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My 2020 IBWAA Ballot: NL MVP Edition

Ethan Semendinger reveals his 2020 IBWAA ballot for the National League Most Valuable Player. It was a very close race with the Top-4 spots, featuring players from four different teams. But, who came out on top?


Number 10: Jacob DeGrom, New York Mets

Stats of Note:

4-2 Record (.667 WP%)

2.38 ERA, 178 ERA+

104 Strikeouts

0.956 WHIP, 2.26 FIP

13.8 K/9

2.5 bWAR, 2.6 fWAREmbed from Getty Images

Among National League pitchers, DeGrom ranked 7th in bWAR, 2nd in fWAR, had the 3rd best WHIP, 4th best ERA, and the most strikeouts and K/9 rate. There are many other pitchers who could’ve also had this spot for a low-ballot MVP vote, (i.e. Darvish, Limet, Fried) but in a such short season for pitchers it quickly became a game of determining who was fractionally better than another. In this case, I chose recent history to be my deciding factor to split the hairs and DeGrom has been the top pitcher in the NL for the past two years. Sometimes it pays to be known. However, there was one pitcher who did stand-out (to me) across the NL that we’ll get to soon.


Number 9: Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves

Stats of Note:

60 Games Played

.338/.431/.636 (1.067 OPS)

18 Home Runs, 56 RBI’s

185 OPS+, 179 wRC+

38:60 BB:K

2.3 bWAR, 2.5 fWAR

After being traded from the Miami Marlins to the St. Louis Cardinals during their fire sale at the end of 2017, Marcell Ozuna did not perform as excepted and was unable to find a team willing to give him a long-term contract going into his age-29 season. The Braves ultimately took him on a 1-Year, $18 Million deal and Ozuna did exactly as he needed to do while leading his league in Home Runs and RBI’s. (Side-Note: While Ozuna played all 60 games, he did not lead the league as Starling Marte managed to play in 61 NL games after being traded from the Diamondbacks to the Marlins. Marte was the only player to appear in more than 60 games this season.)


Number 8: Trevor Bauer, Cincinnati Reds

Stats of Note:

5-4 Record (.556 WP%)

1.73 ERA, 276 ERA+

100 Strikeouts

0.795 WHIP, 2.88 FIP

5.1 H/9

2.7 bWAR, 2.5 fWAREmbed from Getty Images

Trevor Bauer was the best pitcher in the National League this past season. Even while Bauer continues to be such a polarizing figure in baseball, this opinion being pretty universally accepted did surprise me. However, it is hard to argue against. He had a Top-3 fWAR, Top-5 bWAR, alongside leading the NL in ERA, ERA+, WHIP, and H/9. He also technically had 2 complete game shutouts- although both did come in shortened 7 inning games. Regardless, Bauer was able to separate himself from the rest of pitching pack. Not by a giant margin (see: Bieber, Shane) and this, to me, deserved him a slightly higher ranking in the MVP voting.


Number 7: Mike Yastrzemski, San Francisco Giants

Stats of Note:

54 Games Played

.297/.400/.568 (0.968 OPS)

10 Home Runs, 35 RBI’s

165 OPS+, 160 wRC+

30:55 BB:K

2.5 bWAR, 2.7 fWAREmbed from Getty Images

After Yastrzemski cracked a Baltimore Orioles MLB Top-30 prospects list back in 2018, I jokingly told my dad that the Red Sox should drop everything and trade for him. The Giants decided to do so instead for a different minor leaguer in early 2019, gave him a shot in the MLB, and he impressed with a great rookie campaign. Very few people expected it to continue, and yet Yastrzemski had another fantastic year. He only the lead the NL in triples (4) but his overall game did net him a Top-6 bWAR and a Top-5 fWAR for his play on both sides of the ball.


Number 6: Dansby Swanson, Atlanta Braves

Stats of Note:

60 Games Played

.274/.345/.464 (0.809 OPS)

10 Home Runs, 35 RBI’s

110 OPS+, 116 wRC+

22:71 BB:K

2.6 bWAR, 1.9 fWAREmbed from Getty Images

Speaking of trades that have not gone according to plan, we get to Dansby Swanson. This was his first positive offensive year since he broke into the MLB for a 38-game stint in 2016 and he has always been a very solid defender at shortstop. He was the 2nd best defender in the NL this past season (1.4 dWAR behind Nolan Arenado at 1.7 dWAR) and given his positive contributions with the bat it helped him towards a Top-4 bWAR.


