When it comes to individual awards in sports, a team’s ability to win ballgames tends to find its way into the discussion. A player on a bonafide championship contender, such as the Chicago Cubs, will always be given the leg up on a player on the mediocre team that was not in the playoff discussion, like the Colorado Rockies.
So when it comes to a Most Valuable Player, there are usually two different sides to the debate. Some people will say an MVP should be awarded to the best player on a quality team. The reasoning is the player shows his worth by not only boasting stellar individual numbers, but also bringing the team overall success.
On the flip side, there are those who only care about the individual numbers as they pertain to that player’s team. It does not matter how good the team is, with the key word being valuable. Just because a team does not a ton of success, they can have a player who makes them who they are. Without said player, the team would likely not even be worth watching.
Well, I just so happen to fall in the middle of those two sides. I certainly value an individual’s numbers over a team’s record. These numbers should certainly be at a certain level. But the team still needs to be somewhat respectable. This is what brings us back to the word valuable.
For example, Wil Myers is the San Diego Padres. Outside of Myers, it is hard for the average fan to name a single player on the Padre’s roster. So he is by far their MVP. His value to the club is just as high as any player to team relationship. But the Padres are arguably the worst team in MLB. So how high could his value truly be?
But does a team need to be a playoff team for a player to be considered a true MVP candidate? The answer in my eyes is no. They just need to be on a team that’s at least sitting around the .500 mark. A player on a club with a winning record puts the players worth at that league-wide “most valuable” level.
And that is what brings us to the NL MVP discussion for the coming 2017 MLB season. Many people are going to be pointing to Chicago Cubs’ third baseman as the favorite as we enter the new season. Bryant did bring home the award in 2016 on his way to a World Series title. But do not go jumping the gun so quickly. There is another highly qualified candidate.
His name is Nolan Arenado, the third baseman for the Colorado Rockies. While 2016 saw Bryant finish on top, Arenado finished 5th in the voting for the National Leagues Most Valuable Player. The second, third and fourth place finishers were Daniel Murphy, Corey Seager and Anthony Rizzo. Those three players all played for teams that won their respective divisions. Arenado was on the 75-87 Rockies that finished third in the NL West.
So things are pretty clear in my eyes. The only thing standing between Arenado and an MVP is a better record for his team. Let’s take a quick look at some numbers.
Bryant and Arenado shared virtually similar batting averages a season ago. Bryant had an OBP that was .023 better than Arenado, while Nolan had a slugging percentage that was .016 better. Arenado hit more home runs and drove in more runs, while only falling five runs shy of Bryant.
And both teams were playing on some high powered offenses. So to further prove Arenado’s worth, let’s take a look at each players contributions to their individual team’s numbers. When it comes to homers and RBI’s, Arenado had a higher percentage of his club’s overall numbers in comparison to the MVP. Arenado had 20.1% of Rockies’ homers, while Bryant had 19.6 for the Cubs. As for RBI’s, the Rox third baseman supplied 16.52 percent of runs driven in for his team compared to Bryant’s 13.3.
Then let’s factor in defense. Let me just start by saying I am not saying anything bad about Bryant’s defense. I just want to point out how damn good Arenado is on the defensive side of the ball. In his four MLB seasons, the man holding down the hot corner in Colorado has won four Gold Gloves.
Defense is usually an aspect of the game that is not given as much weight when people talk about Awards. But in terms of MVP, we are looking for the most “valuable player”, but “best hitter”. So in addition to having comparable stats to 2016’s winner (in addition to topping him in some areas), number 28 in a Rox’s uni is superior with the glove.
Not too many guys are fun to watch when it comes to playing defense. But Arenado is one of them. He makes the hard plays look easy. He also has had a number of iconic defensive plays. Check out the video below and tell me this guy is not a stud. How often do you find a clip of defensive highlights from one player that is nearly eight and a half minutes?
So the only thing holding him back from more awards on his shelf is the very team he plays for. In all honesty, he would have gotten my vote a season ago. Without him, the Rockies would have been a dumpster fire. The reason they were so far behind the .500 mark is their pitching.
So with some experience under the belts of some of their young arms, there is hope for some improvement in the coming season. Add in an offense that will once again be loaded, and hopes are growing in Colorado. If this team can pitch, they will find themselves in the Wild Card discussion.
And that is all Arenado needs to climb up the MVP voting ladder. It is not fair to him that voting incorporated team winning as much as it does, but that is simply how things go in the world of MLB. If he was playing third in the Windy City instead of the 25-year-old currently there, Sharknado (yes that’s one of his nicknames), he would have won the award in 2016.
Arenado will be entering his age 26 season. So we have yet to see his best, as he is just about to enter his prime. It is scary to think he can do more, but that’s what fans across the game should be looking for. This guy is a true talent that should be a household name. Following this season, he will be just that. Move over Mike Trout. Move over Bryce Harper. And of course, move over Kris Bryant. There is a new sheriff in town, and he just so happens to be one of the best offensive and defensive players in MLB.
Some of you may laugh at the thought of a Rockies’ player winning the NL MVP. But mark my words, this guy is the real deal. He will take another step forward in 2017. Pair that with a Rockies team that should also be taking a step forward this season, and you have the perfect formula for this season’s NL Most Valuable Player.