A few weeks ago we took a look at how the AL MVP race was shaping up. It’s now time to see what the competition looks like in the National League.
In the Junior Circuit, Justin Verlander has sparked debate on whether a pitcher should be named the league’s most valuable player. This hasn’t happened in two decades and probably isn’t likely to happen this year, but Verlander has certainly built a case for himself with his ridiculous 2011.
I bring this up because, if you look at the numbers, you can argue that a pitcher is the leader in the National League MVP race as well.
If you were using wins above replacement to select the NL MVP, Halladay would have to be your pick. The right hander not only blows all other NL pitchers out of the water with his WAR of 6.9, but also beats out all NL position players in that category.
But again, pitchers win Cy Young’s and hitters take home MVP’s. So let’s take a look at the National League’s best position players.
Joey Votto – Cincinnati Reds
Last year’s NL MVP seems to be getting forgotten a bit since the Reds haven’t been able to keep pace in the Central. Votto has gotten on base at the highest clip (.441) of anyone in the National League. That and his .551 slugging percentage combine to also give Votto best OPS in the league. His .426 wOBA places him second behind only Ryan Braun. His RBI (84) and home run (24) numbers aren’t as high as some in the NL, but Votto’s combination of skill at the plate and defensively at first base have him currently sporting the NL’s best WAR (6.5) among position players.
Troy Tulowitzki – Colorado Rockies
Though the 2011 Rockies have drastically underperformed according to many preseason predictions, Tulowitzki has continued to shine as the face of the franchise. Tulo has hit at a clip of .305/.375/.546 this year. He’s got the second most doubles in the NL and is in the top 10 in home runs (26), RBI’s (89) and hits (147). Tulowitzki’s managed to do all of this while playing the premium position of shortstop very well (UZR of 10.7). His combo of success at the plate and on defense have earned him the National League’s second highest WAR (6.3) among position players.
Matt Kemp – Los Angeles Dodgers
Not much has gone right in LA this year, but one beautiful thing has been the break out year of Matt Kemp. The 26 year old has already surpassed career highs in walks and home runs and is preparing to do so in several other categories. Kemp has posted a line of .322/.392/.570 on the year with 29 home runs and 26 doubles. He’s been able to tally the second most RBI’s (97) in the NL and has swiped 33 bases.
Ryan Braun – Milwaukee Brewers
2011 has been more of the same for Braun, as he continues to help Milwaukee mash their way to the postseason. He’s got the league’s best slugging percentage (.585) and wOBA (.433) and the second best OPS (985). While he’s always known as a hitter, Braun has quietly stolen 29 bases this season, good for 7th best in the NL. The slugger’s hit 25 home runs and 31 doubles while driving in 85 runs and scoring a league-high 90 times. His .330 batting average has him second in the league to this other guy that I’m getting ready to talk about.
Jose Reyes – New York Mets
What a year it’s been for Jose Reyes. He was the center of much speculation as the deadline approached, but New York ultimately decided to hang on to him. He’s had his best year at a great time, as his current contract is up after the season. Reyes leads the league in hitting (.336) and the triple haven that is Citi Field has helped him post a slugging percentage north of .500. Reyes has the second most stolen bases in the NL with 34 and has scored 80 runs.
Prince Fielder – Milwaukee Brewers
Like Reyes, Fielder is putting up solid numbers while in the final year of his contract. His efforts in 2011 seem certain to earn Fielder a very nice payday this winter. Fielder’s 100 RBI’s are the best in the NL and he’s already gone yard 28 times this season, two numbers that are certain to attract plenty of MVP attention. Fielder’s hit at a clip of .298/.412/.549 with 59 extra base hits in 2011 and is top 5 in the National League in walks (86), OBP (.412) and slugging % (.549).