Pittsburgh Pirates v St. Louis Cardinals

Could a Cardinal not named Yadier Molina win the MVP?

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The NL MVP race doesn’t have a consensus candidate, really. I feel like, among the chattering classes, Andrew McCutchen and Yadier Molina have the most juice behind them. But Paul Goldschmidt has his backers. Even guys like Freddie Freeman have people making their case for whatever reason. But how about a non-Molina St. Louis Cardinal? Derrick Goold presents the bonafides of Matt Carpenter’s season:

Carpenter’s two hits gave him 174 for the season, which leads the National League by eight. His two runs give him 112 so far this season. He’s the only player in the NL with more than 100. He ranks in the top 10 in average (.316), on-base percentage (.386) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.868). Baseball’s new math adores him, too, with a Wins Above Replacement at 5.5 that ranks seventh, just behind RBI leader Paul Goldschmidt’s 5.8. That is also ahead of Yadier Molina, at 5.1, who is having an MVP-caliber season.

Though WAR has entered the MVP conversation in pretty significant ways these past couple of years I don’t think it’s much beyond a talking point for single-season awards. Even among the stat-minded there is a general acknowledgment that single-season WAR numbers should be taken with copious amounts of salt given the uncertainty as to how to measure and weigh defensive numbers. Yes, it’s a fun caricature of a stat person to say they’re WAR-First and WAR-Only, but no one who thinks about this stuff thoughtfully or seriously should make such an argument (not that I think Goold is doing that here; he clearly isn’t).

All of that being said, I believe that if it came down to Carpenter and Molina, I feel like Molina will get all the support and then some, WAR notwithstanding. Generally speaking, when top notch defensive catchers hit .323, it’s really, really hard for voters to say no. Catchers do, quite understandably, get bonus points from people for stellar offense.

League-wide, I feel like it’s either Molina’s or McCutchen’s award, depending on how they and their teams finish and how much people want to wrap a bow on the Pirates’ breakthrough season. Each would be deserving. Even if Carpenter is having a great, great season.

Video: Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran give signs from the dugout

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Adrian Beltre #29 of the Texas Rangers stands in the dugout before their game against the Oakland Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 23, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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The Rangers got a bit of a breather on Saturday after clinching the division lead during Friday night’s win. Naturally, it was also a prime opportunity for another of Adrian Beltre‘s well-documented antics, as he spent his off day directing the Rangers’ infield defense with a series of signs. Even with Carlos Beltran‘s help, no one, least of all those playing the infield, appeared to have any idea what Beltre’s gestures were intended to convey.

You can add this to the list of in-game oddities Beltre has become so well-known for over the years, running the gamut from the way he kicked a ball over the foul line to his histrionics every time someone comes close to touching his head. If nothing else, it’s a convincing audition reel for the third baseman’s future in major league coaching — a career path that, I’d imagine, would end up looking something like this:

Yordano Ventura exits game with back tightness

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 24: Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on September 24, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
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Royals’ right-hander Yordano Ventura was pulled in the fifth inning of Saturday’s matinee against the Tigers with an apparent injury. After throwing four pitches to start the fifth and serving up a Justin Upton double, Ventura was visited on the mound by head trainer Nick Kenney. Per Rustin Dodd of the Kansas City Star, he’s day-to-day with back spasms and lower back tightness.

It’s just another bump in the road for the defending champions, who currently sit 6.5 games back of a postseason spot with seven left to play. Through 176 innings in 2016, Ventura posted a 4.35 ERA and 1.2 fWAR, a considerable downgrade from the 4.08 ERA and 2.7 fWAR he contributed during last season’s championship year despite a moderate bounce-back in the second half.

Prior to his early exit from Saturday’s game, Ventura went four innings for the Royals, giving up three runs on 10 hits and two walks and striking out six of 24 batters faced.