Giancarlo Stanton is done for the rest of the 2014 season, and that makes all Miami Marlins fans sad. But that does not mean that the Marlin does not still have a chance at the National League MVP award. Recently, Tony Blengino took a look at Stanton's performance in 2014 as it relates to his colleagues, even after the injury.
At the end of Sunday’s games, here are the position player WAR rankings behind some guy who plays center field for the Angels:
PLAYER WAR Brantley 6.5 Lucroy 6.2 Donaldson 6.2 McCutchen 6.2 Stanton 6.0 Rendon 6.0 Gordon 5.9 Bautista 5.9
Quite a logjam there, and that’s before you count a bunch of other guys at 5.5-5.6 WAR, plus the three top starting pitchers – Clayton Kershaw, Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez – who are clearly worthy of Player of the Year ballot consideration. Not to mention a handful of other niche competitors who fall a bit short on WAR but are at least worthy of down-ballot consideration. What on earth does one do to separate the players within this group? Every voter will have their own way of doing so. Of all of these players, however, exactly one player’s season is 100% in the books, and that’s Stanton’s.
The WAR list, when you narrow it down to just National League players, looks pretty tight at the top.
A quick glance at those players reveals a few names who appear as obvious legitimate candidates and two guys who are dark horses at best and unlikely to sniff much support at worst. Sadly, no one will give Anthony Rendon enough credit for the defensive work he has done at two different positions for an NL East champion Washington Nationals team. And crediting Jonathan Lucroy was going to be a tough sell before the Milwaukee Brewers took a nosedive in the standings.
So the comparison comes down to Andrew McCutchen, whose Pittsburgh Pirates are likely to make the playoffs now, Stanton, and Clayton Kershaw, who is slated to make one more start tomorrow night against the San Francisco Giants (who themselves have a candidate in Buster Posey). The question will be whether McCutchen (and Posey, I suppose), who holds the edge as a position player on a playoff contender, should beat out the spectacular but injury-shortened season of Kershaw or the numerically strong year of Giancarlo Stanton.
At this point, it seems difficult to argue Stanton's side in the race. Playing time will not be a major consideration, as both McCutchen and Posey will end with close to similar numbers of plate appearances. But as per the history of MVP voting, the fact that those position players are on playoff-bound teams makes it more likely that they would win if the BBWAA wanted to choose a position player.
If it were just that argument, one could point to more traditional stats to make the argument for Stanton. He still leads the National League in home runs with 37 and is second only to Adrian Gonzalez in RBIs. Those numbers are shinier than McCutchen's; in fact, if McCutchen wins, he would be the position player MVP winner with the fewest runs scored and RBIs in the last 10 years. But Stanton also has to contend with Kershaw, whose historic campaign may be too hard to ignore. Kershaw just notched his 20th pitcher win of the season and has a sub-2.00 ERA. That type of year has a similar vibe to the one in which Justin Verlander won the award.
The fastball from Mike Fiers made Stanton's argument harder, but it was always going to be difficult. Now that McCutchen has caught up in playing time, the two of them could easily split votes among voters interested in a position player winning. That may clear the way for Kershaw to be the winner in 2014.