With less than a quarter of the season remaining, the race for the National League Most Valuable Player award is tightening up. There are really only four players that have a legitimate chance of winning the award. Those players are: Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Paul Goldschmidt of our own Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Dodgers, Pirates and Cardinals are all looking like they will be playing baseball in this year's post season, with the Diamondbacks on the outside looking in. The team narrowly missing the playoffs should not hurt Goldschmidt's chances, but it will. That factor aside, I still think Goldschmidt is the NL MVP, and I have three reasons why.
The first reason why Goldschmidt is the MVP is in the statistics. As of August 21st, the Diamondbacks first baseman has a .297 Batting Average (AVG), .393 On Base Percentage (OBP) and a .552 Slugging Percentage (SLG). He is tied for the NL lead in Home Runs with Pedro Alvarez of the Pirates (which I'll revisit later) with 31, and leads the NL with 100 Runs Batted In (RBI). He's also stolen 13 bases which is not bad for a power hitter, and has 5.6 Wins Above
Replacement (WAR). On defense, Goldy has 11 Defensive Runs Saved and could win the Gold Glove at first base.
McCutchen's stat line reads: .316 AVG, .392 OBP, .509 SLG, 17 Home Runs, 71 RBI, 26 Stolen Bases, 7 Defensive Runs Saved, and has 6.4 WAR.
Yadier Molina has a National League leading .336 AVG, .378 OBP, .505 SLG, 10 Home Runs, 59 RBI, 3 Stolen Bases, 9 Defensive Runs Saved, and 4.9 WAR.
Clayton Kershaw's pitching statistics aren't exactly comparable, but he has a 12-7 record, 182 Strikeouts, and leads Major League Baseball with a 1.80 Earned Average. He also has 6.7 Wins Above Replacement.
Just based on statistics, Goldschmidt is clearly having the best season. He has substantially more home runs and RBI, and has a much higher slugging percentage. He even has the most Defensive Runs Saved; compared to McCutchen who won a Gold Glove last season, and Molina who is widely seen as the best fielding catcher in the game. Take away other factors and Goldschmidt is the obvious MVP.
The second reason why Goldschmidt is the MVP is because of where his team would be without him. Right now the Diamondbacks are clinging to their playoff lives, and Goldschmidt has carried the team the entire season. Without him, I think it's pretty safe to say the team would have been out of contention a long time ago.
McCutchen is definitely the best player on the Pirates, who are going to have their first winning season in 20 years. There is no doubt he means a lot to the team. However, for the first month or two of the season, McCutchen was not having a great year. He was hitting around the .279 mark and his other numbers were down as well. The Pirates though, were still winning games and were still at or near the top of the division. Even without him playing his best, the team still was able to compete for the division lead. Plus, Pedro Alvarez has been having a great season and is tied with Goldshmidt for the league lead in home runs. Molina is in a similar situation. About a month ago, the Cardinals' catcher went down with an injury and missed a couple weeks. Just like with the Pirates, the Cardinals continued to maintain their place at the top of the division during his absence.
Kershaw is the best pitcher in Major League Baseball and his win-loss record never truly shows how great he is. He has kept the Dodgers in many games in which they scored less than four runs. Kershaw is definitely valuable to his team and they are in first place thanks in large part, to him. If you look at the rest if the Dodgers' pitching rotation though, you will find other pitchers that could be aces on many other teams. Zack Greinke has been an ace everywhere he has pitched. Ricky Nolasco was the ace of the Miami Marlins when he was traded for, and Hyun Jin Ryu has had a fantastic first season and could possibly win the National League Rookie of the Year award. Kershaw is irreplaceable but the rest of the rotation would hold up pretty well without him.
Other than the Diamondbacks, all three of the teams have shown that they could still compete for a playoff position even without their MVP candidate. Again, Goldschmidt takes this category.
My final reason why Goldschmidt is the NL MVP is one that not many people think of - salary. How else do you define value? How much something does for you, compared to how much it costs you. This season Andrew McCutchen is making $4.5 million. Clayton Kershaw is making $11 million. Yadier Molina is making a whopping $14 million this season. Any guess on Paul Goldschmidt's salary for the 2013 season? He is making $500 thousand, not even $1 million. He is hands down the best of the group in terms of what his team is getting from him for what he is costing them this season. His salary is nowhere near the salaries of the other three candidates. The closest to him is McCutchen's salary of $4.5 million. McCutchen is costing the Pirates nine times as much as Goldschmidt is costing the Diamondbacks, yet Goldy is outperforming the Pirates' center fielder in almost every statistical category previously mentioned. Compared to the salaries and production of the other candidates, again Goldschmidt is the top choice.
When you take a look at the three reasons presented, Paul Goldschmidt is without a doubt the National League's Most Valuable Player. A lot of voters will into account how well the team did this season, and more often than not the MVP winner is from a playoff team. If he is able to carry the Diamondbacks into the playoffs somehow, it will greater reinforce Goldschmidt's already spectacular season résumé. However, whether the Diamondbacks reach the post season or not, Paul Goldschmidt is the Most Valuable Player in the National League.