|Fielder NL MVP in Tight Race||| Print ||
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on August 29, 2011
With one month to go, the Milwaukee Brewers look to be cruising to an easy NL Central divisional crown. However, not too long ago, the division involved a four-team race with a variety of players coming up with key performances.
Though the Brewers are the hottest team, several players from the other three teams have entered themselves into the conversation for NL Central MVP.
Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates is an outside contender. He's having a terrific season in both the speed and power departments and has also played great defense in centerfield.
The Pirates overachieved for a while during the middle of the season and even made some trade deadline deals, but they find themselves out of the race with a month to go.
Reigning NL MVP Joey Votto carried the Cincinnati Reds for a stretch this season. Part of the reason he received so many votes last season was that the Reds captured the division title.
However, this year the team has been inconsistent out of the gate and hasn't recovered. Votto's numbers are still very good, but he won't get the attention he deserves over the final month since the Reds are out of the race.
Over the first half of the season, there's little argument that can be made against St. Louis Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman as the NL MVP. Berkman lost significant weight in the offseason, after being a non-factor for the Yankees down the stretch last year.
He's still hitting everything in sight and is now approaching 30 home runs. He'll also be a free agent at the end of the year so maybe has earned himself a multi-year deal despite being 35 years old.
Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun is also in the mix for NL Central MVP. It still seems like Braun is playing in the shadows of some of the NL's best, but he is quickly becoming a top-five player in the league, if he's not already.
Braun has consistently put up huge numbers his entire career, and this year is no different. He's second in the league in hitting (.330) behind Jose Reyes of the Mets, who is on the disabled list and may have trouble qualifying for the minimum number of at-bats.
Of course, what would an NL Central MVP race be without Albert Pujols? Call him whatever you want ('Phat Albert,' 'The Machine' or 'Albert Winnie the Pujols'), but all the guy does is produce, including leading the NL in home runs.
The three-time NL MVP actually got off to an uncharacteristically slow start this season and even missed time due to injury. However, if he can finish out the season strong, he will become only the second player in the history of the game to record 11 seasons of a .300 batting average, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, the other being Babe Ruth with 12.
The fact that he spent a stint on the DL and that the Cardinals are slipping out of the race will likely hurt Pujols in this year's voting.
Despite these strong candidates, Prince Fielder is not only the NL Central MVP, but he'll likely receive the majority of votes for NL MVP. In addition to putting up great numbers, Fielder has shown his durability by being the only player in the league to start every single game this season.
Though questions of his weight always surround him, he simply goes about his business each night and hits the ball as hard as anyone in the game.
He's been a key factor in the Brewers' success and was the first NL player to reach the 100-RBI mark.
With free agency looming for the big guy, he's set to sign a lucrative multi-year deal, whether or not that's with the Brewers. An NL MVP award would further add to his value.
So while the NL Central has a handful of very productive players, Fielder takes the cake, literally and figuratively.