|Stanton's superstar-caliber season should result in his first MVP award (RantSports)|
During the same time Giancarlo Stanton's stock has risen substantially. With nine long balls, 27 RBI and a 1.078 OPS over the past four weeks, Stanton enjoyed one of his best stretches of the season during the dog days of August. And after slugging his 35th home run of the season last night, becoming the first player in either league to reach 100 RBI in the process, it's clear that if the season ended today Stanton would deserve to walk away with MVP honors.
He is, according to bWAR, the second-most valuable position player in the National League behind Jason Heyward (much of whose value derives from his defense) and third overall behind Clayton Kershaw and Heyward. FanGraphs rates him as the most valuable batter in the Senior Circuit, just a smidge above Jonathan Lucroy and tops among all major leaguers in WPA.
Of course, by most conventional metrics Stanton is clearly the best hitter in the National League. He ranks first in home runs and RBI, walks and OBP, total bases and SLG, OPS and OPS+, and a host of other categories like extra base hits, runs created, times on base, and adjusted batting runs. He's been incredibly durable, playing in all 137 of the Marlins' games thus far, a force in the middle of their lineup everyday.
But, contrary to what those who voted Miguel Cabrera over Trout the last two years believe, the MVP award should not simply go to the best hitter. It should go to the most valuable player which, in the case of a position player, includes defense and baserunning. Cabrera was clearly a liability in those two facets of the game, but Stanton is not. He plays a decent right field and runs the bases well for a big man, with 10 stolen bases in 11 attempts and three baserunning runs above average this year. He's not a well-rounded superstar like Trout or McCutchen, but he's not a one-dimensional slugger like Cabrera, either.
And to those who say an MVP must come from a winning team (and ignore the fact that one player has no control over how his teammates play or his front office constructs a roster), please take note of how much the Marlins have improved from last year. In 2013 with Stanton missing more than a quarter of the season, Miami lost 100 games and finished last in the NL East. This year, despite losing reigning Rookie of the Year and staff ace Jose Fernandez to Tommy John surgery in May, the Marlins have won almost as many games as they've lost and are third in their division. Few expected Miami to have anything close to a winning record, especially after losing an elite arm so early in the season.
But Stanton, to his credit, has carried the Marlins offense and helped keep the team within shouting distance of the second wild card. He's been integral to one of this season's most unlikely turnarounds, keeping Miami afloat long after it should have slipped beneath the waves. Stanton's made the Marlins relevant again. That might not be as sexy as leading a team to a division title, but after seeing how low they sunk last year it's still pretty darn impressive.