I am going to come clean before I get into my argument, I am a fan of the Giants. I think Buster Posey is an amazing player. My younger self would have a poster of him hanging in my bedroom. Now that I have gotten all of that on the table I want to talk about the NL MVP race in the most objective way that I can, given my circumstances.
In the National League this season there are a number of deserving candidates for the Most Valuable Player award.
Andrew McCutchen has been phenomenal. Ryan Braun has been as good (if not better) than he was last season when he won the award. David Wright has shown that he is an elite player once again (even with a rather pedestrian second half). Chase Headley has put up awesome numbers while playing in the pitchers’ paradise of Petco Park. And Buster Posey is well BUSTER POSEY.
Let’s take a look at each player and then try to come to a rational conclusion on who deserves this award.
McCutchen has been among my favorite players to watch for the last few seasons. He has an awesome combination of speed and power plus he takes a walk over 10% of the time. It is a stats guy’s wet dream. The one knock on him is that the advanced defensive metrics don’t really care for his defense in center field.
This year is no different.
He is in pole position to win the batting title*, he leads the league in on base percentage and is second in slugging percentage. He has the excellent counting stats that traditional voters will love — 30 homers and nearly 200 “runs produced” (RBI+Runs). If you are more of an advanced statistics guy he is second in both wRC+ and OPS+ while leading in rWAR and second on fWAR. In less words he is having an excellent season.
Braun won this award last season but he probably wasn’t the best player in the National League. Matt Kemp probably should have won. This year he is having arguably a better season but probably will suffer the same fate Kemp did in 2011.
Braun is putting up a nearly identical season to what he did last year, minus a few singles. This season he will most likely post his second consecutive 30-30 season, driving in 100+ runs for the fifth consecutive season and scoring 100 runs for the fourth consecutive season. He will likely win two out of the three triple crown legs while leading in fWAR and being tied for second in rWAR.
Regardless of what the stats say I just don’t see him winning the award after his issue with PEDs at the end of last season. He is probably the best player in the league this season, but won’t have a realistic chance of winning the award.
Wright has had a phenomenal season. After an injury-plagued season he has regained his place among the top players in baseball. He is posting his best season since 2008 while trying to convince the Mets that he is worth committing to long term.
The thing that hurts his chances is that he has had a disappointing second half. After a blistering first half of the season where he hit .351/.441/.563 he has only hit .252/.329/.409 in the second. If he had been able to maintain a pace closer to what he had done in the first half he would have been a shoo-in for the award.
He will likely garner some votes for playing in the largest market, but because he had a better first half then second he will likely not win the award.
The thing that is most amazing about Headley is that the Padres attempted to trade him before the trade deadline yet this barely registered on the national level.
That is the life of a guy who plies his trade in San Diego I guess.
I imagine Headley will not be given the love he deserves in the MVP Voting, just like he wasn’t mentioned as one of the big prizes available at the trade deadline.
Headley has produced excellent numbers while playing in one of the best parks for pitching half of the time. His .283/.370/.486 line may not seem like much, but considering where he plays it surely puts him among the best in the National League and deserving of MVP consideration.
Last, but certainly not least, is Buster Posey.
I’ve already admitted to being a Posey fanboy, but I will do my best to lay this out as objectively as possible.
Let’s take a quick look at where his numbers rank him. He is second in the batting title*, first in on base percentage and third in slugging. He is third in wOBA and wRC+ and first in OPS+. In the minds of voters he will get bonus points because his second half has been off the charts.
When the Giants needed him most to try to catch the Dodgers, he has posted a .384/.458/.642 second half line. He has been down right Bondsian (or at least as close as you can be in the post-steroid area) in the second half.
When you take into account that he plays catcher 75% of the time his offensive skills are even more impressive, considering the stress that his primary position puts on him. Looking back in time he is having one of the best seasons ever for a player that played more than half his games at catacher.
So who should be MVP?
If I had a vote I would put Braun first on my ballot. He has been the best player in the league and if you are a interested in the narrative he led a team that lost Prince Fielder and Zack Grienke and is still fighting for a playoff spot. I honestly don’t care about PEDs so that really carries no weight in my mind. Braun would have my vote, but unfortunately he will not win.
My honest guess as to who will win the award is Buster Posey. I am thrilled that he is the front-runner (even if I think he isn’t the best choice). His story is amazing, but not nearly as amazing as what he has done in the second half. He propelled the Giants to an NL West crown, particularly amazing with the loss of Melky Cabrera and nearly everyone counting out the Giants at that time. He has the stats and the narrative after coming back from his injury.
Until recently I would have said that the favorite is McCutchen, but with the Pirates’ recent collapse his chances have collapsed with him. Voters for this award love a winner and the Pirates will not be hanging any banners this season. With McCutchen not being head and shoulders above the rest, he will be pushed down on too many ballots to win the award.
My prediction for NL MVP is Posey, McCutchen and Braun. The rest is too cloudy to predict, but the stats and narrative point toward the guy with a playoff berth winning the award.