PHOENIX — At its most basic, baseball is about producing runs, and no one in the National League was better at that in 2013 than Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. Pick a power category and Goldschmidt was there.
That held absolutely no sway in the NL MVP voting announced Thursday, when Goldschmidt finished a distant second to Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen, whose Pirates made the playoffs for the first time in 21 seasons.
McCutchen received 28 first-place votes and 409 points, making him a runaway winner (click here for the full ballot breakdown).
Goldschmidt had 242 points and did not get a first-place vote. Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina received the other two first-place votes and was third with 219 points. Both his first-place votes were cast by St. Louis writers.
“It’s a huge honor just to be one of the finalists,” Goldschmidt said in a prepared statement. “There have obviously been a lot of great players, just to be mentioned alongside them is a huge honor.
“I want to say congratulations to Andrew McCutchen and Miguel Cabrera and all of the other winners. It was a good year and hopefully we’ll move on and get a little bit better as a team next year and strive towards making the playoffs and winning the World Series.”
Goldschmidt is the D-backs’ first top-two finisher in MVP voting in the franchise’s 16-year history. Matt Williams was third in 1999, and Luis Gonzalez was third in 2001.
The 2013 results seemed out of balance considering the numbers each candidate brought to the table, but voters often give substantial weight to players whose teams make the postseason. One of the prevailing sentiments goes to the subjective issue of “value” — how valuable can a player be, one argument goes, if his team is not in the playoffs?
At the same time, four times since 2000 the NL MVP has gone to a player who had an outstanding offensive season but whose team did not make the playoffs — San Francisco’s Barry Bonds (2001, 2004), Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard (2006) and St. Louis’ Albert Pujols (2008).
McCutchen was an emphatic choice this season, even though Goldschmidt was at or near the top of the list in every production category. Goldschmidt hit .302 with 36 home runs, tying for the league lead in homers with McCutchen’s teammate, Pedro Alvarez.
Goldschmidt led the NL in RBIs (125, 16 more than anyone else), extra-base hits (75), slugging percentage (.551), OPS (.952), and OPS-plus (160), which adds park factors to the equation. According to baseball-reference.com, Goldschmidt was far and away the leader in win probability added, a seam-head statistic that aggregates a wide range of stats and assigns one number to a player’s value. He was plus-8, meaning his contributions led to eight more victories than an average player’s would. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman was second at plus-5.9
Moreover, he also was at his best when the D-backs needed him most. Goldschmidt led the NL in go-ahead homers (20), homers after the eighth inning (seven) and walk-off homers (three), and he tied for the league lead in RBIs with runners in scoring position and game-winning RBIs.
Oh, and he also had 15 stolen bases and a Gold Glove.
And all that was still not enough to convince voters to place him ahead of McCutchen and the Pittsburgh narrative (the Gold Glove was not a factor since MVP voting was done before the Gold Glove was announced).
McCutchen also had a remarkable season. He hit .317/.404/.508 with 38 doubles, 21 homers, 84 RBIs and 27 stolen bases. He was sixth in the league in OPS and trailed only Goldschmidt in adjusted OPS. His wins above replacement (8.2) was second in the league to Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez (8.4), while Goldschmidt was third (7.1). McCutchen won a Gold Glove last season but finished second to Gomez this season.
Molina hit .319/.359/.477 with 44 doubles, 12 homers and 80 RBIs. He also is considered the best defensive catcher in the game, and his mere presence slows an opponent’s running game. Molina threw out 20 of the 46 runners attempting to steal this season, a 43.5 percent rate. He has won the last six NL Gold Gloves at his position.
In the American League, Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera won his second consecutive MVP award. He received 23 of 30 first-place votes to defeat Angels outfielder Mike Trout by a comfortable margin.