Let me start this post by saying that I have no idea why some names are being thrown around. Let me start with Clayton Kershaw. I always have a problem with giving the MVP to a starting pitcher. The guy plays in less than 25% of the team’s games. And, even in the games he plays, he’s going to average somewhere around 6-7 innings, if he’s an elite pitcher. So, on an innings basis, even a great starting pitcher is likely going to participate in less than 15% of his team’s innings played. Yes, I agree that there is some trickle-down effect when you have a great ace like Kershaw. Yes, I think it has an impact on the rest of the starting rotation, and the bullpen. But, that can’t possibly be compared to the guy who plays 150 games, has 500+ AB’s, and plays a defensive position. I’m sorry, but unless a pitcher was just other-worldly in his performance (see Pedro Martinez, 1999), then I don’t believe his impact is significant enough to warrant being in the MVP conversation.
Next, I actually saw an MVP headline that read “Division rivals Andrew McCutchen and Yadier Molina are in the mix with slugger Paul Goldschmidt…” This is a joke, right? Yadier Molina for MVP??? Based on what? His Gold Glove award? Which, by the way, I don’t understand how he won, considering he trailed Russell Martin in nearly every significant defensive stat for catchers – including the sabermetric stats which were supposed to be included in this year’s voting consideration. So, outside that award, there’s no evidence to suggest he was the best defensive catcher this season. And, he probably was about the 3rd or 4th best offensive player on his own team, nevermind in the National League. But, I digress. Here are the five most deserving candidates for MVP in the NL:
#5 – Freddie Freeman (ATL). Freeman had an excellent season. He finished 6th in wRC+ (150), 6th in OBP (.396), and 8th in SLG (.501), giving him the 7th best OPS (.897) in the NL. He hit 23 HR, drove in 109 (2nd), and bat .319 (3rd). He’s a good fielder as well at 1B, though I wouldn’t call him elite just yet.
#4 – Joey Votto (CIN). Votto seems to consistently find himself in the MVP conversation. Though, this year, there doesn’t seem to be quite as many talking about him. Perhaps they’ve come to expect big numbers from him, and since they weren’t as gaudy this year, they’re disappointed. Well, whatever the reason, Votto should be on everyone’s radar. He finished the year with the 2nd best wRC+ (156), led the NL in OBP (.435), finished 4th in OPS (.926), hit 24 HR, drove in 73, while batting .305. Another fine year for Votto.
#3 – Jayson Werth (WAS). If you weren’t looking at this list, and had to guess who finished with the best wRC+ in the NL, how many names would you go through before getting to Werth (160)? Or, how many names might you pass before guessing Werth was 3rd in the NL in SLG (.532)? Yet, I’m hearing nothing about him as even a contender for MVP. No, he didn’t play for a playoff team (though, they certainly made a valiant push in the second half of the season). But, I don’t care. One player can not solely carry a team to the playoffs these days. That argument is antiquated. Werth had an excellent year, in spite of missing practically all of May, and not really playing like he was fully injury-free until mid-June. Despite his health issues, he also finished 5th in OBP (.398), 2nd in OPS (.931 – leading the league with a 1.023 OPS after the All-Star break), hit 25 HR (8th), drove in 82, and bat .318 (5th). I don’t think I’ve heard anyone talk about Werth as a serious candidate. But, they should.
#2 – Andrew McCutchen (PIT). So, the argument in the NL really comes down to the final two players. Is it McCutchen or Goldschmidt? McCutchen finished 4th in wRC+ (155), 3rd in OBP (.404), 6th in SLG (.508), 6th in OPS (.911), 5th in SB (27), and 7th in batting (.317). He also hit 21 HR, and drove in 84. He was a gold glove finalist in CF, and consistently made excellent plays. There are a lot of people who say he should win. And, they certainly have some excellent numbers to point to. But, as I was looking through their stats, McCutchen and Goldschmidt are so close in so many areas. McCutchen has better speed, but Goldschmidt has better power. And everything else is so close, I was hard pressed to find a big difference . . . until I looked at batting with RISP. I was shocked at what I saw. Here’s McCutchen’s slash line with RISP: .282/.389/.365/.755. A .755 OPS with RISP!! When his team needed him most to make something happen, McCutchen’s OPS dropped over 150 points compared to his season average. And, it wasn’t like he lacked for opportunity – 156 AB’s with RISP. So, when that stat jumped out at me, the choice was clear . . .
#1 – Paul Goldschmidt (ARI). Goldschmidt led the league in SLG (.556), OPS (.952), HR (36), and RBI (125). He also finished 2nd in wRC+ (156), 4th in OBP (.401), stole 15 bases, and bat .302. He won the Gold Glove at 1B (though, I can’t see how, based on all of the stats – finalist, yes, but shouldn’t have won). And, just to show you the difference, his OPS with RISP was 1.146.