This article will look at 6 top candidates. I have singled out Giancarlo Stanston, Jonathan Lucroy, Josh Harrison, Andrew McCutchen, Clayton Kershaw, and Adam Wainwright. I have used a proprietary rating system that I developed for a baseball simulation game called 'True to Life Baseball'. This rating system rates batters in 3 offensive categories. Then it combines the offensive score with a defensive rating and a base running rating. The pitchers are simply rated in 5 separate pitching categories. The highest possible score for both batters and pitchers is 60. This enables batters and pitchers to be compared side by side for value, albeit subjectively. Though all non-concrete stats are subjective. What I mean by a non-concrete stat would be WAR, (wins above replacement) while a concrete stat would be something like batting average or OBP. (on base percentage)
Here are the ratings for each of the players mentioned from highest to lowest:
Clayton Kershaw = 59
Giancarlo Stanton = 52
Adam Wainwright = 52
Josh Harrison = 48
Andrew McCutchen = 48
Jonathan Lucroy = 46
What to make of this? Well if you take the ratings at face value and assume they are reasonable it still doesn't firmly establish who deserves the MVP. There are other considerations besides performance that come into play. These ratings do not take into account the importance of the position a player plays. It is generally agreed that the catcher, shortstop, and center fielder anchor a teams defense. So perhaps McCutchen and Lucroy should get bonus points here. While Lucroy comes in slightly lower in the ratings, mainly from offensive numbers not at the level of Stanton, the kind of numbers Lucroy puts up from the catcher position is astounding. Getting that kind of production from ones catcher is a huge bonus to a team. I mean how many catchers routinely bat in the 2-4 position in the batting order?
As far as a pitcher getting the MVP, in spite of Kershaw's otherworldly performance, I personally feel that the leagues Cy Young award is the equivalent to the MVP. I'm against a pitcher getting both the Cy Young and MVP as it denies another player recognition for his achievements. So while Kershaw and Wainwright are worthy of being in the MVP discussion, I'm crossing them off the list for the reason just stated.
Andrew McCutchen is kind of a victim of his own success. His numbers compare well to the top candidates even though its a slightly off year by his own standards. I have not heard his name mentioned much in the MVP dialog. Writers probably figure that he just won the award so let someone else have a chance, and again his numbers are down slightly from last year.
Josh Harrison is having a breakout year and may get points for coming out of nowhere. No doubt the fact that he has put up these offensive numbers while playing 5 different positions should not be overlooked. JHay has played 3B, LF, RF, 2B, and SS as listed from most played to least played.
I think politics always comes into play with these awards. Meaning that all things being equal, the further a candidates team advances into the playoffs, the more likely that player wins the award. That being said, none of the teams these candidates are on are shoe ins for making the playoffs. The Dodgers and Cardinals appear to be in the best position at the time I write this.
Who would I vote for if given the chance? Josh Harrison. There is no way the Pirates would even be sniffing a playoff spot without the production of JHay from a utility role throughout the year.
The Cardinals won their 5th straight game tonight and are now 3 games ahead of the 2nd place Brewers. How are they doing it? The way the Cardinals always do, with stellar pitching and timely hitting. They are also steady, having played .542 ball in the 1st half of the season and .548 so far in the 2nd half. They are now 13 games over .500 and still have scored fewer runs then they have given up. They have scored 533 runs after tonight's 1-0 victory and allowed 536. According to basic math they should be a .500 club. Again how do the Cards defy the math? With their pitching they are always in a game. Then they are just clutch. It seems that they are always winning games by 1 run. They are 26-20 in 1 run games after tonight according to baseball-reference after accounting for today's 1-0 victory.
What looked like a tight 3 game race for the Central Division title is quickly turning into a Cardinal runaway. Remember back in 2011 when the Cards were 10 games back of the Braves for the wildcard in late August? Then they stormed back to overtake the Braves to secure a playoff spot. They went onto win the World Series. The Cards thrive in September and October. They either draft or trade for players who are disciplined at the plate and extremely focused. This year they are doing it all without that much power. There season total of 90 home runs is last in the National League. What the Cards lack in power, they more than make up for in sound fundamentals. They play small ball as well as anyone in the league. In order to beat the Cardinals, you have to beat them, they do not beat themselves. That is the best indicator of a good team.
Its September 3rd and the Brewers are in disarray. Oh sure, no one within the organization would say as much because those in business spin things optimistically. The fact is, the Brewers currently have their longest losing streak of the year at 7 games. More critically, since May 2nd, the Brewers are 3 games under .500. On May 2nd, they were 21-9. Before tonights game they are 73-65. They played stellar baseball for 1 month and have basically played .500 ball for the remainder of the season.
The Brewers longest winning streak during this .500 run is 5 games. They don't look to be a team that can make up 4 or 5 games on anyone in a couple weeks. That is why tonights game vs the Cubs is paramount. They can't afford to fall 3 games behind St. Louis. Not to mention they have not played the Cardinals all that well this year and have 7 games remaining with them.
I see some deeper problems with the Brewers going forward. Gomez is kind of a case in point. A free swinger that has now unfortunately suffered his 2nd injury of the year sustained while simply swinging the bat. He has one of the most violent swings in all of baseball. I think many coaching staffs would work with Gomez to change his swing, if for no other reason than to protect him for continual injury. When the Brewers manager, Ron Roenicke, is asked this very question by reporters he always responds along the lines that the players are who they are, and at this level there is nothing that can be done to change that. I didn't directly quote him only cause I didn't want to sort through all the post game interviews. He has stated something similar to Gomez's swing on at least 2 occasions.
Isn't it the coaching staffs job though? To coach a player either to make him perform better or to protect him from injury. Suffice it to say I disagree with Ron's managerial style on several points. One of them is just what I see as an undisciplined team. Free swinging teams like the Brewers rarely go deep into the playoffs. Teams that go deep in the playoffs have patient hitters like the Cardinals. Patient hitters make the starting pitcher work and get a good starter out of the game on high pitch counts. Then they go to work on the middle relievers. Free swinging hitters also translate to an on again off again offense. In their last 7 games, the Brewers have only scored 14 runs. Two runs a game does not win many games. The Brewers also appear to be the most aggressive team on the base paths, which bites them more often than not. Roenicke is known as a players manager. I think he has taken it too far, almost to the point where the players are not even being coached.
Of course I still follow them and root for them but it has to be with a level of detachment because the Brewers often beat themselves. Good teams do not beat themselves. The Brewers are an average team that had 1 outstanding month. Ironically Brewer beat reporters twice ran stories on why Roenicke deserved manager of the year. I'm not sure the writers who wrote that believed it themselves or if it was just written as a sensationalistic story to attract viewers. As much as I don't want to see the Cards win another division title. Its hard to hold a grudge against them, because they always find away to stay in it and then make a push just at the right time.