In the American League there are only two real contenders for Most Valuable Player - Miguel Cabrera, the likely winner, and Mike Trout. Both are offensive forces both great players. Cabrera is the powerhouse bat, but Trout is the better all-around player, adding both speed and defense to the mix.
Of course Cabrera and the Tigers will be headed to the playoffs, and Trout and the Angels will be headed to the golf course come October so the nod will almost certainly go to Cabrera for the second year in a row.
But in the National League, the MVP picture isn’t clear at all. No one has stepped forward to say, “I deserve to win the Most Valuable Player award.” In fact the NL MVP is a muddle with at least a dozen or so players who could be in the mix if we just stick to the offensive players.
If we add in the pitchers, Clayton Kershaw has a real chance of winning both the Cy Young and the MVP in 2014. While Kershaw only has 14 wins, he has a 1.94 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP and 214 strikeouts, leading the NL in all of those categories. However in the past the baseball writers have been loathe to give the MVP to a pitcher.
If we limit ourselves to offensive players the leading candidate should be Paul Goldschmidt (93-31-110-.297), the only candidate likely to finish 100-100 with 30+ home runs and an average close to .290. Unfortunately the Diamondbacks won’t be going to the playoffs, something that always counts against a player as does the lack of media buzz that Goldschmidt has generated.
But even as a 100-100 guy Goldschmidt doesn’t stand out. He’s merely the statistical best of a pack where there a tons of great players, but no one is a commanding presence. Next in the running would be the Giants’ Hunter Pence who’ll likely manage to finish the season 25-25 (he needs 4 steals but is already 25-21) with an average similar to Goldschmidt’s and who has a legit chance to notch 100 RBIs and many as many runs. Of course he’s playing on a team which is worse than Goldschmidt’s but at least plays in better media city.
After him other frontrunners include Hanley Ramirez (57-18-53-.342), Yadier Molina (hitting .312 as a great defensive catcher - and having an outstanding season), Allen Craig (71-13-97-.315), Jay Bruce (84-29-93-.265), Andrew McCutchen (91-19-79-.326) and a pantheon of numerically similar players like Brandon Phillips, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Gonzalez, Freddy Freeman, Carlos Beltran and, heck, Marlon Byrd aren’t statistically far out of the pack.
That’s going to create a conundrum for voters when the season ends. The final standings might well have a lot of relevance as for whom the BWAA members decide to vote. Or Goldschmidt or Pence could make a case in these last 20 days and persuade the writers that he deserves the MVP despite playing for a team that isn’t even contending for the Wild Card.
Or they could decide that the Most Valuable Player in the National League really was a pitcher, Kershaw.
That’s probably not a bad bet.
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