For the first time this millennium, a Braves player has won the National League Most Valuable Player award. The 2020 NL MVP is first baseman Freddie Freeman, who is coming off a stellar season with the bat that should qualify as his career year.
Freeman, 31, has previously been close to the award, but this was his best shot by far. His previous top-10 finishes were fifth (2013), sixth (2016), fourth (2018) and eighth (2019) before being the top dog this season. Freeman hit .341/.462/.640 (186 OPS+) with 23 doubles, a triple, 13 homers, 53 RBI, 51 runs, two steals and 2.9 WAR during the abbreviated 2020 campaign.
Freeman led the majors in doubles and runs while in the NL finishing second in average, second in on-base percentage, second in slugging, third in hits, second in total bases, second in RBI and third in walks. He also led the league in both extra-base hits and times on base. It's as well-rounded a profile as the best hitter in the league could ask for, in looking for both rate and counting stats.
Freeman becomes the first Braves player since Chipper Jones (1999) to win the NL MVP. A funny side note: While Freeman wouldn't have been a bad bet by any stretch entering the season, one of the betting favorites in the NL was teammate Ronald Acuna Jr. Regardless, it is Freeman who joins Jones, Terry Pendleton (1991), Dale Murphy (1982-83) and Hank Aaron (1957) as Braves players to win MVP.
Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts finished second. The 28-year-old Betts hit .292/.366/.562 (149 OPS+) with nine doubles, a triple, 16 homers, 39 RBI, 47 runs, 10 steals and 3.4 WAR in 55 games for the World Series champs. He was also one of the best defensive players in baseball by several metrics, such as defensive runs saved, outs above average and defensive WAR. Keep in mind that the playoffs don't count. Betts is a worthy runner-up, but it makes sense to see him fall short here. He was shooting to join Hall of Famer Frank Robinson as the only players in MLB history to win an MVP in both leagues.
Padres third baseman Manny Machado finished third in the voting. Machado was a slight disappointment his first year in San Diego, but bounced back with a huge 2020 season for the upstart Padres. He hit .304/.370/.580 (158 OPS+) with 12 doubles, a triple, 16 homers, 47 RBI, 44 runs, six steals and 2.8 WAR with his customary stellar defense at third base. This marks the highest finish in MVP voting his career, as he's previously finished fourth twice, fifth twice and ninth once.
Here are the top 10 finishers in NL MVP voting for 2020 with vote totals:
- Freeman, 410
- Betts, 268
- Machado, 221
- Fernando Tatis Jr., Padres, 201
- Juan Soto, Nationals, 172
- Marcell Ozuna, Braves, 167
- Trea Turner, Nationals, 83
- Mike Yastrzemski, Giants, 81
- Corey Seager, Dodgers, 43
- Trevor Bauer, Reds, 32