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Mark Bowman: Why I put Bryant 1st on my ballot

MLB.com's Braves beat reporter explains his ballot
MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- Moments after Giancarlo Stanton was named National League MVP and the individual ballots were released, my Twitter feed was flooded with a rash of opinions regarding my decision to give a first-place vote to last year's winner, Kris Bryant.

Some simply asked for an explanation, others suggested I have a brain scan and one guy wondered if I evaluated highlights of the 2016 season before voting.

ATLANTA -- Moments after Giancarlo Stanton was named National League MVP and the individual ballots were released, my Twitter feed was flooded with a rash of opinions regarding my decision to give a first-place vote to last year's winner, Kris Bryant.

Some simply asked for an explanation, others suggested I have a brain scan and one guy wondered if I evaluated highlights of the 2016 season before voting.

Quite frankly, after evaluating this year's candidates and submitting my vote, my feeling was that Stanton would get a sixth-place vote. Given how tight this year's battle was, I doubt I was alone with this prediction, which proved true when my MLB.com colleague Tracy Ringolsby had this year's winner sixth on his ballot.

:: NL Most Valuable Player voting totals ::

But because I was alone with my decision to give a first-place vote to Bryant, I'll provide my reasoning and give you a chance to determine whether I need that brain scan.

As I was making my decision, I formed ballots that had both Stanton and second-place finisher Joey Votto as the winner. But in the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break.

Over the regular season's final two weeks, I formulated a spreadsheet that listed 18 candidates and included their monthly NL rank for both fWAR and Weighted Runs Created Plus. Once I played with the numbers and tried to make sense of it all, my analysis looked much like the score sheets many of my colleagues constructed during Game 5 of the World Series. 

Yeah, it's easy to quickly find the season ranks in these categories and other valuable ones like OPS+. And when determining the MVP, we are assessing production over an entire season. But there is a definite number of wins a team can garner within any stretch, whether it be a day, a week or a month. And how each of these candidates performed in those windows mattered.

So, to evaluate who provided the most significant value on a consistent basis over the course of the season and not overvalue season-ending stats that might have been significantly influenced by one or two ridiculously productive months, I opted to break the candidates down on a monthly basis, while not intending to solely base my ballot on these results.

Here is what I found for Bryant, Stanton, Votto, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt, who filled the first five spots on my ballot.

Bryant, Votto and Goldschmidt each produced a fWAR of 1.0 in four months. Arenado did so in three months and Stanton did so just twice, as he soared toward his 59-homer season in July and August.

Goldschmidt was the most consistent performer through the season's first four months and there likely would not have been a need for me to provide this Bryant explanation had the D-backs first baseman not hit .216 with a .725 OPS over his final 34 games. 
 
Bryant did not have one monstrous month, like Stanton, who produced a 231 WRC+ in August, or Votto, who constructed a 194 WRC+ in June. But he stood with Votto and Stanton as the only members of this quintet to manufacture a WRC+ of at least 123 in every month. 

After taking a look at all of these numbers, I formed my ballot and found myself repeatedly moving Bryant, Votto and Stanton around through the first three spots. 
 
Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players, I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins.  

It should also be noted that according to wRC+ (148 in 2016, 146 this year) and wOBA (.396 vs. .399), Bryant had basically the exact offensive season he had a year ago, when he received 29 of 30 first-place NL MVP votes, trading 10 homers (39 to 29) for an extra 24 points of OBP (.385 to .409). Additionally, FanGraphs' version of WAR had him as third in the NL among position players, in a virtual tie with Stanton and Votto, who finished second and fourth, respectively.

There's no doubt I went against conventional wisdom with some of my reasoning and I submitted my ballot knowing Votto or Stanton would be a deserving winner. But more than a month later, I stand by my decision and fully appreciate any and all suggestions to have my head examined. 

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Chicago Cubs, Kris Bryant