Today I'm going to write one column about Most Valuablest Players, and I'm going to devote most of it to the Most Valuablest National League Players. Why? Because I've got a theory, which is that no award debates in consecutive seasons in the history of baseball awards have more closely mirrored each other than last year's debates and this year's debates about the American League Most Valuable Player Award. The only real difference is that last year, Miguel Cabrera "won" the Triple Crown and Mike Trout spent the first month of the season in the minors. This year, neither of those things happened. Everything else is the same: Tigers win, Angels lose, Cabrera's the best hitter on the planet, and Trout the best baseball player.
I will say this: Last year, Cabrera was named MVP in a landslide and most of the voters said it was because he won the Triple Crown. This year, he's going to win again. The balloting will be closer, but not real close. And the voters who chose Cabrera will have to come up with another reason. They can't use the Triple Crown. And they shouldn't use the Tigers' finish in the standings, since Cabrera was terrible in September and the Tigers almost lost the division to Cleveland. They might cite Trout's relatively poor clutch numbers. That would be fair. I think clutch hitting should matter in these things, at least a little. I'm not at all anti-context, within the confines of a player's individual performance.
I would still vote for Trout, though. He was just too good at too many things for a tiebreaker like clutch hitting to matter a whole lot to me. But if you really want more, here's me writing last year and here's me arguing with Larry Bowa last year. Check those out, and just write in 2013 where appropriate.
The National League this year is different players, or at least some different players. Last year, we liked Andrew McCutchen and Yadier Molina, but mostly we liked Buster Posey and Buster Posey won.
Buster was really good again this year! But not good enough for us to talk about him any more today. McCutchen and Molina were good enough this year. So were Matt Carpenter and Paul Goldschmidt. And if you place a great deal of faith in modern defensive metrics, you might throw Carlos Gomez and even Andrelton Simmons into the mix.
Granted, we already know the top three finishers in the balloting. We just don't know the order yet, but we know the winner's going to be McCutchen, Molina, or Goldschmidt. Which is perfectly reasonable. There are a million ways to look at these guys, and just as many ways to define valuable. I mean, I know we're supposed to actually pick the best player and I know that's McCutchen; as in, he's the player you would draft first for your team right now.
But Goldschmidt's clutch performance this year was nearly off the charts, and nobody's yet convinced me that "value" can't include the timing of a player's hits. Especially if there were a lot of hits and a lot of those were home runs.
McCutchen, meanwhile, did not hit well in the clutch. Neither did Carpenter, and of course Votto (not a finalist) drew all those fershlugginer walks. Molina did well enough where you can't hold it against him. Really, my only beef with Molina is that he started only 130 games all season. I know we can't expect 150 from a catcher, but if we're looking for tiebreakers, this seems a pretty good one.
Which is why I'm knocking Molina out. I do believe that, among the finalists and maybe among all the candidates, it comes down to Goldschmidt's timely hitting vs. McCutchen's all-around contributions (and he's good at essentially everything). I would probably vote for McCutchen, because I do have a special appreciation for players like McCutchen. But I would not fault anyone for choosing Goldschmidt. He won a lot of games for his team.
What I will do is fault anyone for choosing McCutchen because his team was better than Goldschmidt's. Which of course is going to happen, and might be the biggest reason that McCutchen will be announced as the winner in a few hours.