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Nobody said that baseball’s MVP award has to be given to a player on a winning team. But looking at what “MVP” stands for, it means most “valuable” player. Usually, a player is deemed valuable based on his contributions to helping the team win and make the playoffs.

If that’s the case, the writers made the right call in selecting Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen as the 2013 NL MVP.

Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt had a monster year, and compared to McCutchen, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that Goldschmidt had the better year.

Goldschmidt was huge, but McCutcheon meant more to his team
Photo by Bob James, used under creative commons license.

If there were a Most Outstanding Player award in each league rather than a Most Valuable Player award, Goldschmidt likely would have been the winner. But instead, it’s called “MVP,” not “MOP.”

The MVP award should really be given to a player who significantly contributes to his team making the playoffs. The whole point of the regular season is for teams to earn a postseason berth, so how could a player on a team that misses the playoffs stack up against one who helped his team reach the postseason?

In 2003, Alex Rodriguez was the named the AL MVP on the last-place Texas Rangers. He hit .298, clubbed 47 home runs, drove in 118 runs, scored 124 runs and had a .600 slugging percentage. But again, how “valuable” was he if his team finished last?

Looking at the Goldschmidt-McCutchen race, at least the Diamondbacks finished second in the NL West as opposed to last. Goldschmidt was basically the reason the team stayed relevant for as long as it did.

In comparing the two players, Goldschmidt led in home runs (36-21), RBI (125-84), runs scored (103-97) and slugging percentage (.551-.508). McCutchen had more steals (27-15), a higher batting average (.317-.302), a higher on-base percentage (.404-.401), more doubles (38-36) and more triples (5-3).

Goldschmidt won a Gold Glove, and though McCutchen did not, the competition among NL outfielders was a bit steeper than for first basemen. Both players were All-Stars last season, and both won Silver Slugger awards for their positions.

Now, I definitely don’t think that the MVP should automatically be the player that finishes first in wins above replacement (WAR). But if the MVP is going to the most “valuable” and not the most “outstanding” player, WAR must be considered.

Carlos Gomez led all NL players with an 8.4 WAR. McCutchen was second with an 8.2 rating, while Goldschmidt was third at 7.1.

But McCutchen led all NL players with a 7.5 offensive WAR, with Goldschmidt finishing fifth in the league in this category at 5.7.

Even with all these numbers being thrown around, sometimes the MVP is decided by which player carries his team to the playoffs. Though the Pirates received contributions from Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte, Neil Walker and a dominant bullpen, McCutchen was the reason this team ended its playoff drought.

That is what a “valuable” player does: He gets his team to the playoffs.

I do believe that a Most Outstanding Player award should be instituted. For the NL this year, Goldschmidt would have easily taken home that hardware.

But as for MVP, again the writers made the right choice in selecting McCutchen.