Last year, you could’ve narrowed down MVP to a few candidates. This year, it’s open season. There were a number of players in the National League who had career years in many different ways. There were about 10 or 15 different players worthy of an MVP nod or win, and the nominees could’ve been picked out of a hat from that crop of players and it would have worked. With the number of players out there worthy of a nomination, somebody’s going to end up unhappy. Frankly, a lot of people are probably going to end up unhappy. Up until the announcement of the nominees, I had no idea who was going to make the final three; it all depended on what the voters were looking for. And once they were announced, I’m not afraid to admit that I was a little surprised with who ended up on the top of the heap.
Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)
This is the only finalist that didn’t surprise me. Paul Goldschmidt has perennially been one of the best players in the National League for the last few years, finishing second in MVP voting in both 2013 and 2015 (along with 11th in 2016), yet he’s never been able to bring home the award. This year might be his best chance. Goldschmidt put up one of the best years of his career, and unlike his MVP-worthy seasons of the past, this year the Diamondbacks made it to the postseason, marking only the second time Goldschmidt has ever tasted playoff ball (the first being in 2011, Goldschmidt’s rookie year). The DBacks making the playoffs would likely help Goldschmidt get that boost in voting he hasn’t gotten in previous years; he’s the only finalist from a playoff team.
So what do the numbers look like? In short: good. Goldschmidt hit a solid .297 with 36 home runs (T-6th in NL, ties his career high), 120 RBI (4th in NL), 117 runs scored (3rd in NL, his career high), 94 BB (4th in NL), a .404 OBP (5th in NL), a .563 slugging percentage (8th in NL), a .966 OPS (5th in NL), and a 5.8 WAR (according to Baseball Reference). He also snagged 18 stolen bases, which is impressive for a guy known primarily for his power. Goldschmidt also dominated at home, hitting .321 in the home unis, along with slugging 20 of his homers in Arizona. Goldschmidt also came up big in the clutch, hitting .365 and driving in 81 RBI with RISP. He also contributed with the glove, playing an excellent first base where he only committed four errors all year, and bringing home a nice, shiny Gold Glove award.
Maybe his numbers don’t lead the league, but he produced consistently all season long, and is one of the best all-around players in the game. He can hit for power, average, use his speed, and play great defense. And, unlike his MVP competition, he is the only one who got his team to the postseason.
Giancarlo Stanton (MIA)
Giancarlo Stanton was one of the biggest stories of the season. He did something we all knew he could do (hit homers), but this year he went absolutely bananas and hit homers at a historic rate. But is hitting homers enough? Let’s dig in.
Overall, Stanton hit a healthy .281 overall. He also drove in 132 RBI (1st in NL, career high), scored 123 runs (2nd in NL, career high), had an OBP of .376, had a slugging percentage of .631 (1st in NL, career high), and had an OPS of 1.007 (2nd in NL, career high). He also sported a whopping 7.6 WAR (according to baseball-reference). Most importantly, he smacked 59 homers — 20 more than the next closest player in the NL. If he’d reached 60 homers, he would have achieved a feat that had only been accomplished eight times before; instead, he reached a 50-homer plateau that’s only been accomplished less than fifty times, which is pretty cool too, I guess.
Needless to say, Stanton crushed all of his career numbers and had a historic season. The numbers say he’s worthy of winning that MVP. However, he failed to get the Marlins to the postseason. In fact, all of his heroic efforts couldn’t even get the Marlins to a 500 record (the team went 77-85). Stanton has never been to the postseason in his career, though that may change soon. The change of Marlins ownership may send the potential MVP away from Miami (it seems silly to me to trade away the only thing bringing fans into the ballpark, but what do I know, I’m not a baseball executive). The big question is: if Stanton’s historic season couldn’t even get his team within grasp of a playoff spot, then was it really an MVP season?
Joey Votto (CIN)
We always seem to forget about Joey Votto, just doing his thing in the basement-dwelling team that is the Cincinnati Reds. Despite the team being absolutely horrific, Votto had himself a pretty good year, and his numbers are up there among the best, even leading a number of categories.
Votto hit .320 (T-4th in NL), and had 36 home runs (T-6th in NL), 100 RBI (T-10th in NL), 106 runs scored (6th in NL), 134 BB (1st in NL), a .454 OBP (1st in NL), a .578 slugging percentage (6th in NL), and a 1.032 OPS (1st in NL). Votto also hit .371 with RISP, had a WAR of 7.5 (according to Baseball Reference), and played solid defense at first base, only committing four errors all year.
Votto had a very good season, putting up MVP-worthy numbers. However, like Stanton, he was the only bright spot in a rather forgettable year for his team. The Reds did not make the postseason this year, finishing last in their division. The Reds have not made the postseason since losing the wild card game in 2013. So I present the same question: can Votto’s season truly be an MVP one if his team, despite his efforts, finishes dead last?
Last year, it was pretty clear who the crop of players up for MVP were, and I named the top five MVP finishers months before voting happened. This year, it was all over the map, and I could name about ten players that could’ve won MVP this season, so of course there are going to be snubs. But I was just flabbergasted at the fact that a certain few weren’t named finalists.
Nolan Arenado (COL)
Frankly, I’m absolutely floored Arenado wasn’t named a finalist. I thought he was going to win. Arenado had a monster year, even more so than his fantastic last couple of years, and it’s a crime he wasn’t even in the top three. Arenado is one of the most dynamic players in baseball, and I always love watching him play. To me, his defining moment was the Rockies’ game on Father’s Day when Arenado hit a walk off home run to complete the cycle. Arenado had a career year, and it was a shame he didn’t get named a finalist.
Arenado hit .309 (8th in NL), and had 37 homers (T-3rd in NL), 130 RBI (2nd in NL), 100 runs scored (T-7th in NL), a .373 OBP, a .586 slugging percentage (T-3rd in NL), and a .959 OPS (6th in NL). He also had a 7.2 WAR (according to Baseball Reference), and is of course known for his stellar defense. He brought the Rockies to a surprising regular-season run, and even though the writers snubbed him, he earned a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and multiple Players Choice awards.
Anthony Rendon (WSH)
This snub should have Nats fans up in a riot. Anthony Rendon had an absolutely monster year, and nobody cared. No one talked about it, and no one even gave him the recognition or respect by giving him a nomination. Well, he won’t go unnoticed here.
Rendon hit .301, with 25 homers, 100 RBI (T-10th in NL), 81 runs scored, a .403 OBP (T-6th in NL), a .533 slugging percentage, and a .937 OPS, all of which were career highs (except for runs scored). He also had a 5.9 WAR (according to baseball-reference). And of course, he played spectacular defense, and should have won the Gold Glove except he has to compete with Nolan freaking Arenado at his position. Rendon had the year of his life, and I’d be even angrier on his behalf, except I suspect he’s just scratching at the surface of his potential and can play even better next season.
Honestly, it’s anyone’s guess. Any one of the finalists could go home with the award and I wouldn’t be shocked. I believe that the winner should be Paul Goldschmidt; he’s the one on the playoff team and had a monster year. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being Giancarlo Stanton.Tags: Anthony Rendon, Giancarlo Stanton, Joey Votto, NL MVP, Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt