Is Dodgers' Mookie Betts building a case for NL MVP over Ronald Acuña?

There's a whole second half left, folks. Mookie Betts isn't letting Ronald Acuña distance himself.
Los Angeles Angels v Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles Angels v Los Angeles Dodgers / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

Before anybody freaks out, Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. is indeed the frontrunner for NL MVP. He's hitting .333/.410/.587 with 78 runs scored, 21 homers, 54 RBI and 41 stolen bases. His .997 OPS leads the NL, as does his 164 OPS+, 78 runs scored and 206 total bases.

But there's still an entire second half of the season to be played, and Los Angeles Dodgers star Mookie Betts, believe it or not, is right there.

Through Friday's play, Betts is hitting .277/.379/.581 with 70 runs scored, 25 homers, 61 RBI and 7 stolen bases -- the only category he's really getting crushed in. His .959 OPS, 153 OPS+ and 191 total bases can easily be bridged with one cold streak for Acuña.

If you want to talk WAR, which is a prime indicator of MVP status, Betts' 4.2 only trails Acuña by 0.8. Again, right there. And Betts is besting teammate Freddie Freeman -- another highly-touted MVP candidate -- by 0.9. In the world of wRC+, another important one, it's 165 to 156 in favor of Acuña.

But probably the most important aspect of this discussion is Betts' defensive contributions. He's logged 473.2 innings in right field, 156 innings at second base, and 98 innings at shortstop across his first 85 games. He's made just three errors on the season (Acuña's made four). Just sayin'. That has to be a big talking point when the writers sit down at the end of the year, right?

Is Dodgers' Mookie Betts closing the NL MVP gap with Braves' Ronald Acuña Jr.?

Betts is on pace to set a career high in home runs and could very well finish with the NL lead when all is said and done (he trails only Braves first baseman Matt Olson by four). He'll probably hit the century mark in RBI for the first time since 2017. He's upped his average by 24 points since June 27 and could continue making his way toward .300.

Acuña's 41 stolen bags, .333 average and .410 on-base percentage are the only counting stats where he has a major advantage over Betts. If Betts can bridge the gap with average and OBP, though, doesn't that alter the conversation in a considerable way?

His incredible defensive versatility has quite literally saved the Dodgers this year. If he ends up with the home run and OPS lead as well as a comparable WAR (with 74 games remaining) .. you just never know.

And as for MVP -- a subject that's constantly debated every year over its true meaning -- Betts might have the "narrative" edge too when all is said and done. The Braves are the best team in baseball. They have the best catcher in the sport; the current home run leader; seven of their players made the NL All-Star team; they have 10 players with above-average OPS+ marks; they have the league leaders for ERA and strikeouts among starting pitchers.

The Dodgers are much less impressive, with a middle infield and pitching staff in absolute shambles. Yet Betts has picked up the slack, helped this this team to 50 wins, and LA is a half-game out of the NL West lead.

Is it likely for him to surpass Acuña? Not exactly. It won't be easy. But it's possible, and if it happens, just know the signs were there right before the All-Star break.