball is not struggling to draw fans: Milwaukee. Before 45,375 at Miller Park on Sunday, the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2to complete a three-game sweep. One of the highlights for the Brewers: Christian Yelich hit his MLB-leading 24th home run in going 2-for-4 to raise his season line to .340/.446/.745.
In San Francisco, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants 1-0behind Walker Buehler's seven shutout innings and Max Muncy's home run into McCovey Cove off Madison Bumgarner. Cody Bellinger went 0-for-4, but he's still ripping the ball at a .355/.449/.693 clip, with 20 home runs.
Since hitting .400 for the last time on May 21, Bellinger has hit just .226 and has now had three hitless games in a row after not having two in a row before. Yelich has passed Bellinger in slugging percentage and OPS, and the potentially epic MVP race is back on. (To be fair, Bellinger's slump is really just these three games. He had hit safely in his previous 12 games and hit .286/.375/.571. It's only a slump because he was hitting .404 a couple weeks ago.)
Anyway, how epic could this MVP battle become? Consider their on-pace stats:
Yelich: .340/.446/.745, 59 home runs, 130 RBIs, 123 runs
Bellinger: .355/.449/.693, 49 home runs, 133 RBIs, 125 runs
More impressive, both players are on track for 10-WAR seasons if they keep hitting and defending like they've done so far. Bellinger entered Sunday with 5.6 WAR via Baseball-Reference.com and 4.6 on FanGraphs. Yelich entered at 4.0 on both sites and is probably at 4.2 after Sunday's game. Both the Dodgers and Brewers have played 66 games, so Bellinger is comfortably ahead of 10-WAR pace while Yelich is at 10.1 -- and the on-pace projections sell him a little short since he missed a few games and is on pace to play only 147 games.
What defines an epic MVP race? I'm not thinking of controversial MVP votes -- such as Miguel Cabrera versus Mike Trout in 2012 and 2013 -- or even close MVP votes, such as 2017, when Giancarlo Stanton edged out Joey Votto by two points. I'm thinking of races when both players had historic seasons. Stanton and Votto, for example, were amazing in 2017, but Stanton's 7.9 WAR and Votto's 7.4 (using Baseball-Reference numbers here) were pretty standard WAR totals for MVP winners.
Seasons of 10 WAR for position players are extremely rare. There have been only 15 in the past 50 seasons.