It has been a foregone conclusion for a while, but the Baseball Writers Association of America made it official Thursday by announcing Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper as the unanimous winner of the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player Award. He’s the first player in franchise history (including the Expos) to take home the award and the first for a team in Washington, D.C. since Roger Peckinpaugh in 1925.
Harper received all 30 first-place votes, becoming the seventh unanimous MVP of all-time. He’s the youngest one to do it. As for the other finalists, Paul Goldschmidt finished second overall in the balloting while Joey Votto finished third.
While the Nationals underachieved in 2015, Harper broke out with a historically great season, batting .330/.460/.649 with 42 home runs and 99 RBI. He led the majors in bWAR (9.9), on-base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.649), and OPS (1.109) while tying Colorado’s Nolan Arenado for first in the National League with 42 home runs. He led the National League in runs (118) while only Cincinnati’s Joey Votto bested his total of 124 walks. Video game numbers all around.
It feels like Harper has been around forever, so it’s easy to forget how young he is and how special his season was in context of that. His 1.109 OPS will go down as second-best all-time at age-22 or younger, behind only Ted Williams, who had a 1.287 OPS in 1941. In September, he became just the seventh player to reach 40 home runs at age-22 or younger. After turning 23 in October, Harper is the youngest player to win the NL MVP since Johnny Bench in 1970.
Even putting Harper’s age aside, his season carved out a impressive place in history. His 195 OPS+ now ranks 71st all-time for a single season. It was the best mark in the majors since Barry Bonds in 2004. I guess Harper won’t have to worry about being voted the “most overrated player in MLB” again next spring.
Complete voting results for the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player Award can be found at BBWAA.com.