CHICAGO, November 14, 2013 — The final MLB awards are handed out today as the MVP’s in both the American League and National League will be announced at 6 p.m. EST. MLB previously announced the top three vote getters in both leagues. The AL winner will come from a group of Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera or Chris Davis, while the NL winner will be one of Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen or Yadier Molina.
This collection of NL candidates is one that virtually no one had pegged entering the season. The winner really could be any of them as they all have their merits. Goldschmidt posted the most impressive offensive numbers as he had a .302/.401/.551 slash line good for an OPS+ of 160 (best in the NL) and contributed 7.1 WAR according to baseball reference. The biggest arguments against Goldschmidt will be that he plays first base where his defensive contribution is somewhat muted in comparison to the other two finalists. Also, Arizona failed to make the playoffs, but Goldschmidt did just about everything a player can to get his team there. Since there are no more player-managers it is hard to expect Goldschmidt to be a player-GM, which should be the only way to blame him for his team missing the playoffs.
Yadier Molina posted a slash line of .319/.359/.477 slash line good for an OPS+ of 131, but made a greater contribution with his defense and ended up contributing 5.7 WAR while missing 26 games. Defensive metrics for catchers, even advanced ones, do not seem to do the position justice and Molina is considered one of the best defensive catchers so his contribution may be even higher.
Finally, McCutchen posted a slash line of .317/.404/.508, good for an OPS+ of 158, while providing 8.2 WAR. McCutchen also led the playoff-starved city of Pittsburgh to the playoffs for the first time since 1992. The guess here is that McCutchen takes home the award and that Clayton Kershaw, who had an historic season in his own right, finishes fourth.
As amazing as Chris Davis’ season was, it is almost a forgone conclusion that he will finish third in the voting. Davis had a slash line of .286/.370/.634, an OPS+ of 165 and contributed 6.3 WAR. Just as a team not making the playoffs should not be held against a player, which the Orioles did not, Davis will also likely suffer from the fact that the other two finalists were the center of the MVP debate last year. Neither of these variables matter in the eyes of this column, but likely will to the voters.
Last year’s AL MVP debate centered largely on the value of defense, base running and Triple Crown stats. There was no Triple Crown winner in the AL this year and may lead to a change in the outcome. Miguel Cabrera posted a .348/.442/.636 slash line, good for an OPS+ of 187 while contributing 7.2 WAR as he battled injuries over the final month or so of the season. Cabrera’s defense and base running pale in comparison to Trout’s, but he played on a better team that made the playoffs and won the batting title.
Mike Trout followed up an amazing rookie season with arguably a better second season posting a slash line of .323/.432/.557, an OPS+ of 179 and provided 9.2 WAR. Trout is considered by far the best defensive player in this group, as well as base runner, but the Angels failed to make the playoffs and many of the voters who voted for Cabrera last year may be even more entrenched in their stance and vote for Cabrera again. The guess here is Trout wins this round with Cabrera finishing second.
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