Who should win the National League MVP award?

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My assumption is that Joey Votto will be named National League MVP when the award is announced this afternoon, as his monster season combined with the Reds making the playoffs for the first time since 1995 will likely have him atop most of the 32 ballots cast by Baseball Writers Association of America members.

However, based strictly on his performance–rather than some combination of his performance and his team’s success–it’s not quite as clear if Votto was actually the best player in the league.

Consider the following comparison between two MVP candidates:

                PA     AVG     OBP     SLG      OPS    HR    RBI    RUN
Player X       700    .312    .414    .596    1.011    42    118    115
Player Z       648    .324    .424    .600    1.024    37    113    106

Which of those two players was the most valuable? Player Z had a slightly higher batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS while performing better in high-leverage situations, but Player X came to the plate 52 more times and had more homers, RBIs, and runs while playing better defense. I think they’re close enough that there’s really no “right” answer, yet I’m fairly certain that Votto will be the runaway winner when the voting is announced in a few hours.

Player X is Albert Pujols.

Player Z is Joey Votto.

Carlos Gonzalez is also very much in the mix, but his numbers aren’t quite as jaw-dropping as Pujols’ or Votto’s, as he trails them by 37 and 50 points of OPS despite calling Coors Field home for half his games. Gonzalez had a tremendous season, but a .974 OPS in Colorado just isn’t as impressive as a 1.011 OPS in St. Louis or a 1.024 OPS in Cincinnati. And sure enough, Gonzalez hit .380 with a 1.161 OPS at Coors Field compared to .289 with a .775 OPS on the road.

I tend to think Pujols’ extra 52 plate appearances and superior defense at first base give him the edge over Votto, but it probably wouldn’t be all that difficult to convince me Votto should be the pick and ultimately the difference between them is so slight that it’s impossible to say with any kind of certainty either way.

Keith Hernandez and Willie Stargell were named co-MVPs in 1979 and if ever there was another year for the award to be split between two equally deserving candidates this is probably it, but I suspect Pujols has a better chance of finishing third than first. His excellence has almost become routine at this point and the Cardinals underperformed as a team despite his MVP-caliber season, and those two factors are likely more than enough to break any sort of performance-based “tie” in the voters’ eyes.

Votto and Pujols were the MVPs of the National League this year, but only Votto will get the award.

Phillies walk off winners thanks to a poor decision by Marcell Ozuna

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The Phillies’ bullpen, which has not been good as of late, gift-wrapped Monday’s game for the Cardinals. Starter Nick Pivetta was brilliant, fanning 13 while allowing two runs in 7 1/3 innings. But things unraveled after he left the game. Victor Arano took over for Edubray Ramos to start the ninth inning with the Phillies leading 4-2, but he allowed a one-out single and a double. After striking out Harrison Bader, Arano appeared to strike out Yairo Munoz for the final out of the game, but the ball trickled through the legs of catcher Andrew Knapp, allowing a run to score and the tying run to move to third base. Lefty Adam Morgan came in to face pinch-hitter Kolten Wong. Wong tied the game up, sneaking a single into center field.

In the 10th inning, Jake Thompson gave up the go-ahead run on a leadoff home run to Tommy Pham. It seemed like it was just going to be another one of those losses that have become increasingly common for the Phillies lately. But the Phillies’ offense didn’t go down quietly, even though it hadn’t put a runner on second base since the start of the second inning when J.P. Crawford doubled. In the bottom half of the 10th, Hoskins blooped a single into shallow left-center to start the inning. Hoskins moved to second base on a ground out from Odubel Herrera. Matt Bowman intentionally walked Carlos Santana, then struck out Jesmuel Valentin. That brought up Aaron Altherr, who replaced Nick Williams after Williams took a baseball to the face off of the right field fence. Bowman fell behind 2-1, then threw a 90 MPH fastball that Altherr lined into left field. Rather than keep the ball in front of him, Marcell Ozuna decided to dive for the ball to make the final out, but he missed. The ball trickled past him, allowing the tying and the game-winning runs to score, giving the Phillies a come-from-behind win.

On the list of people happy to see Ozuna miss that ball are Altherr (of course), Arano, Morgan, and Thompson. But perhaps no one was happier than manager Gape Kapler. The win might help take the heat off of him somewhat after another poor performance from the bullpen. When a team struggles, everyone wants a scapegoat and Kapler is an easy target. He has been all year, undeservingly.

Phillies radio broadcaster and former major league reliever Larry Anderson said after the bullpen meltown, “Not everybody can pitch in the ninth inning. And I know Gabe Kapler thinks they can, but they can’t.” Aside from Ramos and Seranthony Dominguez (who was unavailable after throwing 52 pitches between Saturday and Sunday in Milwaukee), no one in that bullpen has been reliable. The closer, Hector Neris, just got optioned to Triple-A. You work with what you have, and right now, Kapler doesn’t have a whole lot. Thankfully for him, he wasn’t punished with another loss thanks to Ozuna.