The All-Star Break is upon us, and until game action starts up again on Friday, we're going to do a brief season in review of the 2012 MLB season thusfar. Our staff has voted on a variety of awards, and we're going to roll them out over the next four days.
The National League MVP award race right now comes down to three men, all of whom are playing for contenders. It's really not an easy decision between the three, and in fact, it came down to just one point in the overall voting. Talk about going down to the wire…
1) Andrew McCutchen (32 points, four first place votes)
2) Joey Votto (31 points, three first place votes)
3) David Wright (20 points)
4) Michael Bourn (eight points)
5) Ryan Braun (seven points)
6) RA Dickey (three points)
7) Carlos Ruiz (three points)
8) Melky Cabrera (one point)
The king is dead. Long live the king. Despite being fourth in the NL in fWAR (behind Votto, Wright, and Bourn), Andrew McCutchen won our voting by the slimmest of margins. The reasons are multiple, but let me try to explain. McCutchen is in the top five in baseball in all three triple crown stats (leading in batting average, fourth in homers, third in RBI), and only Wright and Braun are in the top five in two of those categories. He's second in the league in OPS behind Votto. He's on pace for a 30/30 season, homering 18 times whle stealing ten bases. Braun is the only other player in the league that close to 30/30. There's also the Pirates factor, where McCutchen is an amazing talent on a team that is shockingly contending this year, and hasn't been good for 20 years. Put it all together, and while Votto might be having the better year, McCutchen is more valuable.
That's not to slight Votto or Wright by any means. In fact, if the Reds win the NL Central, I think Votto will have a much better chance of winning here (not that winning the division should impact his chances, of course). Votto has a 1.088 OPS…that's just silly. But at the same time, in the "sexy" categories, he doesn't fare so well, thanks to only 14 homers and 48 RBI (again, not that it should matter). As for Wright, it's the same deal. He has a 1.004 OPS in a large market for a team that is shockingly contending. But it's almost gotten to the point where the Mets are consistently overlooked because they've been a walking punchline for a few years in a row. It's not fair at all…but that's life. Wright is having an amazing season, and should get at least some notoriety. It's a shame that he got robbed of starting in the All-Star game too, because that could have gone a long way towards letting people know that the old David Wright is back.
Michael Bourn of the Braves has done a very good job at setting himself up for a huge payday this offseason. He's having the finest season of his career in center field for Atlanta, hitting a career high seven homers, stealing 25 bases, scoring 60 runs, OPSing .817 as a leadoff man, and playing fantastic defense in center for the Braves. Of course, that's all well and good, but you need to be pretty special as a center fielder to win the MVP. Hell, look at what Jacoby Ellsbury did last year for the Red Sox, and he didn't win. He'll probably be unfairly compared to Mike Trout, the AL MVP favorite as a center fielder, and that will hurt him in the eyes of voters.
Ryan Braun hasn't blinked after his 2011 NL MVP year. He's doing what he does, which is mash the living hell out of the ball. Braun has 24 homers, 15 stolen bases, and a .990 OPS while powering a struggling Brewers lineup. Braun hit 33 homers all of last year, and is just nine away from that this year. As great as 2011 was for Braun, 2012 might be that much better. But because his team isn't doing well, he probably won't get as much love as he should. The PED controversy from the winter likely won't help his odds either, even though they were a bunch of bunk.
I talked about RA Dickey ad nauseum yesterday, and he's having a fantastic year. But for a pitcher to win the MVP award, they need to be unreal. I don't think Dickey is at that level right now.
Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz is having his best year yet, and the best year for any catcher in all of baseball. He should have been an All-Star starter, but yeah…Giants fans again. Of course, because the Phillies are playing some terrible baseball, Ruiz's accomplishments are flying under the radar.
Finally, there's All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera of the Giants. Who would have imagined he'd have this type of season, with his fourth team in the last four years? He's probably not going to continue to hit .353 or OPS .910 for the rest of the year, but it's a nice first half story.