Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Case for Victorino

The NL MVP Award
The National League MVP race has recently spurred much discussion amongst Baseball's talking heads.  The 2011 NL MVP may be decided after the season, but speculation now is allowed and even welcomed.  Commonly known names in contention for the award include Matt Kemp of the Dodgers, Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Prince Fielder of the Brewers, and Justin Upton of the Diamondbacks.  Interestingly, none of these four players hail from the NL east, the division that boasts the two best winning percentages in the national league.

Matt Kemp would have a lock on the award, but his Dodgers find themselves amongst mediocrity in the middle of the the NL West at 5 games below .500.  Just like a combination lock, Kemp has all of the right numbers to be considered and chosen the NL MVP, but his team's lack of contention cuts his chances by a significant amount.  Kemp has the best WAR in the NL at 8.1.  He sports a .320 batting average, 102 rbi, 31 home runs, 35 stolen bases, and a .965 OPS.  If the dodgers were vying for the playoffs, or at least had a winning record, Kemp would receive enough votes to claim the award, but because the award is most "valuable" and not "best" player, he will most likely not win the award this year. 

Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder should each buy Matt Kemp a drink because, most likely, one of these Brewers will take home the MVP award instead of the Dodger's center-fielder.  Braun has the second best WAR in the NL at 6.7 to go along with a .333 batting average, 25 home runs, 89 rbi, 31 stolen bases, and a .995 OPS.  Braun's numbers alone easily put him in contention to win the MVP, and due to the Brewers success this season,we could see the first Jewish NL MVP since Sandy Koufax in 1963.  Braun makes a convincing case for the MVP award, but so does his teammate, Prince Fielder.  Fielder is the power in the Brewers potent lineup.  This season Fielder has compiled a .293 batting average, 29 home runs, 102 rbi, a 4.0 WAR, and a .947 OPS.  Braun's numbers dwarf his teammates', but they do not overshadow them enough to exclude Fielder from the MVP conversation.  If Fielder turns on the power in September, he could snatch this award away from Braun. 

The only other name being consistently mentioned is Justin Upton.  Upton, the right fielder for the Diamondbacks, is the Dbacks best player.  The Arizona Diamondbacks have unexpectedly made their way past the World Series champion Giants into first place in the west.  Upton's application for the MVP award does not muster up to the likes of Kemp of Braun, except that he is the best player on the best team in the NL west.  He has a 3.9 WAR, .294 batting average, 26 home runs, 80 rbi, 20 stolen bases, and a .909 OPS.  These numbers are far below those of Braun, Fielder, and Kemp, but combined with the Diamondbacks place in the standings, they do put him in contention for the MVP award.  Upton would need to have a jaw dropping September to win the award. 

One name that is rarely spoken of in the MVP conversation is Shane Victorino.  Victorino, the Phillies Center-fielder, is a dark horse candidate for the NL MVP, but should receive more consideration.  Victorino, like Kemp, plays Center-field, the captain of the outfield and the player with the most ground to cover.  He has proven to be the spark plug in the Phillies lineup whether he bats in the lead-off position, or any other place in the order.  At 30 years old, Victorino is having the best season of his career.  He has a .307 batting average, 15 home runs, 54 rbi, a .919 OPS, a 5.1 WAR, 14 triples, and he has struck out only 46 times while being walked 44 times.  Victorino has grounded into only 2 double plays all season, the same number as Reds pitcher Mike Leake who has 1/5 the number of at bats as Victorino.  It is obvious from these numbers that Victorino does not detract from his squad, he is a player without leaks.  With Jimmy Rollins' contributions becoming less and less, Ryan Howard's inability to hit for average, and Chase Utley missing the first two months of the season, Victorino has proven to be the the Phillies most valuable hitter.  Braun may have better numbers across the board, but it is difficult to make the argument that he is more valuable to his team than Victorino is to the Phillies.  The Phillies sport the best record in baseball at 87-46, 41 games above .500.  Although their dynamic pitching staff has contributed greatly to their success, it is Victorino who contributes every day instead of every 5th day.  He has batted in 5 different spots in the Phillies lineup this season, contributing where ever Charlie Manuel puts him.  When Victroino plays well, the Phillies win.  He has a .348 batting average, 1.059 OPS, 95 hits, and 66 runs scored in Phillies wins this year in comparison to a .218 batting average, .629 OPS, 29 hits, and 15 runs scored in Phillies losses.  Although Victorino's statistics are not as flashy or sexy as Braun, Fielder, and Kemp, they show a most valuable contribution to the best team in baseball.  Most likely, this award will end up in Milwaukee, but no voter should cast his or her ballot before seriously considering Shane Victorino, the most valuable choice in the National League.   


  1. You make a great case for Victorino. Have you considered Carlos Ruiz, who seems to have a knack for hitting in the clutch. Are there stats to back this up?

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  3. I think he be may great in key situations but Victorino expresses the same qualities, performing in the clutch this season as well as in the playoffs in 2008 and 2009. For example, his home run against C.C. Sabathia in the NLCS in 2008 was crucial. I like where you head is at though, clutch performances are valuable and should be considered in the award.