NL MVP Watch: Are Giancarlo Stanton's home runs enough to win a wide-open race?
Goldschmidt? Rendon? Blackmon? Stanton if he hits 62 HR? Who would be your pick?
Our 2017 Major League Baseball season has but one week left. Some of the playoff races still need settled, but in terms of individual hardware, the National League MVP award is shaping up to be one of the more intriguing in years. It seems to be not only wide open, but incredibly deep.
I think I have come up with a list of seven names that could reasonably be argued as the top dog. Let's throw all their stats into one big chart and then discuss them after.
Nolan Arenado, Rockies
Obviously stats other than these matter and the whole picture is the most important thing, but the chart was getting too super-sized. For more context, here we go.
Stanton leads the majors in home runs and RBI (tied with Arenado) while leading the NL in WAR (baseball-reference version), slugging and OPS+. He's awed the league in the second half and helped get the Marlins into contention for a quick second. Of course, they've since fallen out of contention and some voters would hold this against Stanton.
Rendon is playing on a contender, in fact, a runaway NL East champ. Once Bryce Harper went down, Rendon became easily the most valuable position player on the team. He leads the NL in WAR (Fangraphs version). Otherwise, his stat line won't overwhelm. There is one column I'd love to plug in, though: Rendon has walked (81) more times than he's struck out (80). That's very rare these days.
You know who takes it to the extreme, though? Votto. He has also struck out 80 times, but leads the majors with 130 walks. That has helped to push him to leading the majors in OBP and the NL in OPS. It's a pretty acceptable argument that he's the best pure hitter in the majors, but he's playing on a last-place team. In a field this deep, he's probably not going to crack the top three.
Bryant was a runaway winner last year and he's on a likely division champ again. He hit .292/.385/.554 last year and is very similar this year. He's a good defender and outstanding baserunner. He's striking out far less often and walking more. He's also not really being hailed as a great MVP choice this time around. We can point to home runs and RBI there. He went through a power lull and for a while was historically bad with runners in scoring position. All of these factors lead me to believe he will finish much lower this time around.
Blackmon leads the majors in hits, runs, triples (14!) and total bases while pacing the NL in average. If the Rockies lock down that second wild card, he seems to have a very compelling case. The Rockies have long seen players suffer a stigma about playing in Coors Field for half their games, but Blackmon's OPS+ (which is ballpark-adjusted) is still 140. Of course, his home OPS is 1.243 compared to .784 on the road. Uh oh.
One thing I find funny is that I have believed for several years if the Rockies made the playoffs that Arenado would win MVP. He does lead the NL in doubles and the majors in RBI (tied with Stanton), but doesn't Blackmon have a bit better case right now? He might not. It's very close and both seem to be right in the mix with a week to go.
Despite leading the NL in no major category, I think Goldschmidt is the man, though. The Diamondbacks have won 90 games and are in the playoffs for the first time since 2011. Goldy has long been one of the very best and most underrated players in baseball -- the latter among casual fans, as die-hards know how freaking good he is. The run production -- 115 runs and 120 RBI -- is amazing once again. He steals bases, too, swiping 18 so far this year, and plays a sound first base. It might be kind of a lifetime achievement award on top of him having a worthy season, but it seems to fit well.
Of course, there are several other candidates worth mention.
The Dodgers have the best record in baseball, so we have to look there. Justin Turner has only played in 125 games, but he's hitting .321/.414/.534 with 31 doubles and 21 homers. He's had a down second half, but he's worthy of being mentioned. How about Cody Bellinger? He's got Rookie of the Year on lockdown and he also has 39 homers, 94 RBI and 10 steals. Again, though, only 126 games played. Corey Seager is awesome, too, albeit not as much as last year.
Stanton's teammate, Marcell Ozuna, has 36 homers, 118 RBI and a .308/.374/.548 line.
How about pitchers? Might Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw -- even with the time missed -- grab some down-ballot support? Gio Gonzalez and Zack Greinke are fifth and sixth in WAR (baseball-reference version).
It might seem like I'm naming too many players, but keep in mind a BBWAA ballot is 10 players, ranked 1-10. In a field this deep, it very well might come down to some seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th place votes to decide who wins the award.
Rank 'em 1-10. There's really no wrong answer at this point from the group above.
The lefty starter is coming off a terrible season
After acquiring Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart in recent days, the Angels are trending upward
Cozart's coming off a big season as the Reds' shortstop
The veteran slugger spent the last eight seasons with Cleveland
The Padres may be poised for an active winter
Yes, Bryce Harper is going to make a lot of money next winter