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Who should win the National League MVP award?

Nov 22, 2010, 10:15 AM EDT

albert-pujols-and-joey-votto Getty Images

My assumption is that Joey Votto will be named National League MVP when the award is announced this afternoon, as his monster season combined with the Reds making the playoffs for the first time since 1995 will likely have him atop most of the 32 ballots cast by Baseball Writers Association of America members.

However, based strictly on his performance–rather than some combination of his performance and his team’s success–it’s not quite as clear if Votto was actually the best player in the league.

Consider the following comparison between two MVP candidates:

                PA     AVG     OBP     SLG      OPS    HR    RBI    RUN
Player X       700    .312    .414    .596    1.011    42    118    115
Player Z       648    .324    .424    .600    1.024    37    113    106

Which of those two players was the most valuable? Player Z had a slightly higher batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS while performing better in high-leverage situations, but Player X came to the plate 52 more times and had more homers, RBIs, and runs while playing better defense. I think they’re close enough that there’s really no “right” answer, yet I’m fairly certain that Votto will be the runaway winner when the voting is announced in a few hours.

Player X is Albert Pujols.

Player Z is Joey Votto.

Carlos Gonzalez is also very much in the mix, but his numbers aren’t quite as jaw-dropping as Pujols’ or Votto’s, as he trails them by 37 and 50 points of OPS despite calling Coors Field home for half his games. Gonzalez had a tremendous season, but a .974 OPS in Colorado just isn’t as impressive as a 1.011 OPS in St. Louis or a 1.024 OPS in Cincinnati. And sure enough, Gonzalez hit .380 with a 1.161 OPS at Coors Field compared to .289 with a .775 OPS on the road.

I tend to think Pujols’ extra 52 plate appearances and superior defense at first base give him the edge over Votto, but it probably wouldn’t be all that difficult to convince me Votto should be the pick and ultimately the difference between them is so slight that it’s impossible to say with any kind of certainty either way.

Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell were named co-MVPs in 1979 and if ever there was another year for the award to be split between two equally deserving candidates this is probably it, but I suspect Pujols has a better chance of finishing third than first. His excellence has almost become routine at this point and the Cardinals underperformed as a team despite his MVP-caliber season, and those two factors are likely more than enough to break any sort of performance-based “tie” in the voters’ eyes.

Votto and Pujols were the MVPs of the National League this year, but only Votto will get the award.

  1. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 22, 2010 at 10:36 AM

    I didn’t even consider Co-MVPs, but as you mentioned this year it would be justified. However, we might see the irrational “Pujols wins every year so let’s give it to someone else” excuse this time.

  2. theolgoaler - Nov 22, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    I’m a Cards fan, and even I think Votto wins this year’s award… Albert deserves to win the MVP every year; without him this season, the Cards would have finished in Memphis…

  3. BC - Nov 22, 2010 at 10:41 AM

    I’m voting for Player Y.

    • sdelmonte - Nov 22, 2010 at 10:42 AM

      Derek Jeter?

      • Utley's Hair - Nov 22, 2010 at 11:11 AM

        Isn’t Jeter the ultimate Y factor? Manly man that he is….

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Nov 22, 2010 at 11:22 AM

      Yep, I’m voting for Jeter too.

    • BC - Nov 22, 2010 at 12:23 PM

      Motion carries, then.

      • Utley's Hair - Nov 22, 2010 at 1:23 PM

        Hmmm…I’m beginning to think you’re a closetedWanker fan…or maybe secretive…wait a minute…BC? Brian Cashman?!?!?!?

  4. Utley's Hair - Nov 22, 2010 at 10:51 AM

    It’s no fair that Pujols got those 52 extra PAs in that three-day game against the Mutts. Ya know…tha one in which McCarebear was proud that he didn’t even leave the booth to take a whiz…?

  5. cintiphil - Nov 22, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    The MVP has little to do with the best player, and most with who led his team to victory for the year (most valuable for the team). Votto contributed more to his team winning than Pujols did to his. Finis

  6. Old Gator - Nov 22, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    I don’t dispute Votto’s credentials. But frankly, I can’t help but blanch a little at valorizing a guy who would refuse to sign an autograph for a kid because he was wearing some other team’s cap. Then again, he’ll be far from the first utter asshole to win the award, and I suspect that once the kid in question is old enough to appreciate what a schmuck he let hurt his feelings, he’ll have something to laugh about when he tells his own kids how close he came to letting his baseball get slimed.

    • Utley's Hair - Nov 22, 2010 at 2:46 PM

      Alas, the MVP is supposed to be the guy who meant the most to his team on the field, and not to the PR of his team and the sport in general, not to mention a fan of said sport. That is too often the case.

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