An interesting article hit Fangraphs today discussing the NL MVP race. I find award voting in baseball equally fascinating and frustrating. This year will probably be more frustrating.
As you know MVP awards often become hot topics toward the end of the season. In years past voters would look more at counting stats rather than the overall body of work. The year Juan Gonzalez won the MVP is a great example as Griffey Jr was by far the best player.
In recent years voters have done a better job of avoiding the real egregious picks. Mike Trout could easily have 3 MVP's but it is not like it was some atrocity that Miguel Cabrera won the award. Cabrera was probably the better hitter, but Trout was hands down the best overall player. Personally I think Trout should have won, but that is a worn out argument. Overall the last handful of years has been much better.
The debate now is Bryce Harper. No statistical argument can be made which doesn't have Harper winning the award. He leads just about every offensive category you can think of by a considerable margin. What he doesn't have is narrative.
Voters love a good story. They want guys leading their team to the playoffs. Some voters will only vote for the best player that is on a playoff team. If you Google 2015 NL MVP you will eventually run into articles making the case for guys like Anthony Rizzo, Kershaw/Grienke and Cutch.
As much as I love Cutch, he doesn't deserve the MVP. It just feels like everyone is over thinking it this year. It is not Bryce Harper's fault that the Nats underachieved. People put way too much stock into things the actual player can't control. One of the years Miggy won the AL MVP a voter referenced the Tigers made the playoffs. Mike Trout's Angels actually had the better record.
The Fangraphs article I referenced plays devils advocate and trying to say Harper is more good than great when his team needs him the most. In low to medium leverage situations Harper is by far the best hitter in baseball, but in high leverage situations he is 70th. Guys like Rizzo and Cutch rated much higher. At the end of the article the writer said he would still vote for Harper. His point was basically saying context can and should play a small part in voting.
When it was all said and done you can keep drilling and find flaws in someones game. Basically it comes down to voting for someone who is having a historically great season, but on an underachieving team. To me MVP means best player. Bryce Harper is the best player this year. I find it odd that we can pick CY Young winners on bad teams (Kluber and King Felix), but the hitter gets docked for being on a bad team.
I think Harper will win, but it won't be the landslide victory that it should be.