Three players for your consideration:
Clues: All three players wore the uniform of the Cincinnati Reds. All three put up these numbers in their third full major league season. At the conclusion of these seasons, Player A had been an All-Star three times, Players B and C had been All-Stars just once. Players A and C were both catchers.
Enough hints, time to pull back the curtain.
Player A is Johnny Bench, in his MVP season of 1970. Player B is Joey Votto, in his MVP season, forty years later, in 2010.
Player C is Devin Mesoraco, today, in his MVP-caliber 2014 season.
That’s right, Devin Mesoraco is a legitimate candidate for Most Valuable Player of the National League. Among players with at least 220 plate appearances, he ranks third in the league in wRC+ behind Troy Tulowitzki and Andrew McCutchen. He is WAY out ahead in ISO (isolated power) and second to Tulowitzki in slugging. And, like Johnny Bench, Mesoraco plays the demanding position of catcher. If you prorate Mesoraco’s fWAR to a full 90 games played, he’d be second in the NL to Tulowitzki.
MVP voters typically choose players on a winning team. Both Bench and Votto were on first place teams in those MVP years. Devin Mesoraco has more home runs right now (16) than any player on the Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, Cardinals and Brewers. And he’s played in only 58 of his team’s 93 games. Mesoraco trails the Braves’ Justin Upton by one homer, although Upton has had 141 more plate appearances.
Mesoraco has hit five of his sixteen home runs in the top of the ninth inning. He’s homered off Tim Lincecum and Zack Grienke. He’s doubled off of Cliff Lee, Madison Bumgarner and David Price. In last night’s dramatic win, he homered off of All-Star reliever, Tony Watson.
Ah, last night. The Reds dugout was full of heroes after their glorious, heart-pounding win. I could list five and that would leave out five more. But it was Devin Mesoraco’s upper-deck home run in the bottom of the eighth inning, with two outs and the Reds down 5-3, it was that blast that signaled both to the Pirates and his teammates that the Reds weren’t done yet. It said “No. Not yet. Not tonight. We haven’t given up.”
Devin Mesoraco began this MVP-caliber season on the DL and returned to it one other time. He’s taken a pounding. He’s been hit by swinging bats, broken bats, charging runners, foul tips, by pitches thrown by opponents and by pitches from his teammates. Yet he keeps going. He’s what Bryan Price meant by relentless.
The word caliber has two meanings.
To assert that Devin Mesoraco is “MVP-caliber” is accurate with either definition. Caliber means the level of one’s ability. Mesoraco’s numbers this year, as amply demonstrated in the Table above, are MVP level.
But it’s the second meaning of caliber, the internal diameter or bore of a gun barrel, that fits even better. Last night, Tony Watson faced the barrel of the Reds’ .357 Magnum MVP as he went off.
Of course, there’s a huge “SO FAR” caveat. Devin Mesoraco is having an MVP-caliber season so far. But I’ll let you be the one to tell him he can’t keep it up.
Just wanted to bring it to your attention that if he does, we could be celebrating DevinMVP at the end of the year, along with a few other nice team trophies.
Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.