HBT First-Half Awards: National League MVP

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With no baseball on Wednesday or Thursday, we’re taking stock of the best performances of the first half of the season by handing out midseason awards. Maybe someday we’ll have the budget for an actual Midseason Award Trophy, but for now they merely get our kind and admiring words. Next up: National League MVP.

Aaron Gleeman‘s ballot:

1. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
2. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
3. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

Bryce Harper leads the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage–and is one point from the top batting average–while playing good defense in right field for the Nationals. He has some major competition from Arizona first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, but Harper’s nearly 100-point edge in slugging percentage and superior defensive value are enough to separate them for now. Goldschmidt is having a spectacular, MVP-caliber season, but Harper has been even better.

Deciding on the third spot was tough, because Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo are deserving based on their great hitting and Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, Todd Frazier, Nolan Arenado, and A.J. Pollock are deserving based on their very good hitting combined with defensive value. I went with McCutchen, who won the MVP in 2013, finished third in 2014, and has hit .343 with a 1.033 OPS in his last 60 games after a brutal start to the season.

Craig Calcaterra‘s ballot:

1. Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
2. Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
3. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants

It’s really hard to do any other 1-2 in the NL MVP race than Harper and Goldschmidt. Harper leads the league in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage and is a single point behind Goldschmidt in average, if you care about such things. Which isn’t to slight Goldschmidt in the least — his 2015 season is better than a great many actual MVP seasons over the past couple of decades so far — it’s just that Harper is better than him in just about everything that matters. Goldschmidt has a couple more stolen bases and some RBIs, but that doesn’t amount to much. He also plays in a much better hitter’s park. Sorry, Goldy.

The real race for the MVP, such as it is, seems to be for the third slot. As Aaron said above, you can pick six or seven guys here, depending on your tastes. My tastes, like Aaron’s seem to be, are more about all-around greatness than merely batting numbers. I can’t, however, look past McCucthen’s slow start and give him the nod over someone like Buster Posey, who has hit fantastically and consistently while playing one of the most important defensive positions around. I give a different answer if you ask me which of them I’d want on my team starting tomorrow and going through the end of the year, but an award is, by definition, a retrospective thing and, with all due respect to Mr. McCutchen, you can’t erase the month of April.

Watch: Christian Yelich continues to make a case for NL MVP repeat

Christian Yelich
AP Images
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Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.

The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.

While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.

Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.

It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.