Yesterday, there was some discussion that took place on Redbird Rants between Chris and Daniel in which each gave their respective stance supporting either Yadier Molina or Matt Carpenter as this seasons National League MVP. Daniel even made mention of Allen Craig, who certainly deserves some level of MVP voting respect as well.
As I read both presentations, it occurred to me that we have seen this show before, albeit in a slightly different context.
Wainwright finished the season as the National League leader in wins (19), games started (34), innings pitched (233), and batters faced (970).
Carpenter finished the season as the National League leader in win-loss percentage (.810), ERA (2.24), ERA+ (182), and home runs allowed per 9 innings (0.3).
The problem is that with both of them having such success, voters ultimately ended up splitting their votes between the two and as we all know, neither of them ended up bringing home the hardware, which went to Tim Lincecum for the 2nd straight season.
Lincecum had a great year in his own right, leading the National League in complete games (4), shutouts (2), strikeouts (261), and strikeouts per 9 innings pitched (10.4).
For reference, which will be important later, Carpenter finished 14th, Wainwright finished 15th, and Lincecum finished 18th respectively in NL MVP Voting.
None of this is intended to question the validity of Lincecum’s Cy Young Award win, but it does provide a well framed background for what I feel is going to happen with this season’s NL MVP Voting.
Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina, and even Allen Craig to a certain degree are going to end up costing each other NL MVP votes simply because each of them are turning in MVP quality seasons. The importance of each player to the Cardinals is apparent, but choosing just one to represent the Cardinals as an NL MVP is going to prove very difficult for all of the voters across the land.
A repeat of the 2009 Cy Young Award race seemingly looms large on the horizon like an oncoming storm.
So, who is going to take home the NL MVP Trophy if it’s not a Cardinal?
On August 28th, Zachary Rymer and Joe Giglio of Horsehide Chronicles on Bleacher Report put forth a great read that does an excellent job building the case for either Clayton Kershaw or Andrew McCutchen to take home the NL MVP Trophy this season.
As of today, Clayton Kershaw is currently leading the National League in ERA (1.94), games started (31), shutouts (2), innings pitched (223), strikeouts (214), ERA+ (184), and WHIP (.928).
Kershaw is essentially having a season that is a conglomeration of the categories that each of the top 3 pitchers in 2009 dominated, and he even threw in WHIP for good measure. Does that make him a clear cut choice for NL MVP though?
I think the season he has had makes him the obvious choice for the NL Cy Young Award, but that’s it. As dominating as a starting pitcher can be, he only gets to affect a game every 5th day. It may sound archaic, but it’s the truth, and it seems that most MVP Voters tend to agree.
There has not been a pitcher win the NL MVP award since 1968 when Bob Gibson won it behind the strength of a 22 win season in which he posted a microscopic ERA of 1.12 and also managed to record 268 strikeouts.
Yes, I know that Justin Verlander won the AL MVP award in 2011 so there is definitely recent precedent for a pitcher winning the award, but Verlander’s numbers (24 wins, 2.40 ERA, 250 strikeouts) paralleled Gibson’s to a degree. At this point, however, Kershaw is not going to break 20 wins, and probably not even come near that mark either as he currently sits with 14 wins despite playing on the NL West leading Dodgers who have won 86 games this season.
With Kershaw only accounting for 16% of their wins, it’s very clear they are more than capable of winning when Kershaw isn’t available.
McCutchen, on the other hand, is a different story all together. He plays on the team that is the best story in baseball this season, and he is clearly the star that shines brightest in the Pirates everyday lineup.
As of today’s game, McCutchen is currently leading the NL in WAR at 7.7, and he’s also first in offensive WAR at 7.1. He also leads the NL in adjusted OPS+ (160), and situational wins added (4.9). Defensively, he plays a premium position, and he leads the NL in multiple categories including games played in CF (144), double plays turned as CF (3), and one I am sure he’s not as proud of, errors committed as CF (6).
Simply put, Andrew McCutchen is a bona fide option to sneak in the back door and win the NL MVP award should the Cardinals candidates split each others votes just like what happened in the 2009 Cy Young race.