Harper tops Soto for second career MVP award

Bryce Harper won the second National League Most Valuable Player award of his career tonight, beating out Juan Soto for the honor in a battle of former Nationals teammates turned division rivals.

Harper received 17 first-place votes and 348 total points in balloting conducted before the start of the postseason by 30 members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (two from each NL city). Soto received six first-place votes and 274 total points to finish second.

Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. came in third after receiving two first-place votes and 244 total points, but fourth-place finisher Brandon Crawford of the Giants actually received more first-place votes (four) to go along with 213 total points. Trea Turner, who spent the first four months of the season with the Nationals before he was traded to the Dodgers along with Max Scherzer, finished fifth with 185 points and one first-place vote.

Thus did Harper win his second MVP award, his first as a member of the Phillies after winning in a unanimous vote in 2015 while playing for the Nationals. The 29-year-old outfielder earned it by producing his best offensive numbers since that memorable season, batting .309 with 42 doubles, 35 homers, 84 RBIs, a .429 on-base percentage and a league-leading .615 slugging percentage and 1.044 OPS.

Soto-HR-Swing-White-Sidebar.jpgIt was that decided advantage in slugging that likely allowed Harper to stave off Soto’s late-season charge. Thanks to a nearly unprecedented second half that included a .525 on-base percentage, Soto finished with a .313 batting average, 20 doubles, 29 homers, 95 RBIs, a league-best .465 on-base percentage. a .534 slugging percentage and a .999 OPS.

Voters appear to have valued Harper’s ability to hit for power over Soto’s ability to reach base, not to mention Harper’s performance for a Phillies club that despite plenty of roster issues managed to remain in the NL East race until the season’s final week, while Soto piled up his stats for a Nationals club that sold off eight veterans at the July trade deadline before playing out the string with a rebuilt roster full of less experienced players.

Harper becomes the 32nd player to win multiple MVP awards in his career, only the fifth to do it for multiple teams (joining Jimmie Foxx, Frank Robinson, Barry Bonds and Álex Rodríguez).

Soto, meanwhile, was an MVP finalist for the first (but likely not the last) time in a career that already ranks among the best in baseball history for players at his young age. Having only recently just turned 23, the smiling slugger has now received major award votes in each of his four big league seasons. He was runner-up to Ronald Acuña Jr. for 2018 NL Rookie of the Year, then finished ninth, fifth and now second in NL MVP voting the last three seasons.

In addition to Turner’s fifth-place finish, Scherzer wound up 14th in voting with 11 points, the third player to spend at least part of the season with the Nationals to receive MVP votes.

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