Two days ago, we discussed Giancarlo Stanton's excellent odds at winning the National League MVP award. The race is between him and Clayton Kershaw, and at least by Vegas odds, Kershaw appears to have the lead. But Stanton has closed the gap from the previous month and could be closing in even more.
Odds are odds, and we can point to how even both players are in the Wins Above Replacement metrics, but ultimately it will be decided by the BBWAA voters, and those voters often come with preconceived notions of "value." For some, there is value in that Kershaw is in a playoff race, while for others, his value as a pitcher pales in comparison to a hitter who "contributes everyday." At the same time, Stanton's likely role on the sidelines in October takes away from his value according to some voters. Different voters will have their own conceptions of what "value" means.
But it will be the members of the BBWAA media who will ultimately vote for the award, and if MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince's most recent poll is correct, those voters may lean towards Stanton.
In a vote of 39 different media members, Stanton held the lead in apparent convincing fashion. The voters involved were a combination of BBWAA members and non-members, and it included a mix of MLB.com writers of varying quality and respected non-MLB.com contributors like Dave Cameron of FanGraphs, Jeff Passan of Yahoo!, and Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated.
Stanton does face competition, but you can see some of his edge in the first-place votes. Stanton holds a 22-to-13 lead in first-place votes, and that indicates strong support for his case. Stanton took 22 of 39 top votes, which is a share of 56.4 percent. In the past, there have been players who have won a similar share of first-place votes and won fairly convincingly. In 2012, Buster Posey took 20 of 32 top votes, a 62.5 percent rate, and won 94 percent of the share versus 64 percent with his next competitor.
Then again, in 2011, Ryan Braun won 20 of 32 top votes and took only 87 percent of the share versus 74 percent for Matt Kemp. So it is still difficult to tell.
Stanton's edge is not only in his legitimate numbers in terms of wins metrics, but in his traditional stats.
Stanton, though, has both the traditional and non-traditional MVP ground covered, holding the NL lead in home runs (36), RBIs (102), walks (90) and OPS (.968). His 6.4 WAR was tied with that of Atlanta's Jason Heyward, whose value calculation is inflated by the emphasis WAR places upon defense.
Being the guy who leads the league in home runs and RBIs is a fairly important edge, even if that is not the ultimate consideration anymore. Stanton's superb batting line is also considered; in any measure you use, Stanton has the best batting line in the National League, with or without park correction. When the total picture and the narrow home runs / RBIs picture both support your case, you can definitely come out on top.
Stanton will primarily be fighting the historic season of Clayton Kershaw. He has a shot at collecting 20 pitcher wins (a traditional marker for pitcher success), his ERA is below 2.00, and he has looked dominant all throughout his time on the mound. But Kershaw has two negatives on his ledger: he is both a pitcher and someone who missed significant time with injury. Can the playoffs and his historic campaign overcome those problems?
It would seem that each of the big two candidates has both support and flaws to their candidacies. Stanton has terrific traditional and advanced numbers, but he will be on a team that may not even end the season at .500. Kershaw has a transcendent season and playoff contention on his side, but the difficult history of pitchers and an injury working against him. This vote supported Stanton, but who knows where these two will go with a month left in the season.