Only twice has an MLB Most Valuable Player Award gone to someone from a last-place team.
Although Jeff Passan at Yahoo Sports made an entirely unconvincing argument for the first baseman of the Cincinnati Reds last month, it’s hard to see the BBWAA choosing him.
Passan pointed out the only case Votto has — how great he was at getting on base — but here’s the thing: The pride of Canada doesn’t figure to be the No. 1 choice of traditionalists or new-age baseball thinkers.
Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton has a slightly higher WAR (wins above replacement) whether you check Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference.com. He also hit 59 home runs and logged 132 RBIs, both tops in the league.
Votto got on base a lot more (321 to 260), but Stanton had 20 more extra-base hits.
Stanton also had a higher defensive rating at Fangraphs.
The biggest knock on Stanton is his team missed the postseason… but didn’t we already mention Votto’s finished in last place?
That those two and Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona ended up as the top three vote-getters might point to where this thing is going.
Goldschmidt is essentially Votto Light — a first baseman who had a great all-around season but trails the Reds’ star in WAR, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and defensive rating, among other categories.
The Diamondbacks first baseman scored 11 more runs and had 20 more RBIs, but of course he trailed Stanton in both of those categories.
Goldschmidt’s best argument is clearly that his team played after Oct. 1 and the Reds and Marlins did not.
Will that be enough? Could Goldschmidt emerge from a split vote?
I think that’s more likely to be Stanton.
Perhaps the people who strongly value winning and the ones who just can’t stand voting for a guy on a last-place team will cancel out and leave the Marlins slugger, who appeals more to both sides.
I think Stanton might actually end up being the compromise candidate, albeit accidentally.
But hey, stranger things have happened — like Votto getting robbed of the Silver Slugger last week by Goldschmidt.
So, if Votto doesn’t win, I would say don’t despair.
And if he does? Don’t apologize!
He had a great year regardless.