I considered a multitude of factors when constructing my NL MVP ballot. I looked at an array of statistics, because I’m a big believer in the idea that no single stat tells the story. They are best used in conjunction. I spoke to front office people, players and coaches. I used my own eyes, considering I saw all of these players live, though some more than others. I valued consistency over the course of the season. I looked at defense and base-running as well.
I also declined to consider several factors. I didn’t take into account how well a player performed “down the stretch,” which may surprise you given my top vote. No week or month is more important than any other. I ignored the record of the player’s team, or whether or not the team was playoff-bound. It is unfair to punish Ryan Braun because of the Brewers’ bullpen, for example. I also rejected the notion of considering a player’s importance to his team, relative to the rest of his team – the “If you take Andrew McCutchen off the Pirates, what happens?” argument. Setting aside lineup protection, which recent studies have marginalized if not disproven entirely, it is unfair to weigh a player’s supporting cast when considering his performance. My goal was to determine which 10 players had the best seasons in the National League in 2012 and then rank them accordingly.
Clint Hurdle once referred to his ideal MVP as “the baddest dude in the league” when asked to define the criteria for the award. I tend to agree. There is no official definition for the award, according to Baseball Writers Association of America guidelines. Voters are instructed to consider “value to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.” Games played and character are to be considered. Former winners and teammates are all eligible for votes. That’s it. Give a bunch of writers those guidelines, wind ‘em up and let ‘em go.
The first attempt resulted in an unwieldy spreadsheet including statistics and where the players ranked in the NL. Once Jordan Pacheco got involved, I abandoned the method and decreased the player pool under consideration. This is the result.
1. Buster Posey, C, Giants
Posey led the NL in adjusted OPS – 72 percent better than league average when corrected for park and league – and was second in on-base percentage. He had the highest NL WAR according to both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference and plays a tough defensive position in a tough hitter’s park.
2. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers
Things I considered when ranking him here: His league-leading 41 home runs, .987 OPS and 356 total bases. His lowest monthly OPS was .941, and a 40-30 season is tough to do. Also, the fact that he plays left field in a hitter’s park. Things I did not consider: His positive drug test and the ensuing battle via arbitration, which he eventually won. The incident took place last season, which is not under consideration for the 2012 MVP, and there is so much uncertainty about the number and identity of steroid users that to exclude him on that basis defies logic.
3. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
He was the front-runner for the first four months of the season, but was inconsistent in the second half. I realize he got about four fastballs to hit after Aug. 1, but his .693 OPS in August and .254 average in September, among other factors, were enough to demote him. At this level, you’re splitting hairs, and Posey and Braun edged him out.
4. Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals
Molina threw out 48 percent of base-runners attempting to steal. Combine that with a .315 average, 22 home runs and .501 slugging percentage and he deserves top-five consideration.
5. David Wright, 3B, Mets
Wright’s 81 walks helped improve his .391 slugging percentage and he was consistently near the top of many offensive categories, notably doubles, with 41.
6. Chase Headley, 3B, Padres
Headley also benefited from walks, taking 86 this season, and hit 31 home runs in Petco Park.
7. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers
Ramirez led the NL with 50 doubles and had a .540 slugging percentage, but did so in Miller Park.
8. Michael Bourn, OF, Braves
According to Baseball Info Solutions’ defensive runs saved, Bourn saved 24 runs above the average center fielder. That helped a .274 hitter who hit nine home runs – but did steal 42 bases – to record a 6.0 WAR, according to Baseball Reference.
9. Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals
A .295/.379/.497 line with 27 home runs and 36 doubles will get you a vote.
10. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
Placing him was a tough one. Votto hit .337/.474/.567 with 14 home runs but did so in only 475 plate appearances, which fell short of qualification. He managed a 5.6 WAR in 111 games, according to Baseball Reference, and deserves recognition, especially for his 94 walks – tied for the league lead – and extreme on-base percentage.
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