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Joey Votto named NL MVP with 31 of 32 first-place votes

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Leading the league in OPS and leading the Reds to the playoffs for the first time since 1995 has earned Joey Votto the National League MVP award, as the 26-year-old first baseman easily topped Albert Pujols and Carlos Gonzalez by receiving 31 of the 32 first-place votes cast by Baseball Writers Association of America members.

I wrote this morning that Votto and Pujols should share the award, as their individual performances were nearly identical, but Votto actually winning the MVP was expected. His being atop all but one ballot comes as a surprise, but BBWAA voters have always placed a great deal of emphasis on team success and Votto and the Reds beat Pujols and the Cardinals by five games to win the NL Central.

Beyond that, BBWAA voters also tend to lean toward good stories whenever possible, and for better or worse Votto emerging as a superstar in his third full season was certainly a bigger story than Pujols’ 10th straight MVP-caliber campaign, particularly after he won the award in each of the past two years. In addition to his three MVPs, this is the fourth time Pujols has finished runner-up.

Carlos Gonzalez finished third, followed by Adrian Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki. Roy Halladay was the top pitcher at No. 6 and the Cy Young winner received one second-place vote. For the complete voting totals, see the BBWAA’s official website.

Votto led the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage while also ranking among the NL’s top three in batting average, homers, and RBIs. He also took his game to another level in high-leverage spots, batting .369 with a 1.129 OPS with runners in scoring position and .370 with a 1.138 OPS in “close and late” situations. He joins Larry Walker and Justin Morneau as the third Canadian-born MVP and is the first Reds player to win the award since Barry Larkin in 1995.

Matt Holliday wants to return in 2017

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 30: Manager Mike Matheny #22 of the St. Louis Cardinals congratulates Matt Holliday #7 of the St. Louis Cardinals after he hit a solo home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the seventh inning at Busch Stadium on September 30, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Matt Holliday might not have a landing spot with the Cardinals in 2017, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to hang his cleats up just yet. Prior to the Cardinals’ afternoon set against the Pirates on Saturday, the 36-year-old expressed his desire to further his career elsewhere, even if staying in St. Louis is not a possibility.

It’s been a down year for the outfielder, who batted .242/.318/.450 through 107 games before landing on the disabled list with a fractured right thumb. His 0.6 fWAR is the lowest mark of his career to date. Notwithstanding two injury-riddled seasons (he was sidelined through most of 2015 with a right quadriceps strain), he’s performed admirably for the Cardinals over the past eight years, putting up a .292/.379/.494 batting line, 156 home runs, and 26.8 fWAR with the club. With a return to full health, he might not be on the market for long.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Saturday’s action

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 24:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws a pitch in the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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It’s the last Clayton Kershaw start of the regular season. Prepare yourselves accordingly.

The Dodgers already have the NL West in the bag, but they’re still fighting for home-field advantage against the Nationals. Should the two teams end up with the same regular season record by Monday morning, the edge will go to the Dodgers, who have a better head-to-head record this year. Kershaw has already been announced as the starter for Game 1 of the NLDS, while the Nationals have kept their lineup close to the vest for the time being.

Facing the Dodgers is Giants’ left-hander Ty Blach, who is poised to make the second major league start of his career this afternoon. The Giants are in a precarious position heading into the last two games of the year and have the potential to force a three-way tie among NL wild card contenders. A thorough breakdown of the wild card and home-field advantage possibilities has been outlined here.

You can find more from Saturday’s action below.

New York Mets (Bartolo Colon) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Phil Klein), 1:05 PM EDT

Pittsburgh Pirates (Chad Kuhl) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Michael Wacha), 1:05 PM EDT

Baltimore Orioles (Wade Miley) @ New York Yankees (Luis Severino), 4:05 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) @ San Francisco Giants (Ty Blach), 4:05 PM EDT

Miami Marlins (Wei-Yin Chen) @ Washington Nationals (Tanner Roark), 4:05 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Jon Lester) @ Cincinnati Reds (Tim Adleman), 4:10 PM EDT

Cleveland Indians (Trevor Bauer) @ Kansas City Royals (Edinson Volquez), 4:15 PM EDT

Detroit Tigers (Jordan Zimmerman) @ Atlanta Braves (Aaron Blair), 7:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Hector Santiago) @ Chicago White Sox (James Shields), 7:10 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays (J.A. Happ) @ Boston Red Sox (Eduardo Rodriguez), 7:10 PM EDT

Tampa Bay Rays (Jake Odorizzi) @ Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis), 8:05 PM EDT

Milwaukee Brewers (Wily Peralta) @ Colorado Rockies (Jeff Hoffman), 8:10 PM EDT

San Diego Padres (Clayton Richard) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Archie Bradley), 8:10 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Collin McHugh) @ Los Angeles Angels (Tyler Skaggs), 9:05 PM EDT

Oakland Athletics (Jharel Cotton) @ Seattle Mariners (Hisashi Iwakuma), 9:10 PM EDT