Dr. Doom here (via Doug) with an awards-voting post. That’s what I’ve typically done around here. Your friend and mine nsb mentioned to me that he tried to get a discussion going on the NL MVP on another thread, but it’s a little buried and hard to find. I thought maybe we could bring that idea over to its own post. I’ll do the tabulatin’, but I thought we might have fun doing awards voting.
More after the jump!
So, since nsb started with the NL MVP, I will, too. As I’ve done in the past, I’ll give a brief run-down of a few top candidates, then we’ll commence the voting. The directions are mostly the same as before, but with one change. I felt bad making people fill out a full ballot of ten before, when we were so far removed from the events of the day. But now, given that the season JUST HAPPENED, I’m going to copy the BBWAA rules and require ten spots on each ballot – otherwise, it gets tossed. So just keep that in mind as you get ready to vote.
So, 2017. After the Cubs earned a long-overdue title in ’16, the NL in 2017 was, in many ways, not terribly interesting. There were really only seven teams that were in competition at any point in the season (and that’s giving the Cardinals WAY more credit than they probably deserve). The Dodgers had one of the hottest stretches in the history of baseball, and once they took over the West, they never left first. The Diamondbacks and Rockies were competitive all season, and were firmly in the playoff race all year. The Nationals basically led wire-to-wire in the East. My Brewers spent most of the season in first, but as a very young team, they just couldn’t quite get it done. I’m hoping that they develop a long-term rivalry with the Cubs, who eked out a division title for the second straight year. Fun fact about the Cubs: they made the postseason for the third straight year in 2017; that last happened in 1906-1908.
Anyway, what was really the story of 2017 was the home runs. An all-time record was set, and there were many thinkpieces written on pace of play, strikeouts, launch angles, the winding of baseballs, the resurgence of steroids, and many other “hot takes” that were just repeats of what others had already said. But keep home runs on the brain, because they absolutely play a big role in this discussion.
The first candidate we examine is 2017’s King of Clout, Giancarlo Stanton. Only three men in the history of baseball (McGwire, Ruth, and Bonds) have homered more frequently in their careers than Stanton. His problem was always staying healthy; in spite of his prodigious power, Stanton had led his league in round-trippers only once, and had never hit even 38 in a season. Until, that is, he knocked 59 out of the park this season. I don’t think I need to tell you that “59” is a number that’s been matched or bested only 9 times in the history of the game. For good measure, Stanton also paced the senior circuit in RBI (132) and SLG (.631). He was second in OPS+ (165) and OPS (1.007), as well as in TB (377) and Runs (123).
His teammate, Marcell Ozuna, has a compelling argument, too. Besides slightly better clutch numbers than Stanton, Ozuna was third in the league in HR (37) and RBI (124). He finished fourth in Total Bases (336) and fifth in OPS+ (145). Looking at those numbers, it seems obvious that Stanton had the better season of the two. But, what makes Ozuna more than just “Stanton-lite” is that he was also the NL Gold Glover in left.
Another team with two strong candidates (but with a more competitive record) was the Rockies. Now, we can give all the Coors-related caveats we need to. With or without them, though, Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon both had wonderful years. Blackmon won the batting title (.331) and led in Runs (137), TB (387) and Hits (213), all while playing good D in centerfield. Teammate Arenado led the league only in doubles (43), but nearly won a third consecutive RBI title with 130, just two behind leader Stanton. Arenado was also third in TB (355), his third straight season of 350 TB, and he continued to be an absolute sensation at third base, winning the Gold Glove as the best defensive player at the NL’s deepest position. Both Rockies tied the aforementioned Ozuna for third in HR with 37.
Staying in the NL West, Paul Goldschmidt kept Paul Goldschmidt-ing. He hit “only” 36 HR, but added 18 steals (lower than his usual number, but a great added bonus for a power-hitting first baseman). He narrowly missed a 100-100-100 season, making the Runs (117, 3rd) and RBI (120, 4th), but missing in the Walks (94, 4th).
Last year’s MVP, Kris Bryant, put up another strong year. While his numbers were nearly all across-the-board worse in 2017 than last season, he still scored 111 Runs and cracked 29 homers. The one notable improvement in his game was discipline at the plate. Bryant reduced his strikeouts by 26, while INCREASING his walks by 20. That kind of change at the plate can only mean good things for the young star in the years to come. While he’s probably not much of a threat to win the vote, he is certainly a strong down-ballot candidate.
Another player in Bryant’s division merits consideration as well, so let’s turn to Joey Votto. Votto posted the best OPS and OPS+ in the senior circuit, had 25 more walks than anyone else, posted 100+ RBI and Runs, and showed typical Votto power numbers, banging out 34 doubles and 36 homers. Votto’s specialty is plate discipline. Do you know how many NL players (with two or more walks) had more walks than strikeouts last season? Six, with the first five of Anthony Rizzo (91-90), Anthony Rendon (84-82), Justin Turner (59-56), Tommy La Stella (20-18), and Nori Aoki (13-10) all within three strikeouts of their walk total. Joey Votto walked 134 times and struck out only 83 – a difference of 51. You have to be impressed by that in today’s game.
Of course, I’m never one to let a post skip the pitchers. The best candidates out of the East belong to the Nationals. And while Bryce Harper started out hot, and while Anthony Rendon put up a heckuva season, it was a trio of Nationals pitchers who were really the story for the squad that won the East. I’ll let you sort out which of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez pitched the best. Clayton Kershaw continued to be Clayton Kershaw (stellar but injured), and the enigmatic Zack Greinke decided that 2017 was one of those years when he wanted to be a top-flight pitcher again, so Good Greinke showed up (and won the Gold Glove). The pitchers complicate the race a little, but I trust you’ll all be able to sort the whole thing out. Okay, enjoy, everyone!
DIRECTIONS: Please list 10 players on your MVP ballot in a NEW comment below (ballots with fewer than 10 candidates will be thrown out; I ask for a new comment because it’s easy to lose one if it’s in a reply, especially since we got rid of numbered comments). Ballots will be scored as per BBWAA scoring (14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1). Strategic voting is discouraged, though that’s unenforceable, so please just don’t do it, as the goal here is to (somewhat) mimic the BBWAA process. The post will be live for about a week; I will comment shortly after the post goes live to tell you when ballots are due. Please discuss and vote whenever you’d like, but there will be NO vote changes, so don’t vote until you’re sure you’re ready!