When thinking about the NL MVP race, there’s a certain resume of accomplishments a player must achieve in order to be considered to such a high honor. For one, the player must excel at his position defensively, an attribute that has been vastly overlooked by the Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder fans of the world. Second, the player must exhibit the highest productivity in the league, combining average with slugging percentage, RBIs, runs and Wins-Against-Replacement (WAR). He must be absolutely crucial to his team, not only as a consistent source of offense, but in dire circumstances and clutch performances. And finally, he must be part of a championship-caliber team. Those, I think, are the standards we can all agree upon as the standard measurements in considering the best player in each league.
1. Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants: All of these conditions apply to the one, Buster Posey, catcher for the Giants. His slash line is an exorbitant .333/.408/.542 with 21 home runs and 89 RBIs. In the last five games, he has managed to outdo himself, posting a 11-for-20 mark with three doubles and two home runs while San Francisco has boosted its NL-West division lead to seven games over the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the past week, he has overtaken the NL in OPS+ (170) and on-base percentage. Moreover, Posey has registered a lofty 6.1 WAR, a number quite high for a catcher who usually gets more rest than that typical position player. But what’s even more impressive is his stats since the All-Star Break. The 25-year-old Posey has accumulated a hefty .393/.470/.658 slash line since the Mid-Summer Classic.
If those stats don’t wake you from your stupor, the former 2010 Rookie-of-the-Year has been an instrumental part of the Giants’ pitching staff, calling pitches for a team that ranks in the top-10 of every major pitching category, including ERA (8th), quality starts (7th), WHIP (10th) and batting average against (10th). If you’re looking to run off of him, the three-year pro has tallied a 29 percent put out rate, which ranks in the top-five of NL catchers. Oh yea, and he also called Matt Cain’s perfect game on June 13. Sounds like an all-around catcher to me.
Competing for the honor of NL MVP are only two players — Ryan Braun an Andrew McCutchen.
2. Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: In a controversial and surprising turn of events since his “steroids retribution,” Braun has made last year’s doubters out of this year’s believers. His stat line reads an impressive .310/.385/.593 with a (hold your breath!) 100 RBIs, 93 runs, 23 stolen bases and a league-leading 38 homers. All for a team that doesn’t have any significant talent around him. In fact, the Brewers are barely keeping above a .500 winning percentage, a feat that no MVP should be accredited with. To make matters worse, Braun’s week has been slow. He hasn’t recorded more than one extra-base hit in the last seven games, dropping his slugging percentage to below .600 for the first time in the 2012 season. Not good for an honor which is so highly dissected and scrutinized every week.
3. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: McCutchen has certainly made his case for MVP candidacy. Not only has he made the Pittsburgh Pirates relevant again, he does it with flashes of excitement and quickness we don’t quite see these days. The 25-year-old speedster is one of the most versatile players in the game, turning singles into doubles, doubles into triples and line drive base hits into spectacular catches at his center field position. His offensive stat line reads a league-best .331 average, with a .396 on-base percentage and a .569 slugging percentage. He’s also posted 27 long balls, 77 RBIs and a league-best 114 runs and 45 stolen bases. But lately, he has hit a standstill in his game, and so has the team. They’ve bounced out of playoff contention in the past two weeks and are currently hovering somewhere just above .500 mark. for now, it seems the Cinderella story can be laid to rest in Pittsburgh…once again.