San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey won the National League MVP award Thursday evening. As a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, I had a vote. I voted for Posey. Here’s my ballot with a brief explanation at the bottom.
1. Buster Posey, C, SF Giants
.336 AVG, .408 OBP, .549 SLG, .957 OPS, 172 OPS+ (adjusted for ballpark), 24 HR, 103 RBI
Posey, who caught 114 games (111 starts) for the Giants this year while also playing 29 games at first base, also had the fourth-best catcher’s earned run average.
2. Ryan Braun, LF, Milwaukee Brewers
.319 AVG, .391 OBP, .595 SLG, .987 OPS, 159 OPS+, 41 HR, 112 RBI
Braun also hit a league-leading 41 home runs and scored the most runs in the NL with 108, all in a lineup without the same protection Prince Fielder previously provided.
3. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates
.327 AVG, .400 OBP, .553 SLG, .953 OPS, 164 OPS+, 31 HR, 96 RBI
McCutchen had a league-leading 194 hits, led the league in offensive WAR and was second in overall WAR to Posey and challenged Posey (and Melky Cabrera) for the batting title for much of the summer.
4. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals
.315 AVG, .373 OBP, .501 SLG, .874 OPS, 137 OPS+, 22 HR, 76 RBI
Molina, who caught 136 games (133 starts) for the Cardinals threw out a ridiculous 48 percent of baserunners and earned his fifth-straight well-deserved Gold Glove as the best St. Louis hitter.
5. Chase Headley, 3B, San Diego Padres
.286 AVG, .376 OBP, .498 SLG, .875 OPS, 144 OPS+, 31 HR, 115 RBI
Headley led the National League in RBI, quite an accomplishment given his supporting cast, and also managed to hit 31 home runs despite playing half his games inside cavernous PETCO Park, and hit 13 of them at home.
6. Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers
.300 AVG, .360 OBP, .540 SLG, .901 OPS, 137 OPS+, 27 HR, 105 RBI
Ramirez didn’t get nearly the publicity Braun did but his addition to the Brewers lineup was integral to what success they had this season. He led the league with 50 doubles and finished the season with 80 extra-base hits.
7. David Wright, New York Mets
.306 AVG, .391 OBP, .492 SLG, .883 OPS, 143 OPS+, 21 HR, 93 RBI
8. Adam LaRoche, Washington Nationals
.271 AVG, .343 OBP, .510 SLG, .853 OPS, 128 OPS+, 33 HR, 100 RBI
9. Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves
1.01 ERA, 63 appearances, 42 saves, 116 strikeouts of 231 batters faced, 16.7 K/9, 8.29 K/BB ratio
10. Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
.292 AVG, .335 OBP, .511 SLG, .845 OPS, 126 OPS+, 25 HR, 73 RBI
– I think the first five in this race were fairly clear and, to be honest, I went back-and-forth on my order for much of the final few weeks of the season. So let’s get the biggest part of this ballot out of the way: Why was Posey my ultimate choice for MVP?
Voting for these awards is something I think most writers will agree that they take very seriously and while I feel the numbers provide arguably the most important guide to deciding a player’s “worth,” I think there are also other factors that have to go into it. What was the context in which they put up those numbers? What did that player mean to their team?
In the case of Posey, where he separated himself from the pack, in my mind, was that when Melky Cabrera was suspended for performance enhancing drugs — a day the Nationals happened to be in San Francisco — Posey truly came into his own. After overcoming a gruesome injury in 2011, Posey’s season was already impressive. But with the Giants in the heat of a pennant race and the man who’d been their best hitter for much of the season suspended, Posey turned things on.
In the season’s final 41 games, Posey hit .351 with a .412 on-base percentage and a .563 slugging percentage. He surged to seize the NL batting title and helped lead the Giants to what would eventually be their second World Series championship in the last three seasons.
Ultimately I decided on the order I did for the top five because of the individual seasons each of those players had, within the context of what I felt they meant to their team. The case, of course, could be made that Molina belonged higher than fourth, particularly with the kind of value he brings behind the plate. I don’t disagree. But I felt that Braun put together a simply outstanding season, and McCutchen’s body of work, which he did with little supporting cast, propelled the Pirates for the majority of the season and was too strong to ignore. Headley’s production was no doubt Top-5 worthy, particularly given the park that he plays 81 of his games in and the fact that he helped keep the Padres relevant for much longer than most anticipated.
As for the bottom half of the ballot? Certainly it’s subjective and I, obviously, watched LaRoche and Desmond play far more than I did any other players on the ballot. But I did get a chance to see all of them — particularly Wright and Kimbrel. I think all were worthy of a vote and I think the numbers help tell the story as to the way I ranked them. I grappled with the idea of giving a vote to Kimbrel because more often than not I tend to ascribe to the theory that there is already a pitcher’s MVP award. But looking at the Braves season and knowing what he meant to them (and seeing his dominance several times first-hand) I felt it was only right to slot him in at No. 9.
From a Nationals perspective, I think LaRoche got a lot of the “MVP-possible” publicity and chatter, and rightfully so after a strong offensive season coupled with defense so solid it earned him his first Gold Glove. When the topic came up, manager Davey Johnson was the first to stump for his veteran first baseman. But I felt that Desmond was certainly worthy of being on the ballot as well as he established himself as one of the best all-around shortstops in the National League. And the offense he produced at that position was worthy of placing him among the game’s elite. His numbers really only left one to wonder what he might’ve done had he not missed roughly six weeks with an oblique injury.
The same, of course, could be said for Ryan Zimmerman, and what might’ve been had he not struggled with his inflamed AC joint for the first three months of the season.
Ultimately there were five Nationals who got votes. LaRoche finished seventh overall, Desmond followed at 17th. Gio Gonzalez placed 20th, Zimmerman 24th and Bryce Harper 31st. Quite a haul for a team who, before this season, rarely sniffed the postseason BBWAA awards.