Who Are the Front-Runners for the National League MVP?
With the season approaching its halfway point, it's time to take a look at the front-runners for the National League MVP Award. And unlike in the American League, there's been a clear front-runner in the NL, and it's not too close. Bryce Harper has been on fire this season, and if he continues his trend in the second half, then he'll have the NL MVP all locked up by the time September rolls around.
We'll take a look at numberFire's nERD metric, used to measure of runs a player contributes, or in the case of a pitcher, prevents, above or below the league average, along with a few other Sabermetrics to determine the leading candidates for the NL MVP award.
1. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals
nERD: 6.30 | fWAR: 5.7 | wOBA: .490
Bryce Harper leads not only the National League but also the entire MLB in almost every major hitting category. His fWAR is a full run higher than his next leading competitor in the NL, as well as his nERD, meaning per 27 plate appearances, Harper averages 6.30 more runs than an average ball player. For the season, Harper is hitting a monstrous .343/.471/.709 with a .490 wOBA and a 220 wRC+, topping the National League in every one of those categories. Harper has just been incredible this season and per ZiPS projections, he's on pace for an 8-WAR season. Harper's wRC+ is higher than Babe Ruth's during his 60 home run season! And while he may regress a little with a .377 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), Harper's still going to put up incredible numbers in the second half. The guy is just incredible right now, and if Harper keeps it up, everybody else is competing for second place.
2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks
nERD: 5.34 | fWAR: 4.7 | wOBA: .452
While everyone behind Harper may be competing for second, it's not like they're not performing well. Paul Goldschmidt has been hitting spectacularly this season and would be a worthy candidate for the NL MVP if Harper wasn't just straight fire. Hitting .349/.466/.618 with a .452 wOBA and a 190 wRC+, Goldschmidt is putting up video game numbers for the Diamondbacks. Arizona's first baseman also has 16 steals and a 1.3 BsR, positively contributing to the Diamondbacks on the base paths. Goldschmidt's been the most valuable player in the NL not named Harper this year, putting up a 4.7 fWAR, second in the NL. If he can keep it up, unlikely though with a .402 BABIP, Goldschmidt does have an outside shot to catch Harper.
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs
nERD: 4.08 | fWAR: 3.3 | wOBA: .408
Having an incredibly productive season for the new-look Cubs, Anthony Rizzo played himself into MVP discussions early on and has kept himself there with some great hitting. On the season Rizzo is hitting .298/.408/.546 with a .408 wOBA and 162 wRC+. The Cubs' first baseman is third in the NL in OBP, wOBA and wRC+, behind, who else, Harper and Goldschmidt. Rizzo has also made his presence felt on the basepaths with 12 stolen bases, already a career high for him, but per Fangraphs base running stats, he's still been replacement level along the basepaths. Projected to equal last season's 5.6 fWAR, per ZiPS projections, Rizzo should keep himself in MVP discussions throughout the year, but unless he really picks it up, he's really competing for second or third place.
4. Todd Frazier, 3B, Reds
nERD: 3.47 | fWAR: 4.1 | wOBA: .395
Todd Frazier has been mashing it this year, to the tune to 25 home runs and a 4.1 fWAR, third in the National League. The Reds' third baseman is hitting .281/.338/.590 with a .395 wOBA and 153 wRC+ and what's incredible is he's been getting unlucky with a .279 BABIP, so Frazier could perform even better in the second half, should his BABIP regress upwards. But Frazier has still been killing it this year, and has also been valuable in the field with a 2.8 UZR at third base. On pace to break the Reds' single season extra base hits record, Frazier's been an All-Star this season and could get even better in the second half.
5. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates
nERD: 3.03 | fWAR: 3.4 | wOBA: .386
While Andrew McCutchen started the season off slowly, hitting .194 in March and April, the Pirates' outfielder has come on in recent months, hitting .330 in May and .337 in June. For the season McCutchen is hitting .302/.398/.498 with a .386 wOBA and 151 wRC+, which is incredible considering how bad he was early on. McCutchen's also been his usual self on the basepaths with a 1.5 BsR. With ZiPS projecting him to almost double his fWAR in the second half, McCutchen should firmly place himself in the discussions for NL MVP, as he always has, and with a spectacular second half leading the Pirates, he could vault himself into the top few in discussions.
Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins
nERD: 2.96 | fWAR: 3.8 | wOBA: .398
Had Giancarlo Stanton not been sidelined with a hand injury, he'd be right up there with Goldschmidt and Rizzo, competing for the NL MVP. For the season Stanton is hitting .265/.346/.606 with a .398 wOBA before injury. He had been excellent at the plate, with a 2.96 nERD and 3.8 fWAR and in the field with a 7.9 UZR in right field. But going down with an injury for the second straight year really hurts Stanton's MVP chances.