The National League MVP Finalists
As the 2019 MLB season has come to a close, it is now time to recognize some of the best players of the season. On November 4th, MLB revealed the finalists for their season awards. These awards include Rookie of the Year, Manager of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. The National League MVP is one of the more interesting award races this season. The three finalists for the award are Cody Bellinger, Anthony Rendon, and Christian Yelich. While for the majority of the year, it was a two-horse race between Yelich and Bellinger, Rendon has snuck into the conversation with a real case. All players have had a phenomenal season and are very deserving of winning an MVP award.
After winning the 2017 National League Rookie of the Year, Cody Bellinger slipped off a bit in 2018. However, whatever sophomore slump he had gotten himself into was fixed by the start of 2019. He started off the year red hot as he slashed a line of .431/.508/.890 in March and April. He also hit 14 home runs in this span. While this pace was not maintainable, Bellinger still finished the year with one of the best bats in the league. He finished the season with the 3rd highest OPS in all of baseball with 1.035. The 24-year old right fielder also finished the 2019 campaign with 47 home runs which were 3rd behind only Reds 3rd baseman Eugenio Suarez and Mets rookie sensation Pete Alonso. Bellinger also drove in 115 runs this season.
Cody Bellinger was valued as one of the best players in the entire league last year. He finished the year with a bWAR of 9.0 which was first in the entire MLB. He also finished the season with an fWAR of 7.8 which was tied for 3rd with another MVP candidate Christian Yelich. Bellinger also ranks 4th in the MLB in both wRC+ and wOBA with a 162 and .415 respectively.
Along with Bellinger’s power bat, he has an elite glove. In his first and second season, Bellinger was a utility guy on defense. It was not until this season when he turned into primarily a right fielder. When he made the permanent move, he showed how great a fielder he was. In his first season primarily as on outfielder, he won a gold glove and posted very impressive defensive stats. He had 19 DRS in 2019 which was tied for 5th among all players in the majors. Bellinger makes an impressive case for the NL MVP award.
After winning the award in 2018, Christian Yelich is a finalist for the NL MVP for a second straight year. The Brewers acquired Yelich prior to the 2018 season from the Marlins for a number of prospects including Lewis Brinson, who has not lived up to expectations. Yelich proved in 2019 that his MVP season was not a fluke and he is one of the best lefty bats in the MLB. Christian Yelich was among the leaders in stats throughout the season. The one thing against Yelich is that his season was ended prematurely. Yelich’s last game was in early September due to a fractured knee cap.
Even with his season being cut short, Yelich was among the league’s best. Yelich led the National League in batting average with .329 as well as hitting 44 home runs and 97 RBIs while missing almost a whole month at the end of the year. He also led all of the majors with a 1.100 OPS. and had an OBP of .429. The 27-year-old also was a threat on the base pads as he stole 30 bases throughout the year. Yelich also had a bWAR of 7.1 which was 5th among all position players as well as a 7.8 fWAR which is the same as Bellinger. He also finished the season with a higher wRC+ and wOBA than Bellinger with 174 and .442. Yelich’s wOBA also led the entire league.
Throughout the summer, the MVP race was between two people. Beli vs Yeli was the talk among fans all across baseball. However, come the end of August, a new name emerged in the MVP conversations. That person was 29-year old third basemen, Anthony Rendon. Rendon has been considered by many to be one of the most underrated players in all of baseball. (see article) He is finally getting the recognition he deserves and is a finalist for the MVP award.
Rendon had a fantastic season finishing with a .319 batting average 34 home runs, 126 RBIs and an OPS of 1.010. Rendon finished with an fWAR of 7.0 which is 7th among all position players. His bWAR was 6.3 which is 10th among position players in the MLB. Rendon was also 7th in the MLB in wRC+ with 154. His wOBA was .413 which was good for 6th in the league.
While Anthony Rendon does have a case for MVP, it is not as strong as Yelich’s or Bellinger’s case. He was the best bat on a championship squad and was fantastic throughout the entire playoffs, but MVP is a regular-season award. Rendon’s hot end to the season matched with the cooling-off of Bellinger as well as the season-ending injury to Yelich puts him in MVP talks, but it is unlikely to see him win the award. Rendon’s best season of his career could not come at a better time as he will be hitting free agency this winter.
While all three players had exceptional seasons, only one of them could win MVP. Rendon has emerged as one of the best players in the league and led the Nationals to their first-ever World Series win. However, his numbers just do not stack up with the numbers of Yelich and Bellinger. While both players had unbelievable seasons in 2019 the slight edge goes to Cody Bellinger.
There are two factors that makes Bellinger more deserving than Yelich of winning the MVP award. One is Yelich missed almost an entire month of the year. Not only that, he missed the month during a crucial time, when the Brewers were making a playoff push. The second is how his defense stacks up to Bellinger. While Yelich held a slight advantage in his offense than Bellinger, Bellinger is miles better than Yelich defensively. Not only was Bellinger one of the best defensive right fielders, but he was one of the best fielders regardless of position. These two factors should land Cody Bellinger his first MVP in just his third season.
Author Twitter: @JackMurph27
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