McCutchen, Trout on top in MVP races as contenders cool off
Andrew McCutchen and Mike Trout maintain their MVP leads of three weeks ago
In the NL, Ryan Bruan, last year's winner, is third and Buster Posey is second
Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano have the strongest AL cases after Trout
The dog days of August are upon us, and the candidates for Most Valuable Player in both leagues are starting to show the strain as slumps and injuries rule the day behind the top two men in each league. In the National League, where one candidate just got suspended for the rest of the season due to a positive drug test, it has only served to create more space between those top two men and the rest of the league, while in the American League, there is now more room for starting pitchers.
NOTE: All stats are through Wednesday, August 15. League leaders are in bold, major league leaders in bold italics. The number in parentheses after each player's name reflects his rank on the previous list.
1. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates (1)
Season Stats: .358/.419/.606, 24 HR, 72 RBI, 14 SB
Last Three Weeks: .306/.386//.472, 2 HR, 6 RBI
McCutchen is just 4 for his last 23, but still leads the majors in batting average and the NL in slugging percentage and total bases (257). If the voting were held today, he'd stand a good chance of being the unanimous winner of this award. Seriously, can you think of one reason that McCutchen should not be the MVP right now? I can't.
2. Buster Posey, C, Giants (HM)
Season Stats: .330/.407/.544, 19 HR, 76 RBI
Last Three Weeks: .413/.531/.762, 6 HR, 16 RBI
Posey has been the best hitter in baseball since the All-Star break, hitting .434/.516/.764 with nine home runs and 33 RBIs since the break. He wasn't exactly a scrub during the first-half, hitting .289/.362/.458 with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs. Behind the plate, he's throwing out runners at an average rate and has allowed just one passed ball all year. Add it all up and he has become a legitimate challenger to McCutchen at a time when the other top candidates are either slumping, injured or suspended.
3. Ryan Braun, LF, Brewers (4)
Season Stats: .299/.377/.567, 29 HR, 77 RBI, 19 SB
Last Three Weeks: .203/.253/.304, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 2 SB
In his past 10 games, Braun is just 6 for his last 42 with 14 strikeouts and no walks or home runs. He was given a day off on Wednesday in the hope of breaking his slump.
4. David Wright, 3B, Mets (5)
Season Stats: .321/.412/.529, 16 HR, 75 RBI
Last Three Weeks: .221/.321/.338, 1 HR, 8 RBI
Wright has been slumping for the last four weeks, hitting .207/.302/.326 since July 20 and has taken the collar in exactly half of his 24 starts over that stretch. He looked like he was breaking out of it late last week, but is 0-for-6 with three strikeouts to start the Mets current series in Cincinnati. It is only because of the injuries to Joey Votto and Carlos Ruiz and Melky Cabrera's suspension that he and Braun have each actually moved up a spot on this list.
5. Matt Holliday, LF, Cardinals (HM)
Season Stats: .312/.392/.539, 23 HR, 81 RBI
Last Three Weeks: .276/.337/.592, 7 HR, 18 RBI
Holliday has raised his season OPS in each of the first four months of this season, but is just 4 for his last 27 coming into Thursday's action. Two of those four have been home runs, however, as Holliday's power-surge continues. Holliday hit 14 home runs in his first 389 plate appearances this season (one every 27.8 PA), but has nine more in his last 111 PA (one every 12.3 PA).
Carlos Gonzalez, LF, Rockies (NA): If Gonzalez wants us to look past his extreme home/road splits (his OPS is 400 points higher at home this year), he's going to have to avoid doing things like going 0-for a road trip, which is exactly what he just did from August 6 to 12, gong 0-for-16 in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In the four home games surrounding that trip, he went 9-for-15.
Johnny Cueto, SP, Reds (HM): Cueto leads the majors in ERA+ (171) and wins (15), is second in the NL in raw ERA (2.45), and is the only one of the top four men in his league in ERA to have thrown 160 or more innings this season. The National League Cy Young award race has been underwhelming this season, but if any of the contenders deserves MVP consideration, it's Cueto.
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals (HM): Molina is dealing with some back pain that has led to a minor slump and some games missed. I just hope it doesn't slow his stolen base pace. Molina has now stolen 11 bases in 13 attempts and with two more swipes would have the most by a catcher in a season since then-25-year-old Russell Martin stole 18 in 2008.
Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks (NA): Montero has hit .352/.472/.648 with six homers and 25 RBIs since July 15 and thus becomes the sixth National League catcher to have appeared on this list at some point this season, joining Posey, Molina, Carlos Ruiz, A.J. Ellis and Jonathon Lucroy, while Wilin Rosario has made appearances on the Rookie of the Year list. All that and no Brian McCann!
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (2): Unlike Carlos Ruiz and Matt Kemp, the two other significant MVP contenders who have had their seasons interrupted by injury, Votto, who is on the disabled list following a pair of surgeries on his left knee, still qualifies for the batting title. For that reason, he's still on this list, while the other two are not, but the time he has missed combined with the expectation that he won't return until September has dropped him to the final spot, despite the fact that he still leads the majors in on-base percentage (.465) and OPS (1.069).
Off the list: Carlos Ruiz (3), Melky Cabrera (HM)