The 2021 IBWAA Awards (My Ballot): NL MVP (2 of 2)
Over the next two weeks, I am going to be releasing my ballots for the various end-of-the-season awards across Major League Baseball. These are the same ballots/players that I submitted to the IBWAA before the postseason began.
This week we will go through all the National League Awards, continuing with the Top-5 of the NL MVP.
For the IBWAA (Internet Baseball Writers Association of America), voters get to vote for the Top-10 players for the MVP, the Top-5 pitchers for the Cy Young, the Top-3 players for the Rookie of the Year, Reliever of the Year, and the Top-3 managers for the Manager of the Year awards.
Name: Zack Wheeler
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Pitching Line: 32 G, 14-10 Record (.583 WP%), 2.78 ERA (150 ERA+, 2.59 FIP), 213.1 IP, 1.008 WHIP, 247 K’s (10.4 K/9), 46 BB (1.9 BB/9), +7.8 bWAR/+7.3 fWAR
Zack Wheeler was the best pitcher in the National League in 2021. People are going to disagree with this, but across the board he was the best pitcher out there. (If you want to read more on why, check out my NL Cy Young post.) However, why put him 5th? Well, I figured I’d put the best pitcher in-between a collection of solid hitters (and Scherzer) and the Top-4 hitters/defenders who clearly separated themselves from the pack this season.Embed from Getty Images
Name: Trea Turner
Team: Washington Nationals & Los Angeles Dodgers
Hitting Line: 148 Games, .328/.375/.536 (.911 OPS/146 OPS+), 28 HR’s, 77 RBI’s, +6.5 bWAR/+6.9 fWAR
The Major League leader in batting average, Trea Turner was- by some measures- the best player in the NL this year as he led all hitters by fWAR. He, like Max Scherzer, provided a huge boost to the LA Dodgers team after the trade deadline as he hit to a .950 OPS over his 52 games on the West Coast. Outside of a great offensive season (5th best by oWAR), Turner also played great defense, predominantly as a shortstop, and at second base while also leading the NL in stolen bases. Turner played likely the best all-around game in 2021 for offense, defense, and base-running. Look for him to be a top shortstop contender for The Determinator (2022).Embed from Getty Images
Name: Fernando Tatis Jr.
Team: San Diego Padres
Hitting Line: 130 Games, .282/.364/.611 (.975 OPS/166 OPS+), 42 HR’s, 97 RBI’s, +6.6 bWAR/+6.1 fWAR
For our top 3 players in the National League MVP voting this year I had to really play with the numbers until I found a ranking that made sense and felt comfortable to me. Ultimately, that means the NL leader in Home Runs ends up 3rd. Now, Tatis had an MVP season…if not for our Top 2 guys. He absolutely was a darling of advanced metrics and the current emphasis on hitting for hard-power. However, three tips to the IL, the moving him away from shortstop to have to play outfield to try and keep him healthy, and his team- who were almost a guaranteed playoff spot- not making the playoffs were the difference for me. I hope he can stay fully healthy in 2022 so I have no good excuse not to vote for him if he does this again.Embed from Getty Images
Name: Bryce Harper
Team: Philadelphia Phillies
Hitting Line: 141 Games, .309/.429/.615 (1.044 OPS/179 OPS+), 35 HR’s, 84 RBI’s, +5.9 bWAR/+6.6 fWAR
Bryce Harper was, without a doubt, the best hitter in the National League (and likely the MLB) in 2022. He led the MLB in SLG, OPS, OPS+, and doubles, and was the only hitter above a .300/.400/.550 triple-slash. And while I can harp (pun intended) on this for a while, I want to make two points on my placing Harper at #2. First, no, I did not boost Harper’s profile because I wanted to in some sort-of reverse-psychology want the Yankees to further regret not signing him. Second, I did not dock Harper’s profile because he did not become a New York Yankee as some sort of internal grudge. Harper was the best offensive player in the MLB and combined that season with a decent glove and decent baserunning. He really was THAT good. (And yes, I still want the Yankees to get him.)Embed from Getty Images
Name: Juan Soto
Team: Washington Nationals
Hitting Line: 151 Games, .313/.465/.534 (.999 OPS/175 OPS+), 29 HR’s, 95 RBI’s, +7.0 bWAR/+6.6 fWAR
And, as good as Harper was offensively, or Tatis Jr. was with statcast numbers, there is one clear and obvious player who should be winning the 2021 NL MVP. The NL hitting leader in bWAR (Wheeler ranked higher overall), Juan Soto has become the next “Bryce Harper” to me: a left-handed hitting outfielder from the Washington Nationals who could become a free agent in his mid-20’s (at age 26 during the 2024/2025 offseason). Add on an MVP won in his age-22 season this year and the similarities are clear…so he’s going to become a Texas Ranger for whatever reason. However, postulating aside, Soto was the best overall player in the NL this past year. He nearly had a 1.000 OPS, led the MLB in OBP and Walks (145), played in over 150 games, and was in the Top-10 (and often Top-2/3) in 23 of nearly every important offensive category. If he hit 1 more HR and had 5 more RBI’s there wouldn’t be a case against him, and as far as I see it, he’s the NL MVP. (And the Nationals may be entering a rebuild…)Embed from Getty Images