Preseason Prediction: Justin Upton (OF – ARZ)
So this was a bad one. Upton’s 2.5 WAR didn’t even crack the Top 30 in the NL. Don’t get me wrong, .280/.355/.430 is a solid big league season, it’s just nowhere near MVP levels. The talent is there to win an MVP for Upton, but there’s a lot swirling around him at this point in Arizona, so I’m not sure we’ll even see that freakish peak potential that allowed him to go #1 overall in 2005.
And the award goes to…
I think you could make a case for six players. That’s a large MVP group. Buster Posey (8.0), Ryan Braun (7.9), and David Wright (7.8) are virtually indistinguishable by WAR. I’d also include Chase Headley (7.5), Andrew McCutchen (7.4), and Yadier Molina (6.5).
I’d have a hard time arguing against any of those six. Here’s the quick case for each.
Posey led in WAR, OBP, wRC+, and played good defense at a premium position for a really good team.
Braun was a very close 2nd in WAR, tied in wRC+, led in SLG, wOBA, hit 41 bombs, stole 30 bases, and did it under intense steroid scrutiny.
Wright was a little worse on offense than those two, but made up for it with what UZR called a great season on defense to bring his WAR in line with the leaders. It can’t be ignored that Wright did this on a team much less talented than most of his rivals.
Headley is a fun one because he put up great offensive numbers at Petco Park and only missed one game all season. 31 homeruns and 17 steals from the Padres 3B to go along with solid defense. The park holds him back a little on the more conventional side and he’ll lose votes because his team wasn’t great, but Headley should be in this conversation.
McCutchen almost singlehandedly made the Pirates relevant in 2012 and came in 3rd in wRC+. The defensive metrics hate him on defense, which puzzles me a little, so his overall WAR is a little depressed, and in a race this close I’m not sure how to judge it.
Finally, Molina put up phenomenal offensive numbers for a catcher (really for anyone) and continued to be one of the most imposing defenders in the game. The 6.5 WAR isn’t quite on par with the rest of the bunch, but he loses some value because he only players 140 games a year as a catcher.
You can dive into all the statistical details yourselves because there are really too many players to really evaluate in this space, so I’ll give you my take in a crowded field.
I’m hearing from most people in the mainstream media and a lot of more insider types that Posey is likely to run away with this because of his second half surge to lead a good team to the playoffs. That’ll push him over for most voters.
I’m going to take Braun. It’s essentially a tie from any sort of statistical measure, so you have to make a value judgment based on less than objective criteria. All of these guys deserve it, but I’m voting for Braun because he deserves it after his name was tarnished by a faulty drug test last fall.
Braun tested positive for elevated testosterone, but the testing procedure was breached and he won the appeal. However, just the association has put Braun on trial with the public and I’m impressed at how he had another great season even after he “got caught” using steroids.
I don’t buy into the argument that you have to be on a playoff team to win MVP, so that isn’t in my calculus. Braun had a great year and did so while under a microscope than the others weren’t. Granted, points gets to Posey for coming back from the brutal ankle injury and lots of love for Wright, Headley, McCutchen, and Molina as well, but I’m behind Braun.
10. Jayson Heyward (OF – ATL)
9. Aaron Hill (2B – ARZ)
8. Clayton Kershaw (SP – LAD)
7. R.A. Dickey (SP – NYM)
6. Headley (3B – SD)
5. Molina (C – STL)
4. Wright (3B – NYM)
3. McCutchen (OF – PIT)
2. Posey (C – SF)
1. Braun (OF – MIL)