The 2010 National League MVP Debate… Pujols Continues to Reign Supreme

September 15, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Loyal Homer.

The Holy Grail of hitting in Major League Baseball is to win the Triple Crown as the league’s leading hitter in home runs, runs batted in, and batting average, all in the same season.

Usually by this time each year, hopes of seeing the first Triple Crown hitter since 1967 (when Carl Yastrzemski became only the 16th player in history to do it) have been long since forgotten. This year, though, there is not only a possibility of one player contending for the Triple Crown – We actually get to enjoy a race between THREE of the best hitters in the National League!

Albert Pujols, Carlos Gonzalez, and Joey Votto each have a genuine opportunity to close out the 2010 baseball season by winning the first Triple Crown in over 40 years.

These three hitters each stand with a very real chance to earn the greatest hitting accomplishment in baseball, and have created baseball’s most exciting LEGITIMATE batting race (sorry Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, your races just don’t count anymore in my book) since Pete Rose chased Ty Cobb’s career hit total.

It will be fun to watch, and we can only hope that one of these three players can accomplish the seemingly impossible.

But that is not the only race that Pujols, Gonzalez, and Votto have created. As a side effect of this quest for possible baseball immortality, another very real competition has been formed between Pujols, Votto, and Gonzalez that is far more relevant to the context of baseball today. That is the race for the National League MVP.

Obviously, if any one of the three is able to pull off the Triple Crown, they should be a shoe-in for the MVP award. But let’s assume that things will play out in similar fashion to where they stand right now, and once more a season passes by without a Triple Crown winner.

Who wins the MVP award then?

While each can stake a claim for the crown, the clear frontrunner for the award in 2010 is once again Albert Pujols.

Pujols is already a three-time winner of baseball’s highest individual season honor, and has reigned uninterrupted as the National League MVP since the close of the 2008 season, and with good reason. No player has meant more to his team, and to the game of baseball, than has Albert Pujols.

Triple Crown statistics are one thing, and they already speak very highly of Pujols’ individual performance over the 2010 season. He leads the NL in homers and RBIs with 39 and 104 respectively, and has the fifth best batting average in the league.

But that is only the tip of the iceberg when you are discussing Pujols’ contributions to his team. There are other areas, arguably more meaningful to a team in the game of baseball, where Pujols also sets himself apart as being far more valuable than Votto or Gonzalez.

For starters, Pujols is not an all-or-nothing hitter. Some batters may swing for the fences with each at bat. Sure, they get their share of homeruns, but they also fail to have their share of quality at bats, often striking out in their quest for big hit glory.

Albert Pujols is different.

Compare his homerun and strikeout numbers to those of Votto and Gonzalez. Joey Votto has 34 homeruns and 112 strikeouts so far this season, and Carlos Gonzalez has 32 homeruns with 122 strikeouts.

Basically, Votto and Gonzalez are good for nearly four strikeouts to go with every one homerun they hit.

So where does Pujols fall? With his aforementioned league-leading 39 homeruns, Pujols has struck out only 69 times this season. That is less than two strikeouts for every homerun hit!

Now, let’s add walk totals into the mix – Once again, it is Pujols at the top with 85 walks, leaving Votto (83) and Gonzalez (33) trailing.

How about extra-base hits? You guessed it. Pujols leads the NL with 74, while Gonzalez (72) and Votto (66) once more fall short of Pujols’ exceptional standard.

Oh yeah, he also happens to lead the league in runs scored with 100 so far in 2010.

All of those numbers point to one single fact – Pujols is by far the most productive hitter in baseball. He is extremely smart at the plate, and is good for considerably more QUALITY at bats than either of his two likely MVP competitors.

So allow me to sum up the 2010 National League MVP race for you:

Albert Pujols has hit for more homeruns and bases than any other batter in the National League. He has personally crossed home plate more than anyone else, and has driven more teammates across the plate than anyone else. Even when he DOESN’T hit the ball, he manages to make it on base more than just about anyone else in the league.

Contrarily, Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez strike out almost twice as often as Pujols, walk less, and produce much less offense.

If my team is down to their last out, and I can pick the one person I want stepping up to the plate, I am going to take Albert Pujols every single time.

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The 2010 National League MVP Debate… An MVP Run in The Mile High City

September 15, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek.

It is September, and the Colorado Rockies are once again making one of their patented runs towards a playoff spot. Despite losing their last two games to the first place San Diego Padres, the Rockies sit just three and a half games back in both the National League West race and the NL Wild Card race. And they have made their charge largely on the shoulders of one man – Carlos Gonzalez.

Both Albert Pujols and Joey Votto have had outstanding seasons in their own right, and Gonzalez is arguably the lesser known and lesser established of the three players. However, all three players have spent their majority of their summer chasing the Triple Crown, and today it is my job to focus on CarGo (I’ll let my colleagues focus on the merits of those other two guys).

Gonzalez’s numbers for the 2010 season are outstanding. After last night’s game, he is currently hitting .340 with 32 home runs and 104 runs batted in. That batting average leads the league by a fairly significant margin at this point (though Braves second baseman Omar Infante may eventually come into play, and will likely provide a challenge for him). He is fourth in the league in home runs, and tied for the lead in RBIs with Mr. Pujols (he also hit for the cycle earlier this year). He is what manager Jim Tracy likes to call a “six-tool” player.

What is truly amazing about Gonzalez is the tear he has been on the second half of the season, which has coincided with the annual run the Rockies seem to always make towards a postseason berth.

Ironically, his surge began after he was snubbed from the All-Star team and lost out on the final fan vote to Votto of all people. Since the All-Star break, he has hit .375 with 15 home runs and 41 RBIs, with an extremely high slugging percentage of .735, and an on-base percentage of .418. That, my friends, is lighting it up. Compare those second half numbers to those of his main competitors for the MVP award.

Albert Pujols, in the second half of the season, is hitting .307 with 18 home runs, 40 RBIs, a slugging percentage of .623, and an on base percentage of .378. Votto, meanwhile, is hitting .332 with 12 home runs, 43 RBIs, a slugging percentage of .596, and an on-base percentage of .422.

It is not like any of them have slumped down the stretch, but neither has kept pace with Gonzalez’s performance (and Pujols’ team has certainly faded a little).

It is going to be a dogfight these last two and a half weeks to see who takes the lead in this battle for the MVP award. All three guys have had outstanding seasons, but Carlos Gonzalez literally came out of nowhere the second half of the season, and brought his team along for the ride. That is what puts him at the top and that is why he gets my vote for National League MVP.

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