Once thought to be a lock, Cody Bellinger is now part of what figures to be one of the closest NL MVP ballots in recent history. Surely, Bellinger has made a strong case by having a career year; including matching his career-high home run total on Tuesday night.
However, it’s no longer a virtual certainty that Bellinger wins the award. An award that would be the first Dodgers’ position player to win it since Kirk Gibson in that magical 1988 season.
Let’s take a look at what lies ahead for Bellinger to win the award, and whether or not he still has a firm grasp on the NL’s Most Valuable Player Award for 2019.
The Big Three Candidates
Unquestionably, it seems to be a three-horse race. As of August 2nd, only two mainstays were listed in the NL MVP odds on major betting sites. At that time, the consensus had Bellinger (-150) as a slight favorite over Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers (+110).
Still, that was then, and this is now. With a torrid two-week stretch, Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Atlanta Braves has moved into the running a bit with a rare blend of power and speed. Realistically, there are three big candidates in play to take down the hardware.
Here they are by the numbers.
- Christian Yelich: .333/.425/.699, 39 HR 89 RBI, 6.0 bWAR
- Ronald Acuña Jr.: .299/.378/.543, 34 HR, 81 RBI, 28 SB, 5.1 bWAR
- Cody Bellinger: .316/.414/.663, 39 HR, 90 RBI, 9 SB, 7.7 bWAR
Side-by-side, Bellinger looks to have a clear edge in one category; Wins Above Replacement measured on Baseball-Reference which accounts for defensive play. Also, it helps that the Dodgers have a nine-win lead over Atlanta. Because of this, Bellinger has a chance to be the de facto best player on the best team in the league.
Objectively, it’s very close. There are also other candidates like the New York Mets’ Peter Alonso or Pittsburgh Pirates’ Josh Bell who have a very remote shot of climbing into this race at some point depending upon what happens.
With all that being said, the award is most likely going to end up in the hands of one of the three players listed above.
How Have They Done Lately?
So often in life the old expression of ‘it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish” applies. Furthermore, you can’t win this award by backing into it – you really have to go out and win it against the field. A slow finish can cost someone with an incredible first half the award.
What will stay fresh on the minds of the voters isn’t what was done in April or May. It’s going to be the moments and numbers put up during the heat of a pennant race or a signature week of games down the stretch that allows someone to likely take it down.
While still having overall numbers worthy of being an MVP, Bellinger has slowed down a bit. In fact – since June 1st – he’s represented a slash-line of .257/.369/.576 which is a far cry from his full-season numbers. Indeed, Bellinger started the first two months of the season at an unsustainable pace. By the same token, he’s not hitting quite at the level of an MVP since that date.
By comparison, Acuña Jr. has a .316/.392/.596 slash-line with 23 home runs and 21 stolen bases. This has allowed him to close the gap a bit with Bellinger.
What’s more staggering is when you look at Yelich since June 1st. Since that day, Yelich posts a slash-line of .360/.434/.706; by far and away turning it on the most of the three players.
Finally, when you look at the three candidates for the last few months; they have bested Bellinger at least offensively. Now, does Bellinger deserve to win the award based on a strong first two months and solid remainder of the year? Luckily, there’s time left on the clock.
The Award Will Be Won From This Date Forward
Recently, FOX Sports debated who deserved to be the NL MVP. The conclusion they came to was that a bad week or two was going to allow someone to win this award. Truly, it’s going to be that close.
Here’s what Dontrelle Willis said in the segment, which I think will hold true.
“It’s too close to tell. These guys are on the barrel – they’re two of our best players – especially in the National league. It’s going to take someone having a bad week, it’s going to be that close. If Yelich gets Milwaukee into the postseason, he wins the award.”
Factors like a spectacular couple of weeks or a team like Milwaukee missing the playoffs entirely could change things a bit. Furthermore, an injury could cost someone to slide in their chances to emerge as the winner. Still, it’s likely that the player who slumps a little over the final 45 or so days of the regular season is going to not win it.
Remember, the MVP is about remaining steady from start-to-finish until the final game is played. With the season being referred to so often as a marathon, it’s about going through the finish line with a strong gait; unaffected by the pressure. This is why an MVP award is so tough to win.
Objectively: Who is Your NL MVP?
We want to hear your opinion. Likely, you’re a Los Angeles Dodgers fan; but we ask you to be objective here. Who do you think will win the award and why? Do you think that Bellinger’s tiny lull in offense over the last few months has cast doubt in the minds of the voters?
Let us know in the comments section below, and check back to see how your prediction played out.