CINCINNATI - Joey Votto and Albert Pujols. Many experts say the debate for MVP lies between these two sluggers.
Two first basemen. Two power guys. Two walk machines. Two hit-getters. Two complete packages.
So who is the Most Valuable Player in the National League?
That debate will be settled Monday at 2 p.m. by a group of subjective votes, but for the sake of argument, let's take the argument out of it and look only at what the stats say.
Both Votto and Pujols are two of the smartest hitters in the bigs, with two of the smoothest swings in the game's history. Pujols has had higher averages in the past, but in 2010 he still put up a fifth-best in the NL .312. Votto on the other hand carried the Reds in the number three lineup-spot, putting up an NL second-best .324 average on the year. One point for Votto.
Pitchers don't like Votto or Pujols, and more often then not, they'll pitch around them. One argument has been made that Votto's average was better than Pujols' because pitchers didn't fear Votto as much due to the Cardinals first-baseman's past success. But the numbers were fairly close with Pujols' on-base percentage at .414 while drawing 103 walks and Votto's .424 OBP helped by drawing 91 base on balls. Point number two for Votto for getting on base more often.
Both Votto and Pujols were RBI machines, but Albert Pujols edged out Votto in RBIs by five, a favor of 118 to 113. Votto also fell just short in the runs scored category, as Pujols touched home plate 115 times while Votto touched the fourth base 106 times. Pujols gets a point back.
Even the smartest of hitters will get fooled, and between these two hit giants, Joey Votto found himself walking away from the batter's box on strike three 125 times compared to Pujols' just 76 strikeouts. Again, an argument can be made that pitchers went after Votto more than Pujols, but still a notch against Votto and the MVP race by the numbers evens at 2 a piece.
Votto swiped 16 bags in the 2010 season and was caught stealing just five times. Pujols fell just short of that number with 14 stolen bases on 18 attempts. This is a rather small part of their games, so we'll call this one a tie since neither of the two were particularly separated or important on the base paths.
In The Field:
These two are walls at first base, rarely letting anything get by. Votto made just five errors all season and Pujols just four. Another too-close-to-call category, tie race 4-to-4.
The One-Man Show:
Home Runs are the best way to prove your worth, providing both RBIs and runs of your own to get your team in a position to win. Joey Votto slugged home a career-high 37 home runs on the season, but Albert Pujols' bigger frame was able to knock 42 balls out of the park. A difference of five doesn't seem like much, but when you're in five one-run games, it can make or break a playoff run. Edge to Pujols here and it's 5-4.
The MVP is about what player is most valuable to a team, but how the team does makes that value go up. The Cincinnati Reds were the NL Central Division champs and made it to the playoffs with a record of 91-71. The St. Louis Cardinals dropped off in the second half of the season, finishing at just 86-76 and missing the playoffs. Votto's value clearly helped generate more W's for the Cincinnati Reds. The race is even at 5-5.
The Deciding Factor:
Well, that's up to the voters of the MVP. Rarely has there been such little separation between MVP candidates on paper and it is now up to the voters to decide who has more worth from a subjective point of view. Some experts even say the Colorado Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez deserves a look (NL-leading .336 average, 34 HR, 111 R, 117 RBIs), but with a team that fell well short of its division lead (83-79, 3rd place in the NL West), his value had little effect on the overall outcome for the season.
Who do you think will be MVP of the National League? Let us know in the comments section below.
Copyright (c) 2010 The E. W. Scripps Company