MVP awards watch (cont.)
1. Andre Ethier, RF, Dodgers
Season stats: .393/.452/.732, 10 HR, 34 RBI, 23.0 VORP
Last three weeks: .395/.452/.763, 7 HR, 22 RBI
Candidacy: The Dodgers have been a disappointment thus far, but Ethier currently leads the NL in all three triple crown categories. There hasn't been a triple crown winner in the majors since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 and there hasn't been an NL winner since the Cardinals' Ducky Medwick in 1937. The next man to accomplish the feat will win the MVP in his league, guaranteed. Ethier is unlikely to be that man, but if he can come close to that honor he'll have a good chance at this one.
2. Ryan Braun, LF, Brewers
Season stats: .359/.443/.594, 6 HR, 28 RBI, 8 SB, 23.6 VORP
Last three weeks: .354/.463/.595, 3 HR, 16 RBI, 7 SB
Candidacy: The Hebrew Hammer leads the majors in runs, the NL in hits, is second in total bases and batting average, and third in RBIs. He's also the major league leader in VORP and has stolen eight bases without being caught. If Ethier wasn't flirting with the triple crown, Braun would be the clear choice as the most productive player in the senior circuit. If only his Brewers could poke their heads above .500 and join the race in the NL Central, we'd have a heck of a debate on our hands.
3. Jayson Werth, RF, Phillies
Season stats: .348/.424/.688, 7 HR, 26 RBI, 18.9 VORP
Last three weeks: .352/.415/.761, 6 HR, 20 RBI
Candidacy: After Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins won back-to-back MVPs in 2006 and 2007, Chase Utley was supposed to be next, but though the Phillies won pennants the next two years, none of their players could measure up to Albert Pujols. With Pujols having a relatively weak season thus far, and the Phillies seemingly destined for another pennant, the door is back open, but while Utley is in the mix, Werth has been the most productive Phillie in the early going, following up his breakout 2009 season with a walk year that could pay huge dividends this winter when he becomes a free agent.
4. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals
Season stats: .314/.415/.570, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 16.6 VORP
Last three weeks: .306/.412/.486, 2 HR, 10 RBI
Candidacy: Pujols won the NL MVP each of the last two seasons as well as in 2005 and finished in the top four in five of his other six seasons. He's off to a comparatively slow start this year but is still on pace for 36 homers and 130 RBIs and has already been intentionally walked 11 times. Only a serious injury is likely to knock him off this list, but a strong second half as well as another NL Central title for his Cardinals could move him up it.
5. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds
Season stats: .304/.413/.548, 7 HR, 20 RBI, 14.2 VORP
Last three weeks: .319/.442/.638, 6 HR, 17 RBI
Candidacy: When I went out on a limb and picked the Reds to win the NL Central in March, one reason for my pick was Votto. Indeed, Votto is one of the biggest reasons that the Reds are currently two games over .500 and in second place in the Central, three games behind Pujols' Cardinals. Unlike most of the other players on these lists, Votto's 2010 production is right in line with his 2009 performance, which means he's less likely to fade than the rest. Don't be surprised if he sticks around on this list, and if the Reds do slip past the Cardinals, Votto could be a winner as well.
Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies: Utley actually has better numbers than Votto, save for the all-important RBI column, but he has a far stronger supporting staff and has been outplayed by Werth on his own team.
Jason Heyward, RF, Braves: One of the most exciting players in the early going, this 20-year-old rookie just needs his groin to heal and the Braves to start winning.
Colby Rasmus, CF, Cardinals: Rasmus actually has better on-base and slugging percentages than Pujols and is thus the Cardinals' leader in OPS and OPS+, but he has 10 fewer RBIs and seems less likely to sustain his performance.
David Wright, 3B, Mets: Left for dead, the Mets have shown some life of late and Wright's return to form has led the way at the plate.
Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Rockies: Jimenez is having that other-worldly pitching season thus far (6-1, 0.93 ERA, no homers allowed, a no-hitter), but the Rockies, a popular pre-season pick, have been disappointing, and Jimenez won't be able to keep his ERA below 1.00 all year.
Ducks fend off Blackhawks for shootout victory
Hurricanes stage surprising rally against Sharks