As recently as a couple weeks ago, the race for the National League MVP award seemed to have St. Louis Cardinals’ third baseman Matt Carpenter in control. But strong pushes down the stretch by several other players have this honor up for grabs. Here’s a look at the contenders…
Matt Carpenter (3B, St. Louis): He may no longer be a frontrunnr, but nor can you discount what Carpenter has meant for the Cardinals this season. His stat line is .385 on-base percentage/.541 slugging percentage. He’s hit 35 home runs out of the leadoff spot. Based on pure numbers, some of the other contenders we’re about to see have better production. But Carpenter has often been at his best when the Cardinals have needed him most. If he can do it one more time and push his team to the playoffs, he would still meet the traditional designation of “most valuable.”
Christian Yelich (LF, Milwaukee): His cycle last night against the Reds lifted the stat line to .385/.570. Yelich has hit 31 home runs and is a run producer, driving in 93 and scoring 102. He’s sleek and athletic and of all the contenders, has been playing his best down the stretch as the Brewers have surged to the lead to host the NL wild-card game and still have a great shot at catching the Cubs in the NL Central.
Javier Baez (2B, Chicago): Speaking of the Cubs, Baez has hit 32 home runs and slugged .566. The .328 on-base percentage is undeniably low for an MVP candidate, especially one playing in Wrigley Field. The case for Baez rests on whether his stellar glove work at an important defensive spot is enough to outweigh the OBP inconsistency.
Nolan Arenado (3B, Colorado): With 34 home runs, 101 RBI and a stat line of .377/.558, Arenado has the numbers. The question voters have to decide is whether his statistical edge is sufficient, given the huge advantage he has of hitting in Coors Field. In Arenado’s favor is that no contender has the kind of opportunity he does in these final couple weeks—the Rockies are in the midst of a big series with the Dodgers as they fight it out in a sizzling NL West race. If Nolan delivers, his numbers and his defensive skills probably push him over the top.
Barring some significant change, the 2018 NL MVP really has to come from this group of four players. Paul Goldschmidt, the Arizona first baseman, has the numbers (.400/.553, 33 home runs), but his team has faded over the last couple weeks, the home park is hitter-friendly and he doesn’t bring elite defensive skills to the table.
Nor can you make a credible case for a pitcher. I’m generally supportive of pitchers winning the MVP, but they have to be a cut above their own. The fact Jacob DeGrom is leading the ERA race at 1.78, but has only won eight games for the Mets, rules that out. The top closer, Wade Davis in Colorado, has 40 saves, but also blown six saves and sits on a 4.48 ERA.
If we had to vote today, I’d put Yelich in the top spot with the caveat that Arenado controls his destiny in these games with the Dodgers.