Giancarlo Stanton hit his National League-leading 35th home run of the season last night. He just finished a torrid month of August in which he hit .289/.431/.567 (.420 wOBA) with eight home runs. It was his third month with eight homers this year, and it has helped to keep him on pace with the league leader, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz, who has 36. Stanton leads the National League in homers and RBIs, as he was the first player on the Senior Circuit to crack the 100-RBI mark last night.
In terms of Wins Above Replacement, he also is among the National League's leaders. In FanGraphs' version of the metric, Stanton trails Jonathan Lucroy of the Milwaukee Brewers by a tenth of a win, essentially a tie. In Baseball-Reference's version, he trails Jason Heyward by a similar amount. In both cases, the other player is excelling thanks to spectacular defensive performance, but there is a question as to how much value that defense is really bringing. Lucroy would still be a contender for the MVP if the season ended today, but there is almost no chance Heyward receives any recognition.
For all intents and purposes, Stanton remains the leader among position players for the MVP spot. But he still does not hold the overall lead, at least according to the latest Vegas odds courtesy of Bovada.
2014 NL MVP - Odds to Win
Clayton Kershaw (LAD) 2/3
Giancarlo Stanton (MIA) 6/5
Andrew McCutchen (PIT) 10/1
Stanton's 6/5 odds puts him at an expected 45.5 percent chance of winning the award. This is up from our previous time discussing the MVP race odds last month, when Stanton was at 36.3 percent. The nine percent bump is a reasonable one, and Stanton has to feel good about his odds. But Kershaw sits a bit better, as his odds have increased as well. The 2/3 odds implies a 60 percent chance of winning the award.
Of course, that cannot be the case, as these percentages would have gone over at this point, especially given McCutchen's supposed 10 percent chance. If we add all of those odds together and re-distribute them from a total of 100 percent, we get the following odds:
This is compared to the odds from a month ago.
You can see that it has been Stanton who has gained ground, stealing some thunder from the third place competitor while sapping a bit into Kershaw's odds. The loss of a third-place competitor makes sense; in the interim, McCutchen has only played 14 games and 58 plate appearances thanks to an injury, and Puig has struggled to a .216/.296/.247 (.255 wOBA) month.
But Kershaw is still having a dominating season. He is en route to a second straight sub-2.00 ERA season. In his last two years, his ERA has been 50 percent better than the league average. His accomplishments, even with the injury, have been patently absurd. It is likely Kershaw would have won the award last season if a position player whose team made the playoffs was not playing stellar baseball. Kershaw has been better this season, and he has a chance to finish the year with a better campaign despite the missed time. Chances are Stanton will be the only competitor who is even close by year's end.
The Marlins know that they probably cannot put up a playoff season this year, and that will hinder Stanton's MVP argument. But there is chance that the bias against Kershaw and his playing time as a pitcher and due to injury will be enough to default the award to Stanton, who is clearly the best position player alternative. As long as Stanton continues to do what he has done most of this season, the award will still end up coming down to the biases of the BBWAA voters.