St. Louis Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is putting together a hell of a year. There’s some chatter in the baseball world over if he should be considered the front-runner for baseball’s top award.
A closer look reveals he’s got a bit of competition.
Through the past three seasons, Molina’s offense has taken off–from .262 in 2010, to .305 in 2011, followed by a career-high .315 in 2012. So far in 2013, Molina’s batting average is tops in the NL by almost 20 points. His .365 average is besting the likes of Troy Tulowitzki, Marco Scutaro, Joey Votto and Buster Posey.
And though he doesn’t walk very much (6.2%), Molina is fourth in the league in OBP and sixth in wOBA.
Credit has to be given to Molina for the position he plays, as well as his management of the best pitching rotation in baseball. Along with the aforementioned intangibles, his leadership for the Cardinals has been vital in the team performing as the best in baseball.
But batting average and subjectivity alone cannot win you an MVP. Molina is among the best in several major statistical categories but there are others who are playing just as strong.
Milwaukee Brewers’ Carlos Gomez leads all hitters in WAR with a 4.2. He’s hitting .317 and has an OPS of .939. The problem for Gomez–if he can keep his productivity up–is that he plays for a team that may already be dead in the water.
Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies has been instrumental in keeping the Rockies in the thick of the NL West race. With Tulowitzki out for an extended period of time, it’ll be up to ‘CarGo’ to take over the team. If he does so by stepping up his game and maintaining the Rockies presence, you have to think he’ll end up as one of the top choices. A .337 ISO and 169 wRC+ already puts Gonzalez in a league of his own.
Joey Votto is year in and out a player in the MVP race. He’s hitting .321 for the Cincinnati Reds and leads the league in OBP with a .437. Tough to ignore a guy who gets on base in almost half his plate appearances while being tied for third in the NL with 53 runs scored.
Wainwright is the best pitcher in baseball right now, despite his rough outing against the Cubs this week. He’s walking under 1% of batters faced and leads all pitcher in WAR with a 3.8. It’s really difficult for pitchers to win over the BBWAA voters but Wainwright is having a terrific year (with all due respect to Matt Harvey, Clay Buchholz and Felix Hernandez).
Carpenter has turned heads in 2013 with his .314 batting average, .374 wOBA and 3.3 WAR. The guy can play almost anywhere making him incredibly valuable to St. Louis as well as being the best utility player in the league.
Though the month of June marks the end of small sample size, it’s still early to project MVP candidates (but it’s still fun to do so). Molina is definitely in the conversation but I’m not sure he’s the favorite. His BABIP is too high to consider his batting average to be sustainable–or that he’s 80 points above his career average.
Molina is an elite ballplayer but outside of batting average I don’t think he’ll put up enough in other areas to get the attention he needs. I can’t see him ending up with NL MVP when the season is done, though I’m sure he’d settle for a championship instead.