Soto finishes fifth, Turner is seventh in MVP voting

Juan Soto finished fifth and Trea Turner finished seventh in voting for National League MVP released tonight, garnering recognition for a season in which the Nationals as a team disappointed but their two biggest offensive stars produced as well as they have in their respective careers.

Soto led the league in a host of offensive categories but didn’t play as much as most of his competitors due to a positive coronavirus test and a sore elbow. Turner put together elite offensive numbers to establish himself as one of the league’s best run producers after several years as an elite leadoff hitter.

Soto received 172 total points in voting among members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (two per NL city), leaving him in fifth place. He received three second-place votes (including one from yours truly), two third-place votes, five fourth-place votes and 10 fifth-place votes, appearing in total on 28 of the 30 submitted ballots.

Turner was the only other Nationals player to receive MVP votes, finishing seventh with 83 points. He received two fourth-place votes and appeared on 27 of 30 ballots overall.

Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was the runaway winner of his first MVP award, receiving 28 of 30 first-place votes and 410 total points after batting .341 with 13 homers, 53 RBIs and an 1.102 OPS while appearing in all 60 of Atlanta’s games this season. His 3.3 WAR led the NL, according to FanGraphs’ formula.

Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts finished in second place with 268 points. Padres third baseman Manny Machado (221 points) ranked third, followed by Fernando Tatis Jr. (201), Soto (172), Marcell Ozuna (167), Turner (83), Mike Yastrzemski (81), Corey Seager (43) and Trevor Bauer (32).

Thumbnail image for Soto-Greeted-by-Turner-Stevenson-After-HR-Blue-Sidebar.jpgSoto led all of those players, and indeed every qualifying major league player, in batting average (.351), on-base percentage (.490), slugging percentage (.695) and OPS (1.185). Under normal circumstances, that might’ve guaranteed the 22-year-old the MVP award, but voters likely penalized him for playing in only 47 games, as well as subpar defensive numbers.

Soto was forced to sit out the Nationals’ first eight games this season after learning on opening day he had tested positive for COVID-19. He never experienced any symptoms and never tested positive again, leaving him and the club to theorize it was a false positive. Soto also missed five games in early September with a sore left elbow.

This is the second straight year Soto received MVP votes. He finished ninth in 2019 with 45 points, though he received nothing higher than a sixth-place vote.

Here’s my MVP ballot ...

1. Freddie Freeman, ATL
2. Juan Soto, WSH
3. Manny Machado, SD
4. Fernando Tatis Jr., SD
5. Mookie Betts, LAD
6. Marcell Ozuna, ATL
7. Trea Turner, WSH
8. Mike Yastrzemski, SF
9. Dominic Smith, NYM
10. Trevor Bauer, CIN

This was an incredibly challenging ballot to fill out. The short season, obviously, made it tougher than usual, with little opportunity for players to distinguish themselves from others. But even more than that, the fact teams only played opponents from their same geographic region completely complicated the evaluation process. How do you compare players who didn’t face a single common opponent during the season?

In the end, thankfully, Freeman did stand out as the obvious choice for MVP. He was excellent across the board. He played in every game for one of the NL’s best teams, and he was instrumental in their success.

The ranking process behind Freeman, though, was anything but simple. I would argue the players I ranked second through sixth could have been rearranged in any order without objection. Each had a case to finish second. Each had positive attributes. Each had negatives.

I decided to go with Soto in the No. 2 position because his offensive numbers were just so superior to everyone else’s. Yes, those 13 missed games hurt his case somewhat. But he still played enough to qualify for all of the league leaderboards. If this had been a 162-game season, it probably wouldn’t have bothered as many people.

I went with Machado third because his season-ending numbers were just barely better than his teammate Tatis’ numbers. I went with Tatis fourth because his season-ending numbers were just barely better than Betts’ numbers. Again, the margin was razor-thin, and there was a valid argument to rank them in any order.

The same applies to Ozuna, who had huge offensive numbers for the Braves. I wound up ranking him sixth because his defensive marks didn’t compare with the three players ahead of him, which in turn brought down his WAR.

At the bottom of the ballot, I tried to make sure there was more representation of the rest of the NL. Though Turner’s season perhaps wasn’t recognized as much around the sport, his offensive production was outstanding and proved he’s far more than a table-setting leadoff man.

Yastrzemski quietly had an excellent season for the Giants, putting up big numbers despite the cavernous home ballpark he played in. He also led the league in Win Probability Added, which quantifies a player’s contributions to his team’s wins and losses based on each individual batting, pitching, fielding or baserunning event.

Smith blossomed this season for the Mets, finishing fourth in the NL in slugging percentage and OPS. And Bauer was far and away the best pitcher in the NL, helping lead the Reds to a postseason berth.

blog comments powered by Disqus