Who Wins the 2017 NL MVP?

The NL MVP race is stuffed with impressive stat lines from a multitude of players. To begin with from a team standpoint, the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks all are having resurgent seasons, creating a superpower NL West division. The Washington Nationals are also having a strong season, outputting a batting order day after day with (arguably) four MVP candidates. This season also has several pitchers having stellar years, making a case for the MVP award.

As a reference point, out of the past five NL MVP’s, four have had an average of:

BA HRs RBIs OPS wOBA WAR
.319 32 97 .979 .414 8.5

 

The other MVP of course was pitcher Clayton Kershaw in 2014, who had a pitching stat line of:

W/L ERA K/9 FIP xFIP WAR
21-3 1.77 10.85 1.81 2.08 7.6

 

As another point of reference, we will look into the team win-loss record for each MVP as well. As we mentioned in our previous article, team success is also taken into account in the voting:

Team Record Playoffs? World Series?
2012 Giants 94-68 Yes Yes
2013 Pirates 94-68 Yes No
2014 Dodgers 94-68 Yes No
2015 Nationals 83-79 No No
2016 Cubs 103-58* Yes Yes

*played only 161 games

This works out to an average of 93.5 wins for each MVP winners team.

Now that all the numbers are on the table, we can begin to look into this years’ candidates… and there is a lot of them. Compared to the MVP past-winner averages, five position players came out as having a legitimate shot at winning the MVP: Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Paul Goldschmidt, Joey Votto and Nolan Arenado.

Out of these five players, four are on teams that have appear to be destined for playoff baseball, meaning (unfairly) that our beloved Canadian Joey Votto will get cut from contention.

Here’s the remaining four:

BA HRs (Steamer Proj.) RBIs (Steamer Proj.) OPS wOBA WAR (Steamer Proj.) Team W-L (FanGraphs Proj.) Playoffs?
Harper .324 40 117 1.040 .428 7.0 94-68 Yes
Rendon .314 29 98 .996 .417 7.0 94-68 Yes
Goldschmidt .316 32 112 1.001 .417 6.3 90-72 Yes
Arenado .315 36 133 .957 .393 5.3 87-75 Yes

Now, usually when you have two candidates from the same team, voters look away from voting for either player since it is a “Most Valuable Player” award. How could one of them be the most valuable to their team when their team has another player arguably just as valuable? However in this instance, we feel that doesn’t apply. Rendon and Harper both are having monstrous seasons and are close enough in relation to all our MVP stat categories. Though it may seem similar to the problem which arose in our AL MVP projection, they are unlike. One of our reasons for shying away from Jose Altuve was the production of Carlos Correa and George Springer. We feel you cannot apply this reasoning for the Harper-Rendon situation because their stats aren’t merely complimentary to each other, they are stand-alone MVP worthy. Currently, both players stand in the top four (yes top four) in the entire MLB in WAR. You cannot argue against that being MVP-caliber.

Furthermore, we’ve broken the numbers down for each player and created a list of what would need to happen if each player were to win the MVP.

Arenado wins if:

  • Rockies win NL West
  • Leads NL in HR, RBI, BA

If the Rockies were to win the NL West, Arenado (as well as a number of others) would have to get white-hot for Colorado. Even though they’re in a wildcard position, they sit 14.5 games back of the Dodgers. We also feel Arenado would have to win the triple crown (BA, HR, RBI) to win the MVP. These two items are an extreme long-shot to actually happen, so let’s call Arenado a long-shot to win the MVP.

Goldschmidt wins if:

  • Diamondbacks finish in 1st WC position
  • Leads NL in HR, RBI, BA

We’ve given Goldschmidt a slightly easier route to the MVP (but not really). On top of winning the triple crown, the Diamondbacks would need to win the 1st wildcard spot, which they sit in at the moment. However, Goldschmidt is a good distance away from any triple crown contention. “Goldy” is another MVP long-shot.

Rendon wins if:

  • Nationals win NL East
  • Leads NL in WAR, wOBA
  • Finishes with more HR, RBI than Harper

Though it looks rather obviously that Rendon would have to have better stats than Harper to win the MVP, it’s the truth. Rendon would need to be even hotter than he already is this season and hope that his teammate, one of the stars of the MLB, cools off significantly.

Harper wins if:

  • Nationals win NL East
  • Continues doing what he’s doing

In our opinion, the NL MVP is Harper’s to lose. Bouncing back from a tough 2016 season (for his standards) the 2015 MVP is second in the NL in WAR, first in wOBA, first in OPS, fourth in HRs and fourth in RBIs. Enough said.

Here are some of our favourite videos from Bryce in 2017:

**all of the statistics used in this article are as of August 2nd’s completed games

 

Adam is a student at the University of Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter @adam_m3318.

Carter is a hockey player, formerly in the WHL for the Vancouver Giants, currently at the University of British Columbia. You can follow him on Twitter @carter_popoff.

You can follow Hit the Cut on Twitter @hitthecutblog.

 

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