Who Are The 2015 MVP Candidates?

August 31, 2015

In 2014, Clayton Kershaw became just the second pitcher to win an MVP award in the last 20 years. In some ways, he has been just as dominant this season as he was last season. Specifically, he is striking out 11.5 batters per nine innings, up from 10.9 in 2014. However, while sabermetrics are slowly becoming an accepted part of the voters’ decision-making, Kershaw’s 11-and-6 record is a far cry from his 21-and-3 record in 2014 and may keep him out of the running.

If any pitcher could compete for the award this season, it’s Kershaw’s teammate Zack Greinke. Greinke does not share Kershaw’s amazing peripheral statistics, but his 1.61 ERA is the only one under 2.00 among qualified starters and his 14-and-3 record is likely more palatable for voters.

The real key for Greinke may be the fact that the Dodgers, despite some recent troubles, still sit atop the NL West standings. Greinke is the only member of the top five in NL Total Runs—a measure of player value based on his offensive, defensive, pitching, and baserunning contributions—who would make the playoffs if the season ended today, which may it his award to lose unless the standings change.

National League Leaders in Total Runs, 2015
Player Runs Created Pitching Runs Created BR Runs Defensive Runs Saved Positional Adjustment Total Runs
Paul Goldschmidt 111 0 2 14 10 137
Bryce Harper 111 0 0 11 15 137
Zack Greinke 5 108 -1 8 2 122
Joey Votto 108 0 -2 5 10 121
Buster Posey 75 0 1 19 24 119

 

For most of the season, Bryce Harper has looked like the clear-cut favorite to win the NL award, and he remains tied for the lead with 137 Total Runs. He also is tied for the NL lead with 31 home runs and is in the NL lead with a .457 on-base percentage. However, Harper may see some resistance from the voters if the struggling Nationals fail to reach the postseason. If the Nationals make the playoffs, Harper will likely lock down the award. Meanwhile, if the Nationals fall short and Buster Posey’s Giants can rebound to make the playoffs, that may be enough to push Posey over the top.

American League Leaders in Total Runs, 2015
Player Runs Created Pitching Runs Created BR Runs Defensive Runs Saved Positional Adjustment Total Runs
Josh Donaldson 103 0 4 10 18 135
Mike Trout 99 0 2 3 22 126
Ian Kinsler 78 0 2 12 25 117
Manny Machado 85 0 -3 14 20 116
Lorenzo Cain 76 0 5 13 20 114

 

The AL MVP race is much more straightforward. Josh Donaldson has a fairly comfortable lead with 135 Total Runs, is second in baseball with 36 home runs, and plays for the surging Blue Jays who are on track to win the AL East for the first time since 1993.

The man closest to Donaldson is 2014 MVP winner Mike Trout, who has put together another incredible season. The biggest upset in all of this may be that Trout could have just one MVP trophy after the unprecedented first four full seasons he has had in his career.

 
 

COMMENTS (6 Comments, most recent shown first)

steve161
I'm with Marc Schneider all the way. And what's really funny is this: none of those five on the NL list is likely to win the MVP. Greinke is the only one who'll be in the postseason, but I can't see the voters giving it to a pitcher two years in a row. I won't be surprised if Andrew McCutchen wins by default, though I'm convinced that the most valuable player on a playoff team is Yadier Molina (which of course this methodology can't recognize because of its inability to place a value on catcher defense).

But if I had a vote, Bryce Harper would get the nod in a close race against Paul Goldschmidt.
6:55 PM Sep 5th
 
OldBackstop
Kershaw was involved in 13 percent of the Dodger's innings last year. Donaldson has played in 130 of the Blue Jays 132 games.

I'm supporting Donaldson for Cy Young, since there is no distinction between player and pitcher.


6:07 PM Sep 2nd
 
flyingfish
The Nats are close?
6:51 PM Sep 1st
 
Marc Schneider
I'm already hearing the inevitable tripe from baseball announcers about "how can Harper be most valuable if his team doesn't make the playoffs." It's such a shallow and superficial analysis and it buys into the idea that the ONLY thing that counts is making the playoffs. First, I would rather simply have an award for the best player given how ridiculously vague most valuable is. Second, let's say Player A's team would have won 70 games without him but wins 85 with him, but doesn't make the playoffs. Player B's team would have won 92 without him but wins 95 with him and makes the playoffs. I would argue that Player A is more valuable; after all, people are still paying to watch games and I would rather watch my team win 85 rather than 70. It's so frustrating to hear this over and over. The Nats would not even be as close as they are without Harper.
2:46 PM Sep 1st
 
MarisFan61
Nice brief analysis. I think you give "making the playoffs" just the right emphasis; I think that's just about how it'll be likely to operate.

About that last thing ("The biggest upset in all of this may be that Trout could have just one MVP trophy after the unprecedented first four full seasons he has had in his career"): Minor quibble, but that wouldn't be any kind of upset in terms of this year's MVP, because I think he's a distant 2nd to Donaldson. If anything the "upset" that you mention has already occurred, in his first 3 years, although I wouldn't call it much of one since he got two 2nd's in the years he didn't win, which is darn good recognition. In any event, this year won't add to it.
1:12 AM Sep 1st
 
3for3
How does Goldschmidt get a 10 run positional adjustment?
7:50 PM Aug 31st
 
 
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