Earlier today, Steve discussed Joey Votto’s MVP candidacy, and took a sweet little trip down memory lane. The votes have now been tabulated, and the winner announced.
Your 2017 National League Most Valuable player is Giancarlo Stanton.
Well, maybe he’s your MVP. My MVP is Joey Votto.
Votto finished just two points behind Stanton in a historically close race for the National League’s top honor:
In the closest MVP vote since 1979 and the fourth closest all-time, Votto and Stanton both received 10 first-place votes, with Votto falling two points short of Stanton’s 302 total. Goldschmidt had 239 points.
“Just so close,” Votto said after learning the outcome. “[I’m] really, really grateful for the support. I cannot believe how close it was. I just can’t believe coming up two points short. It’s so cool in a way coming up that short. Most of the time it’s a landslide or it’s clear. This wasn’t that. That was one of the entertaining aspects of it. Because Giancarlo and I did things so differently and because we’re both on losing clubs, it was for me a very interesting vote.”
For Votto, who won the MVP in 2010, this was the third time he has finished in the top three of MVP voting. A second award would have been a great line on his Hall of Fame resume, but Votto continues to build an excellent case on that front, regardless.
Cincinnati’s superstar first baseman posted 7.5 WAR in 2017, playing all 162 games and hitting .320/454/.578 with 36 home runs, 100 RBI, and 134 walks (against 83 strikeouts). He led the league in walks, OBP, OPS, and OPS+, among other things. Over at FanGraphs, Travis Sawchik expertly listed the highlights of Votto’s season:
The runner-up, Votto, led baseball with an absurd .454 on-base percentage, leading 22nd-ranked Stanton (.376) by a significant margin. He led the NL in wRC+ (165), while Stanton finished second (156). Votto led the NL in wOBA (.428), too. Votto was the most efficient hitter in the NL.
As you might expect, Stanton held an edge in baserunning, though neither were standouts. Votto made remarkable strides defensively this year. After posting a -14 DRS mark last year, the first baseman improved to +11 this season. Stanton posted a +10 DRS mark in right field.
But Votto did separate himself in a couple of hidden areas.
Traditionally, Votto has made pitchers work a little more. He produces more stress on opposing arms, which has a positive effect not only for himself but for his teammates in the lineup. That doesn’t show up in WAR. And there is some evidence that he holds an edge there.
In total pitches seen, they ranked beside each other in 2017. Stanton placed 11th in the sport with 2,736 pitches seen; Votto, 12th (2,733).
Votto separated himself by some other measures of patience, however. By pitches seen when ahead in the count, Votto (981) ranked second only to Aaron Judge (1,000), while Stanton ranked in the top 10 (930). In two-strike performance, Votto held an overwhelming advantage. Here Votto led the sport with a .359 wOBA with two strikes while Stanton ranked 240th (.236). The league average was .241.
Sawchik has much, much more about Stanton and Votto, and I encourage you to go read the entire piece.
In his usual, humble fashion, Votto refused to be disappointed by the narrow loss:
“Giancarlo plays in a monster ballpark and hit all those home runs and I was cheering for him,” Votto said. “I played every day and I felt like I put together a nice, well-rounded season. We did it from the beginning to the end, we both stayed healthy and I think the fans appreciated it. Disappointed? Not really. Truly, more grateful.”
Well, I’m disappointed for you, Joey. But thanks for being classy and representing the Cincinnati Reds well, as always.
For the record, a Cincinnati player has finished second in MVP voting five other times in history. The last time it happened was in 1985, when Dave Parker finished second to St. Louis’ Willie McGee.
Before that, it was George Foster in 1976, one year before he actually won the MVP. 1976 was notable for the fact that Foster lost to his teammate, Joe Morgan, and five Reds in all were among the top 13 in voting: Pete Rose was fourth, Ken Griffey was eighth, and Rawly Eastwick was 13th.
The other Reds to finish second: Rose in 1968 (lost to Bob Gibson), Ted Kluszewski in 1954 (behind Willie Mays), and Ewell “The Whip” Blackwell, who finished second to Bob Elliott in 1947.
Here’s hoping the Reds stop wasting the Ted Williams of our generation. I look forward to Votto winning the MVP award next season after Cincinnati returns to the playoffs.