Daniel Murphy had an MVP-caliber season and might well have taken home the hardware had he put up the same stat line in a previous year.
This year, though, Murphy was forced to take a back seat to Kris Bryant, who as the best player on the best team in baseball easily captured the National League MVP.
Bryant, the brightest young star on a Cubs roster filled with them, won his first career MVP this evening, garnering 29-of-30 first-place votes and 415 total points from members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Murphy, who after a dramatic 2015 postseason with the Mets carried over his massive offensive production in his first season with the Nationals, finished second overall. The second baseman received one first-place vote (from Mike Puma of the New York Post) and 245 total points.
Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, already named NL Rookie of the Year earlier this week, finished third with 240 total points.
Rounding out the top 10 in NL MVP voting: Anthony Rizzo, Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman, Joey Votto, Yoenis Cespedes, Justin Turner and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer (who received 39 total points). Nats catcher Wilson Ramos finished tied for 17th place with Jeurys Familia with six points. All ballots were submitted before the start of the postseason.
For much of the season, Murphy appeared to be the frontrunner. He maintained an OPS over 1.000 as late as August 27 and a batting average over .360 as late as June 18. And his final offensive numbers (a .347 batting average with 25 homers, 104 RBIs and a .985 OPS) would best many previous MVP winners.
But Murphy cooled off some down the stretch - he didn’t homer and drove in only six runs during the season’s final six weeks - and he sat out the final two weeks with a strained buttocks muscle, depressing his final stats to some extent.
Bryant, meanwhile, was a consistent force for the 103-win Cubs throughout the entire season, finishing with a .292 batting average, 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 121 runs, .385 on-base percentage and .939 OPS.
What really distinguished Bryant from Murphy and the rest of the pack was his all-around game. He was deemed the second-best baserunner and the 12th-best defensive player in the NL by FanGraphs.com. He started at all four corner positions in the field and even played an inning a piece at shortstop and in center field, showing off rare versatility for a star.
Bryant’s WAR total of 8.4 (as calculated by FanGraphs) dwarfed the rest of the competition. Murphy, by comparison, ranked sixth at 5.5.
Murphy nonetheless proved incredibly valuable to the Nationals during a season in which reigning league MVP Bryce Harper saw his production diminish by a considerable amount. The 31-year-old opened the season as the club’s No. 5 hitter; he wound up batting third more than any other spot in the lineup because of his importance to the team’s offensive fortunes.
Murphy is the Nationals’ first-ever MVP runner-up. Besides Harper’s unanimous 2015 win, Anthony Rendon (fifth place in 2014) was the only other player in club history to finish in the top-five in voting.