Having one of the best seasons of his young career, Colorado Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado is the face of the likely playoff-bound Blake Street Bombers. Not only is he helping Colorado make its first playoff push since 2009, he is making a case for National League MVP.
While he only tops the league in two main categories, doubles (42) and RBI (125), Arenado’s status as one of the most valuable players in the game has been validated by another great season, perhaps his best so far. He’s hitting a career-high .309, with highs in OBP (.372), SLG (.587), OPS (.959) and OPS+ (132). This is all in addition to his amazing defense. For the past five seasons, he’s ranked first in range factor among NL third basemen, and his 2.3 defensive WAR puts him in line for his fifth-straight Gold Glove.
On Saturday, Arenado became the first third baseman in baseball history to reach 125 RBI in three consecutive seasons. This seems like a mistake, but it’s the truth. Amazingly Adrian Beltre, George Brett, Chipper Jones, Eddie Mathews or Mike Schmidt never accomplished this feat, but Arenado, only 26, has become the first to do so at the hot corner.
His biggest competition for MVP comes from Giancarlo Stanton, having an historic season offensively for the Miami Marlins. Stanton’s 55 home runs will lead the league easily, and as of this writing ranks as the 19th highest single season total in MLB history. He still has a chance to hit 60, something accomplished only eight times by five players. Stanton’s WAR of 6.8 ranks slightly above Arenado’s mark of 6.7, so it wouldn’t be outrageous for him to win it, and in fact he very well might deserve it. He’s had a better year offensively, but factoring in Arenado’s defense could make this among the closest MVP races in recent memory. Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds cannot be forgotten about either, topping the Senior Circuit in OBP, OPS and OPS+. Tied with Stanton in WAR, both players face the unfortunate challenge of playing for bad ballclubs, something that usually does not bode well in MVP voting.
It helps that the Rockies are contending, having already been assured to finish with a winning record, and likely set to play the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL Wild Card game. Unlike Stanton’s Marlins or Votto’s Reds, Colorado has seemingly been led by the offensive prowess of Charlie Blackmon, DJ LeMahieu, Mark Reynolds and most importantly Arenado. Making a push for the playoffs is often a must for MVP voters, and while it shouldn’t really matter, this boosts his chances significantly.
Only one player in franchise history has captured the NL MVP. No, it wasn’t Todd Helton, who probably should have won in 2000, only to finish fifth in voting far behind winner Jeff Kent, who played on a San Francisco Giants team that won 15 more games than Helton’s Rockies. It was actually Larry Walker in 1997, who deservingly took home Colorado’s first and only award during the middle of his should-be Hall of Fame career. Arenado has a legitimate chance to cement his legacy with the MVP Award this year, as he’s showed his far more than a product of Coors Field.
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