The face of the Franchise in Atlanta, the centerpiece of a young Padres team, and a player considered to be the reason the Dodgers reached the promised land. Who takes the NL MVP Crown? All three of the BBWAA’s NL MVP Finalists have had incredible seasons, and rightfully deserve to be lauded for their efforts. However, even the best have room for improvement. With that in mind, let’s look at the best and worst stats for each finalist, and see who comes out on top.
Manny Machado – 3B – San Diego Padres
Best Stat: Early Innings Slashline
Look, I’ll be honest, there doesn’t seem to be a path to victory for Manny Machado in the 2020 NL MVP race, so the nomination should be considered the reward. But, that’s not to say he didn’t have a solid, top-notch season for the up and coming San Diego Padres.
The Padres are a very young ballclub that found success in a shortened season. Part of that success was big years from their youngsters like Rookie of the Year finalist Jake Cronenworth, offseason acquisition Trent Grisham and MLB Phenom Fernando Tatis, Jr. Machado benefitted from two of those youngsters hitting in from of him, especially early in games.
Machado hit just under half of his 16 home runs and drove in 17 of his 46 RBIs in the first three innings of the games he played in. Slashing a .323/.375/.624, with a .999 OPS, Machado helped the Padres jump out to early leads and helped them get to an NLDS appearance for the first time since 2006.
Worst Stat: .203/.307/.392, .699 OPS – Tie Game Slashline
That being said, in tied ballgames, Manny Machado wasn’t his normal self. Instead, a Machado who lived just north of the Mendoza Line reared his ugly head. With the game on the line, Machado simply wasn’t the guy who was able to bust games open, and that’s something you have to do as an MVP.
Freddie Freeman – 1B – Atlanta Braves
Best Stat: 1.102 OPS
Freddie Freeman finished the season in second place for the following categories for both the National League and in some cases for the entire MLB.
- .341 Batting Average (NL Only)
- .462 On-Base Percentage (Both)
- .640 Slugging (Both)
- 1.102 OPS (Both)
- 2.9 bWAR for Position Players (Both)
In regards to bWAR, Mookie Betts beat him out for the top spot, but we’ll get to that later. In every other category in the National League, Freeman was beaten out by Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals. Why is that important? Sample size. Soto played 47 games, while Freddie played in all 60 for the Braves.
All of this to say that, offensively Freddie Freeman was the top bat across the board in baseball for the 2020 season. It’s that simple. And in regards to his OPS, no other MVP since Bryce Harper in 2015 has had a higher OPS than Freddie Freeman. Not Mike Trout, not Christian Yelich, not Giancarlo Stanton, not even Mookie Betts.
Yes, this is a small sample size situation, but the fact that Freddie kept his numbers up from the first pitch to the last, still holds weight.
Worst Stat: Hit .255 in first at-bat against Starting Pitchers.
All that said, Freddie Freeman did have trouble facing pitchers in his first at-bat. I know that seems like a lame stat, but it’s important. As an opposing pitcher facing Freeman for the first time, you know it’s not the same guy you’ll face later on. Tip the momentum your way and the ball’s in your court. Baseball is a game of minute battles that can shift the game in a team’s favor. Freeman losing his opening battle is an early battle that’s tough to lose.
Mookie Betts – OF – Los Angeles Dodgers
Best Stat: 3.4 bWAR
Let’s start with an easy way to determine value. Mookie Betts had the highest WAR of any player to step onto an MLB field. That’s a good mile marker for the MVP award, as it has more often than not gone to the player with the highest total. However, if you look a bit deeper into how that number is calculated, you’ll see that Betts brings a bit more leather to the contest, putting his total above Freeman and Machado.
It should also be mentioned that Betts is the only finalist to win a Gold Glove in 2020, his fifth consecutive season earning the honor.
Worst Stat: .292 Batting Average.
While Mookie does bring more leather, the other contestants bring more lumber to the contest. That’s not to say that Betts’ .292 average is awful and his season was garbage, quite the opposite.
When discussing which player is the best of the best, Mookie’s bat falls into third place behind Freeman and Machado. It’s as simple as that.
Of all the offensive categories, Betts only finds himself in the Top 10 for Runs, Steals, and Home Runs, while his other finalists appear more consistently.
Even in the comparison to other seasons, Betts took a step back from his 2019 season and his 2018 season, the latter of which won him American League MVP.
So which finalist is the 2020 NL MVP?
For me, it’s Freddie Freeman. In regards to pure offensive prowess, it’s all Freddie. Now, in regard to bringing value to a team in 2020, there’s no doubt that Mookie Betts helped push the Dodgers over the edge and bring a World Series to Los Angeles.
Could that put him ahead of Freeman? It all depends on how you determine a player’s overall value. I mean, this is the Most Valuable Player Award after all.
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