Seven weeks remain in the 2016 Major League Baseball season, so we've seen the majority of the season played but there's still a lot of baseball to be seen. It's a fun point to discuss how the individual awards races might shape up, so let's do that.
Before we dive in, let's point out that these aren't our predictions or even necessarily how we would vote. It's a snapshot of where things stand and we're making subjective judgments on how the vote would turn out based upon recent historical voting tendencies.
On that latter point, we know that winning matters and making the playoffs matters even more. Even if you disagree, that's just how it goes with voting for the MVP. And with the Cubs dominating the NL Central -- and, really, the entire league -- it shouldn't be a surprise to see their two studs at the top. For those interested in the AL MVP race, R.J. Anderson has you covered here.
NL MVP Power Rankings
You could make an argument here for either of the Cubs. Both major version of WAR like Kris Bryant better than Rizzo, but that's due mostly to defense, specifically how hard it is for first baseman to grade positively. The batting lines are similar, but my best guess is that Rizzo would barely nudge Bryant out of the way here. It could be based on RBI, Rizzo having been established as a star longer or viewed more as a locker-room leader (old school voters love intangibles).
The arguments for Bryant could include WAR (he's leading the NL in baseball-reference.com version and tied for first in fangraphs), but also how valuable he's been to the Cubs with his ability to play good defense pretty much anywhere the Cubs put him. He's started 68 games at third and that's his home, but he has lots of homes away from home. He has 29 starts in left field, 11 in right field, three at first base and he's appeared in center field as well. Especially in light of injuries to the likes of
When I asked Murphy at the All-Star Game who he'd pick for MVP right now, he said either Rizzo or Bryant. I found it amusing because he's right in the conversation himself. The guy who got stupid hot and pushed the Mets to the World Series now leads the NL in hits, doubles, average and slugging percentage as the centerpiece of the first-place Nationals' offense. He's picked up a serious load of the offense that hasn't gotten a good version of Bryce Harper for months. It's astounding to think about Murphy ending the 2014 season with only nine homers and 57 RBI.
In Fangraphs' version of WAR, Seager is tied with Bryant. Take a look at the Dodgers in strong postseason position right now, despite their rotation being ravaged by injuries all season (including a lengthy absence from Clayton Kershaw), lackluster power from Adrian Gonzalez, almost no positive contribution from Yasiel Puig and several other issues. And there is Seager, shining through in every aspect of the game. He's gonna win Rookie of the Year with ease, and he might even become the first NL player ever to win both the Rookie of the Year and MVP (it's happened twice in the AL: Fred Lynn in 1976 and Ichiro Suzuki in 2001).
Leading the NL in home runs and RBI last season got Arenado eighth place, but his team lost more than 90 games. If the Rockies get back on track and play closer to .500 ball and his on-base percentage remains quite a bit higher than it was last season, he could see a bump. Let's keep in mind, Arenado is still getting better. He struck out 110 times compared to 34 walks last year. This time around, he's struck out 67 times against 51 walks.
How about this one? The Nationals have two of the top six and neither are named Harper or Scherzer (or Strasburg!). Ramos is hitting .332/.379/.541 with 20 doubles, 18 homers, 65 RBI and handles one of the best pitching staffs in the NL.
Look past that 11-7 record, since a lot of that was a lack of run support. Bumgarner has a 2.11 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and is striking out 10 hitters for every nine innings. He also leads the majors with 170 2/3 innings pitched and four complete games. Those are things that go beyond just the game Bumgarner is pitching, as it saves the bullpen for other games. That's value. The three doubles, two homers and five RBI are just gravy.
The Marlins are a strong wild-card contender and Yelich is an excellent all-around player. His batting average will probably turn some heads while only Rizzo and Murphy have more doubles.
Carpenter is fourth in OPS behind Murphy, Rizzo and Braun, but Carpenter likely gets dinged for missing several weeks with an injury. He's played in 87 of the Cardinals 118 games. It's generally hard for voters to justify a top-five spot in these cases absent a weak field (this isn't) or unbelievable, across-the-bard dominance (Carpenter's awesome, but he's not having one of those years).
We're to the down ballot spots now, so great players on bad teams start getting picked. Remember, Votto was on a bad team last year and finished third. He's hitting .303/.429/.514 and this after a miserable start to the season.
Yes, I also see you: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; Max Scherzer, Nationals; Kenley Jansen, Dodgers; Jeurys Familia, Mets; Jose Fernandez, Marlins; Stephen Strasburg, Nationals; Buster Posey, Giants; Starling Marte, Pirates; Brandon Crawford, Giants; Wil Myers, Padres; Freddie Freeman, Braves