This year’s new twist of announcing finalists for all the Baseball Writers’ Association of America awards had my imagination running — especially about today’s awarding of the Most Valuable Players for the American and National Leagues.
Maybe I watched too many beauty pageants growing up, or spent too much timing playing with that Miss America Barbie doll I had, but hearing “five finalists” made me think of something like this picture. Well, with their heads perhaps in a little better proportion to the rest of their bodies (especially Ryan Braun’s) — but you get the idea thanks to this Photoshop by Miranda Remaklus. (Yes, sadly, that is not an actual photo. Ryan Braun’s head might be large in real life, but not quite that big. And what else would you expect from a Cardinals fan except insults about Ryan Braun? Other than to say doesn’t Yadier Molina look genuinely pretty in pink? Especially with his red cap on?)
While I still hold out hope for seeing them lined up together in the MLB Network studio tonight wearing beautiful evening gowns and gorgeous jewels, here’s a closer look at the five finalists for Mr. NL MVP. And, unlike other beauty pageants, this award is based strictly on talent. (Because, while it might be appealing to see Andrew McCutchen in a bathing suit — very appealing, actually — I can do without seeing Yadi in one. Sorry, Yadi. But I do still love you.)
Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
The numbers (all via Baseball Reference)
- .319/.391/.595, 41 home runs, 112 RBI, 6.8 WAR
- Led the NL in home runs, runs scored, total bases, OPS with .987
- Second in RBI, hits (112)
- Third in batting average, WAR
Can the reigning Mr. NL MVP keep his crown? For 2012 he had more hits, RBI and total bases than last year, as well as 11 more home runs with his league-leading and career-high 41. Will that be enough? Probably not …
Chase Headley, San Diego Padres
- .286/.376/.498, 31 home runs, 115 RBI, 6.0 WAR
- Led the NL in RBI
Other than leading the league in RBI and winning a Gold Glove at third base, I was a little perplexed about why Headley was an MVP finalist. So I asked my fellow Aerys MLB writers their thoughts, and received this from the ever-knowledgeable Reds Tara Franey of C-ing Red: “Headley does have the fourth highest WAR among NL position players, thanks to having a decent defensive year, correcting for his home park, and playing 161 games. He hit 31 home runs, which is the most in the NL West.” So there you go. Plus someone had to be the fifth finalist, right? And he might look good in a bathing suit too.
Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
- .327/.400/.553, 31 home runs, 96 RBI, 7.0 WAR
- Led the NL in hits with 194
- Second in batting average, runs scored, total bases, WAR
- Third in on-base percentage, slugging percentage
It’s pretty easy to say none of the other MVP finalists had his team’s overall fortune tied as closely to his own performance as Andrew McCutchen. Through mid-August, the Pirates seemed certain to at least end their 19-year streak of losing, if not make it to the post-season for the first time since 1992. They’d been in first place in the NL Central for 10 games in July, after McCutchen hit .370 in June and a crazy .446 in July. They were 16 games over .500 on Aug. 8. And then he hit .252 in August, and the Pirates went 11-17, and .260 in September, when they were 7-21 — and finished the season 79-83. Yet it still was a breakout season for McCutchen, with career highs in most every offensive category. And he’s already received his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger award this month, plus was voted the National League’s Outstanding Player by his peers.
Yadier Molina, St. Louis Cardinals
- .315/.373/.501, 22 home runs, 76 RBI, 6.7 WAR
- Third in defensive WAR
- Fourth in WAR and batting average
Until last season, Molina was probably better known for his defensive prowess than his offensive skills. But after a much-improved 2011 at the plate, he was even better in 2012. He had career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, hits, runs scored, RBI, homers and even stolen bases (with 12). Plus his defense continued to shine, as he received his fifth-straight Gold Glove, the second-ever Platinum Glove and another Fielding Bible Award (which he’s received four of the first five). He blossomed into a complete player in 2012 and was a big reason why the Cardinals made it all the way to Game Seven of the NLCS.
Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
- .336/.408/.549, 24 home runs, 103 RBI, 7.2 WAR
- First in batting average, WAR
- Second in on-base percentage
- Fourth in slugging percentage, OPS with .957
And now to the odds-on favorite to become Mr. NL MVP … Posey is the first catcher since 1942 to win a league batting title, plus he led the National League in WAR at 7.2. He had career highs across the offensive board, plus was named NL Comeback Player of the Year after missing much of last season following a nasty home plate collision in which he suffered a broken leg. He won his first Silver Slugger and led the Giants to the NL West title as he hit an amazing .385 with 60 RBI during the second half of the season. And, of course, he earned his second World Series ring in three years — although MVP voting took place before that — and he’s 25. Not a bad way to start a career at all.
MVP: Buster Posey
Second: Andrew McCutchen
Third: Ryan Braun
Fourth: Yadier Molina
Fifth: Chase Headley
Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.