Number 5: Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres

Stats of Note:

59 Games Played

.277/.366/.571 (0.937 OPS)

17 Home Runs, 45 RBI’s

155 OPS+, 149 wRC+

27:61 BB:K

2.5 bWAR, 2.9 fWAREmbed from Getty Images

If you want to watch a flashy player in the MLB, look no further than Fernando Tatis Jr. After a long awaited half-season rookie campaign in 2019 from the former top MLB prospect, Tatis continued his great offensive ways again in 2020. He didn’t actually lead the NL in any traditional stats or metrics, but ranked among the Top-10 in 10 different metrics on Baseball-Reference, including 2nd in HR’s, 4th in Stolen Bases, and lead the league in Power-Speed # (13.4) which is a metric that combines HR’s and SB (obviously enough). His defense is also very fun to watch with his making great plays, even if it is just marginally better than average.


Number 4: Manny Machado, San Diego Padres

Stats of Note:

60 Games Played

.304/.370/.580 (0.950 OPS)

16 Home Runs, 47 RBI’s

158 OPS+, 148 wRC+

26:37 BB:K

2.8 bWAR, 2.6 fWAREmbed from Getty Images

Standing next to Tatis Jr. in almost every game comes our next player, Manny Machado. Crazy enough, he also did not lead the NL in any traditional metrics, but his all-around game is superior to his teammate also on the left side of the infield and gives him the slight edge. Machado was one of two players (including our NL #3) to rank Top-10 in both oWAR (#8) and dWAR (#9) and also ranked among the leagues best with hits (#4), home runs (#3), and RBI’s (#3).


Number 3: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers

Stats of Note:

55 Games Played

.292/.366/.562 (0.927 OPS)

16 Home Runs, 39 RBI’s

149 OPS+, 149 wRC+

24:38 K:BB

3.4 bWAR, 3.0 fWAREmbed from Getty Images

And speaking of players who were tops in the league on both sides of the ball comes Mookie Betts. The now-Dodger (can I take a moment and say it’s really nice not to have to seem him on the Red Sox?) was 6th in oWAR and 8th in dWAR. Just a little better than Machado in each metric, but combined across both bWAR and fWAR Betts may have been the best player in the National League. To me, however, one major detraction came with his not leading the league in any traditional metric (a point I know i’m burying into the ground) besides bWAR. Another great year from a perennial MVP candidate, but he couldn’t upset my two 2 guys.


Number 2: Juan Soto, Washington Nationals

Stats of Note:

47 Games Played

.351/.490/.695 (1.185 OPS)

13 Home Runs, 37 RBI’s

212 OPS+, 200 wRC+

41:28 BB:K

2.1 bWAR, 2.4 fWAREmbed from Getty Images

Juan Soto is an absolute stud. I’d like to think we’d be good friends as I’m 14 days older than him, we’re both left handed hitters, and…well that’s probably the extent of our similarities. Unfortunately for my future, I am not going to make multiple hundreds of millions of dollars playing baseball. (Maybe from writing about it? That’d be nice.) In 2020, Soto lead the National League in BA, OPB, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and wRC+. He also had 12 intentional walks (leading the NL). However, this did happen over only 47 games. Considering my #1 NL MVP player also had a great year like this, that became the deciding factor for me.


Number 1: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves

Stats of Note:

60 Games Played

.341/.462/.640 (1.102 OPS)

13 Home Runs, 53 RBI’s

186 OPS+, 187 wRC+

45:37 BB:K

2.9 bWAR, 3.4 fWAREmbed from Getty Images

He was second to Soto in AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and wRC+. But, when adjusted for games played, Freeman lead the NL in Batting Runs (30) and Batting Wins (2.8). He also lead the NL in XBH (37), Times on Base (121), Runs Scored (51), and Doubles (23). It was an amazing season from a player who has come very close to winning the MVP multiple times in his career, and I ultimately think his being on the field alongside his fantastic year means that he should be the National League MVP.


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