Kris Bryant Was Easily the National League's MVP
In a season that ended a lot of long-standing frustration for Cubs fans, they claimed another award, as the BBWAA awarded Cubs slugger Kris Bryant the NL MVP trophy.
As our own John Stolnis previewed in the AL award, writers often reward players on winning teams, and no one won more games this year than the Cubs. The only concern could have possibly been the plethora of excellent offensive players the Cubs offense showcased -- between Dexter Fowler, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist and Bryant, the only way he wouldn't have won this award would've been due to his excellent teammates stealing some of his thunder. In fact, Rizzo finished fourth in the voting.
A Brilliant 2016
Coming off of his 2015 rookie campaign, perhaps the only concern for Bryant was a heavy strikeout rate of 30.6%. In 2016, all Bryant did was cut that rate down by 8.6% (22.0%) while hitting .292/.385/.554, jacking 39 home runs, scoring 121 runs and driving in 102 runs. No big deal. And for good measure, he threw in eight stolen bases. All of this was good for a weighted on base average (wOBA) of .396, a weighted runs created (wRC+) of 149, and a FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) of 8.4.
Bryant was at the top of the leaderboard in nearly all offensive categories, finishing third in home runs, leading in runs scored, sixth in runs batted in, fourth in wOBA and wRC+, and he led the league in fWAR. The second-place finisher, Daniel Murphy, certainly had a fantastic season as well -- he finished second to Joey Votto in both wOBA and wRC+, but Bryant's excellence in the field at multiple positions was 2.9 wins better than Murphy. How often can your MVP play the hot corner and either corner outfield spot, and play them all well?
The only real debate in the voting didn't seem to have much to do with Bryant -- he was a near unanimous selection -- but a very close race between second and third place for Murphy and Corey Seager. Between these two, it's a pretty tough call as to who had the stronger season.
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While Murphy led across the board in nearly every offensive category, Seager finished nearly two wins ahead of Murphy due to his stellar defensive contribution. Interestingly, Seager landed between second and fifth on all 30 ballots, whereas Murphy surprisingly landed seventh on one ballot.
All in all, though, in what was a clear-cut choice, the writers got this one right.