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.

Astros clinch postseason berth with 11-3 win over Angels

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No surprise here: The Astros are headed back to the postseason to defend their title following a landslide 11-3 win over the Angels on Friday. This figures to be their third playoff run since 2015, though they have yet to wrap up the AL West with a division title.

First baseman Yuli Gurriel led the charge on Friday, smashing a grand slam in the first inning and tacking on a two-run homer in the second and RBI single in the fifth to help the Astros to a seven-run lead. The Angels eventually returned fire, first with Mike Trout‘s 418-foot homer in the sixth, then with an RBI hit from Francisco Arcia in the seventh, but they couldn’t close the gap in time to overtake the Astros.

On the mound, right-hander Gerrit Cole clinched his 15th win of the year after holding the Angels to seven innings of three-run, 12-strikeout ball. His sixth strikeout of the night — delivered on an 83.1-MPH knuckle curveball to Kaleb Cowart — also marked the 1,000th strikeout of his career to date. He was backed by flawless performances by lefty reliever Tony Sipp and rookie right-hander Dean Deetz, both of whom turned in scoreless innings as the offense barreled toward an 11-3 finish with Jake Marisnick‘s sac bunt and George Springer‘s three-run shot in the eighth.

Despite having qualified for the playoffs, the Astros still carry a magic number of 6 as they look to clinch a third straight division title. They’re currently up against the Athletics, who entered Friday’s contest against the Twins just four games back of first place in the AL West.