The Statliners team has voted on all the major awards, and we’ll be presenting our winners with a little bit of an explanation. To kick things off, we give you our National League MVP: Kris Bryant.
National League MVP Statliners Vote: Kris Bryant, 17 (unanimous)
Sometimes this is a little too easy. To be honest, I think if I could see all MVP awards in North American sports changed to simply a “Player Of The Year” award, and we could do away with all the dumb debates about what constitutes “valuable” and what doesn’t, I could easily slide off this mortal coil with a smile on my face (as my other life goal, a Cubs World Series win, is merely a few weeks away).
While we’ve restricted this award, especially in baseball, to players on teams that compete for postseason berths at the very minimum, it really shouldn’t be that way.
The funny thing is that when we do get a player who should win on a team that is so dominant, we then use his team’s dominance against him in giving him the award. The argument goes something along the lines of that his team still would have been good without him as with him. Both of these lines of thought cannot be true. If we just had “Player of the Year,” we wouldn’t worry about this and Mike Trout would have to build a separate house for all of his deserved awards.
Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about this with Kris Bryant. Though if you want to make the argument he’s cheating because pitchers get lost in his dreamy eyes every at-bat, that I will listen to.
There really is only one other competitor for the National League MVP with Bryant, and that’s Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. And I’ve actually made this argument on my own blog, just for funsies, that if you wanted to you could say that Seager had to hold the Dodgers afloat while the rest of the lineup couldn’t find reverse on a Soviet tank and the pitching staff was in a bum rush for the best cots in the infirmary. But none of that is Bryant’s fault, and whatever category you want to look at quite simply Bryant has been better.
While Seager might have the better batting average, we know better than to put too much value on that. With Bryant’s highly superior power, both in slugging and ISO (.564 and .268 to Seager’s .523 and .211), Bryant’s offense has simply been more impactful. He’s even walked more than Seager as well, so he has the higher on-base as well.
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I suppose someone could argue that Bryant has mostly had Anthony Rizzo behind him and Seager needed to wait until June for anyone to hit behind him, be it Adrian Gonzalez or someone else, but again it’s not exactly proven that “protection” is an actual thing.
The only suitable argument, and even if we just accepted it it’s not nearly enough to overcome the difference between the two, is that Seager plays a premium defensive position. But Bryant hasn’t simply been a stiff standing at first all year, either (and I’m not sure first-basemen are judged all that fairly by defensive metrics, given the work they do bailing out their teammates throws. This is based on Derrek Lee never grading out highly defensively even though he averaged saving Aramis Ramirez approximately 498 errors per season by gobbling up this throws. But that’s not why you called).
Third base is still an important position, and Bryant has played it exceedingly well. Whatever problems he supposedly has have only been talked about because when he’s not playing third there’s an actual defensive elf from Rivendale playing there in Javy Baez and no one compares to him. Only Justin Turner and Anthony Rendon have outperformed Bryant at the hot corner among qualifying third basemen.
Bryant’s versatility has really only seen him play left regularly, with a handful of games in right and a spot at first here and there. Yes, left field is where you park your mule and hope he doesn’t hurt himself or anyone else so you can keep his bat in the lineup. But Bryant’s 5.3 UZR in left would actually also lead NL left-fielders. So combine the two, and he’s just ahead of Seager. That’s plain and simple.
We don’t have to overthink this. Yes, the Cubs are loaded with other talented, young players. So are the Dodgers to be fair, and they’ve either under performed for large swaths or been hurt. Bryant is the most “valuable” because he’s the best player in the league. Yes, the Cubs are probably one of the league’s best teams without Bryant, but they’re a historic dynamo with him. That difference is more than enough to hand him the National League MVP award and not even think about it twice.
And basically, his face.