NL MVP: Sorting out the crowded field won’t be easy

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If you happen to run into a baseball writer who has a 2017 NL MVP vote, give that person a hug.They’ll need it.Trying to sort out this year’s crowded NL MVP race is a nearly impo sible task. As many as six players have had seasons worthy of first-place votes, which means you’re going to see vastly different ballots when the totals are released in November.MORE: The Ted Williams Jersey 20 worst MVP picks of all timeLet’s look at the case for each of the primary contenders to win the award Giancarlo Stanton, MarlinsWhy he could win: He’s the favorite. Obviously, Stanton’s candidacy starts with his 54 home runs that’s 16 more than current NL runner-up Cody Bellinger but there’s a solid foundation supporting that peak. Miami’s favorite slugger has a 1.002 OPS (career high) and .629 slugging percentage (NL-best)to go with excellent totals in the counting stats, too 113 RBIs and 112 runs scored. He’s an outstanding defensive outfielder, too.Paul Goldschmidt, DiamondbacksWhy he could win: Goldschmidt has two runner-up MVP finishes under his belt (2013 and 2015), and this year he could finish anywhere from first to fifth. He’s been his typical outstanding self .308/.414/.585, with 35 homers, 115 RBIs, 109 runs, 17 stolen bases, .998 OPS, .412 wOBA and this year the Diamondbacks are solidly in the playoffs as the first wild-card. After their recent dismantling of the Dodgers, lots of people look at the D-backs as a dark-horse World Series contender, with Goldschmidt as the center of the offense.Joey Votto, RedsWhy he could win: Yes, the Reds very well might finish last in the NL Central for the third year in a row (they’re in the cellar at the moment, two games behind the Pirates), but Votto is having a best player in the league type of season. His traditional numbers and advanced metrics are both outstanding. He’s tied with Stanton for the best WAR by Baseball-Reference’s calculation (6.8) and his FanGraphs’ WAR of 6.4 is second to Anthony Rendon’s 6.7. He’s tied for third in the NL with 35 home runs and has95 RBIs and 99 runs scored. He’s batting .317, with NL-best marks in on-base percentage (.435) and OPS (1.035). He’s walked 52 times more than he’s struck out Bobby Doerr Jersey (125 to 73), which is kind of amazing, even for Votto. He leads the NL in wOBA (.429) and wRC+ (166). The failings of his teammates really shouldn’t be held against him.MORE: 11 worst teams to produce an MVPNolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, RockiesWhy either could win: They’re both having outstanding seasons, which probably isn’t great for either player’s chances of winning this thing because it’s difficult to choose between these two guys on the same team. But these two have helped lift the Rockies into a likely spot in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, which certainly helps.Arenado has a better rWAR (6.7 to 5.6) but Blackmon has a better fWAR (6.3 to 5.4). Arenado is on track to lead the NL in RBIs for the third consecutive season (he has 125, 10 more than runner-up Paul Goldschmidt) and has34 homers (17 at home, 17 on the road, btw), a .309 average, .959 OPS and an NL-best 42 doubles. And, of course, he’s arguably the best defensive third baseman in baseball. Blackmon leads the NL in batting average (.332), runs scored (131), triples (14), hits (199) and total bases (365), to go with 35 homers and 93 RBIs while making 144 of his 146 starts batting leadoff for the Rockies.Anthony Rendon, NationalsWhy he could win: He’s far from the biggest name on this team, but Rendon has had a quietly outstanding season. He leads NL position players in fWAR (6.7) and is tied with Goldschmidt for fourth in rWAR (5.9). The slash line is solid (.304/.403/.540), and he has 24 homers, 94 RBIs and 38 doubles. Plus, he’s struck out only one time more than he’s walked (78 to 77). Will he get any first-place votes? Maybe not, but he’s had a season worthy of consideration for that spot.Pitchers?I’m certainly not against a pitcher winning the MVP. I had an NL MVP vote in 2014, and Clayton Kershaw was the top name on my ballot, with Adam Wainwright and Johnny Cueto seventh and eighth, respectively. But it takes a transcendent season for a starter to earn the nod atop the MVP ballot, and even though Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke, Stephen Strasburg, Robbie Ray and Gio Gonzalez have been very good, don’t expect to see any of those guys earn a first-place vote on an MVP ballot.Others in the conversation Before Bryce Harper landed on the DL in the middle of August, he was right in the middle of this conversation. Heck, he might have been leading the pack, with his .329 average, 1.034 OPS, 29 homers and 87 RBIs through 106 games. But mi sing this much time means he’ll be relegated to down-ballot votes. Cubs teammates Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant will get votes, too. Rizzo’s finished fourth each of the past two seasons, and he’ll get a couple of votes in that range, too, with his 32 homers, 106 RBIs and .927 OPS. Bryant is the reigning NL MVP and has outstanding metrics, too (he’s fourth in https://www.redsoxedge.com/boston-red-sox/rusney-castillo-jersey fWAR and sixth in rWAR), but his struggles with runners in scoring position (.228, as opposed to .302 with the bases empty) probably is enough of a differentiator to keep him from being a serious candidate for the top spot. What about the Dodgers? They were the NL’s best team for the first four months or so of this season, and Corey Seager (5.6 fWAR), Justin Turner (.951 OPS) and Cody Bellinger (38 homers) will all earn votes, but not in the top three.

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