K’s are OK: Stanton, Trout can be both MVPs and free swingers

Giancarlo Stanton, a strong candidate to win the National League Most Valuable Player award, ranks second in the majors with 160 strikeouts.

Mike Trout, viewed by many as the frontrunner to be named AL MVP, is tied for seventh with 151.

Not only are Stanton and Trout among the most strikeout-prone everyday players in the majors this year, they are whiffing at an historic rate among potential MVPs.

Consider the most strikeouts in a season among MVPs, according to STATS LLC:

— Ryan Howard, PHI (NL), 2006: 181

— Sammy Sosa, CHC (NL), 1998: 171

— Mo Vaughn, BOS (AL), 1995: 150

— Alex Rodriguez, NYY (AL), 2005: 139

— Dale Murphy, ATL (NL), 1982: 134

Stanton is on pace to strike out 191 times this year; Trout is on track for 180. At that rate, Stanton would have the most strikeouts ever for an NL MVP. Trout would have the same distinction in the AL.

Should any of that matter to the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, which votes on the awards? Absolutely, to the extent that voters should consider all relevant data and information about MVP candidates.

So, are Stanton and Trout “striking out too much to win the MVP,” per se?

The answer to that question is no.

There is no such thing as a strikeout limit for MVP candidates. If the totality of a player’s production is judged to have the greatest value to his team — considering all his attributes and drawbacks — then he should win.

Moreover, voters should consider the context of each candidate’s production. Personally, I prefer MVPs to come from contending teams because a player’s contribution means most to his organization when it is in position to reach the postseason. That’s how I interpret the voting criteria. Not everyone agrees.

Other forms of context are inarguable, and one in particular is beneficial to the cases for Stanton and Trout: Major League Baseball is on pace to set a new record in strikeouts per game for the seventh straight year, according to STATS LLC.

That’s right — the seventh year in a row. (This season’s mark is 15.40 strikeouts per game, including both teams.)

In that environment, how could we possibly disqualify Stanton and Trout from winning the MVP on the basis of their strikeout rate? Not to rely on the standard teenage excuse, but … you know … everybody’s doing it.

One could argue that, given all the punchouts, there’s considerable virtue in hitters who put the ball in play most frequently. And that is true. But given the scarcity of runs, there’s even greater value in hitting the ball over the fence.

In many respects, there would be no greater tribute to baseball in 2014 than for Stanton and Trout to stand on a dais with two massive trophies and nearly 400 strikeouts between them.