Andrew McCutchen named Beyond The Box Score 2013 National League Most Valuable Player

It wasn't a runaway, but all signs point to Andrew McCutchen. - Jared Wickerham

For most of the season, the National League MVP race was wide open, but in the final weeks the Pirates' leading man pulled away from the pack.

The Most Valuable Player Award is both wonderful and infuriating. Those aren't two words that normally hang out together, but here we are. The MVP is a really fun award to discuss with like minded people because it gets to the heart of why we love analyzing sports. There are a lot of judgment calls to be made about objective data and when you get in a room with other smart people, you can learn a lot about the game. How much does a player's position matter? I think there are some really interesting ideas about that subject and we get to incorporate that into this conversation that also includes how we weigh offense and defense, who their competition was, and all kinds of other variables. If you're looking at this as an exercise in statistics, the model specification conversations are wonderful.

But on the other side of the MVP debate are the people who make up their mind based on some strange definition of value that doesn't really mean value. They want to cast their vote for "Most #3 Hitter On The Team That Was The Best" because that's how they've always thought about value. Sometimes that player is the most valuable and sometimes not. That's the infuriating part because the voting population is mostly in this second group. Instead of interesting discussions, we hear things like "RBI" and "played in meaningless games," as if it was easier for one player to hit a Clayton Kershaw curveball because his team was ten games back.

Luckily for us, in the National League this season, both worldviews arrive at the same answer. As long as you're willing to avoid RBI as a qualifying factor, Andrew McCutchen is your guy. It's not a runaway, but it's decisive. A few of our writers went with someone else and plenty of us could make a case for someone other than the Pirates' center fielder, but if you have to make a call, it's an easy call to make. And we can all rest easy knowing that we don't have to worry about the old guard ruining this one. McCutchen led his team to the playoffs, so they're good.

McCutchen played in 157 games in 2013 and turned in an impressive 155 wRC+ in addition to being a top flight baserunner (5.1 BsR) and a +7 defender according to both UZR and DRS. Not surprisingly, he led the league in fWAR (8.2). To make a strong case against McCutchen you'd have to attack the accuracy of our measures of performance or find a way to explain away his success due to competition or luck. His 2013 BABIP was actually lower than his 2012 BABIP, so that becomes difficult. It doesn't hurt that he played on a winner and for a team that finally made it to the playoffs after so long, but those are tiny little factors that we only care about if we can't decide.

Based on the best measures we have, McCutchen was the National League's top performer in 2013. Matt Carpenter and Joey Votto both earned first place votes in our balloting while six different players earned second place votes and eight earned third place votes. This was a deep group. McCutchen made some distance, but for about five months of the year, I couldn't really decide among the top seven or eight players on my own ballot. In all honesty, the distance between 1 and 6 on my NL ballot is probably smaller than the distance between 1 and 2 on my AL ballot (coming later today).

Rank Player 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th Points
1 Andrew McCutchen 14 1 1 213
2 Paul Goldschmidt 6 5 2 2 1 116
3 Matt Carpenter 1 4 1 3 4 2 113
4 Yadier Molina 1 4 2 4 3 1 1 90
5 Joey Votto 1 1 4 3 2 2 1 89
6 Carlos Gomez 1 2 3 1 3 3 2 85
7 Clayton Kershaw 3 1 2 1 2 2 1 1 77
8 Freddie Freeman 2 1 1 3 1 31
9 Shin-Soo Choo 1 1 1 1 2 2 24
10 Matt Harvey 1 1 1 1 1 22
11 Troy Tulowitzki 1 3 3 3 22
12 Adam Wainwright 1 1 1 1 2 19
13 Hanley Ramirez 2 1 7
14 Russell Martin 1 6
15 Hunter Pence 1 1 1 6
16 David Wright 2 6
17 Ian Desmond 1 5
18 Matt Holliday 1 3
19 Buster Posey 1 1 3
20 Yasiel Puig 1 2
21 Andrelton Simmons 1 1
22 Jayson Werth 1 1

And our full ballot:

Voter Name 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Lance Rinker McCutchen Kershaw Gomez Carpenter Votto Molina Harvey Wainwright Goldschmidt Choo
Andrew Ball McCutchen Goldschmidt Votto Kershaw Carpenter Gomez Molina Tulowitzki Freeman Simmons
Jeff Long McCutchen Gomez Kershaw Votto Carpenter Molina Goldschmidt Choo Freeman Tulowitzki
Jon Roegele McCutchen Molina Goldschmidt Carpenter Martin Gomez Votto Pence Tulowitzki Choo
Stuart Wallace McCutchen Goldschmidt Gomez Votto Carpenter Desmond Molina Kershaw Freeman Werth
Ben Horrow McCutchen Carpenter Goldschmidt Freeman Choo Molina Votto Gomez Pence Kershaw
Stephen Loftus McCutchen Goldschmidt Molina Votto Freeman Carpenter Kershaw Gomez Wainwright Ramirez
Matt Hunter Carpenter Goldschmidt McCutchen Freeman Molina Votto Gomez Holliday Choo Pence
Alex Kienholz Votto McCutchen Molina Kershaw Goldschmidt Carpenter Choo Tulowitzki Posey Wainwright
Alex Skillin McCutchen Goldschmidt Carpenter Gomez Votto Kershaw Molina Ramirez Tulowitzki Wainwright
Andrew Shen McCutchen Carpenter Goldschmidt Votto Molina Kershaw Gomez Tulowitzki Choo Freeman
TBA McCutchen Kershaw Molina Wainwright Carpenter Gomez Goldschmidt Votto Harvey Tulowitzki
TBA McCutchen Kershaw Harvey Carpenter Goldschmidt Wainwright Gomez Molina
Bryan Grosnick McCutchen Carpenter Goldschmidt Votto Gomez Choo Tulowitzki Wright Molina Posey
Randy Holt McCutchen Goldschmidt Molina Gomez Kershaw Votto Freeman Ramirez Puig Tulowitzki
Neil Weinberg McCutchen Carpenter Goldschmidt Gomez Votto Molina Kershaw Wright Tulowitzki Harvey

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Neil Weinberg is a writer and editor at Beyond The Box Score, contributor to Gammons Daily, and can also be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter at @NeilWeinberg44.

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