Kris Bryant has started his Major League career in pretty impressive fashion. He arrived on the scene April 17th, 2015 and went hitless in his debut. Luckily for him and the Cubs there have been plenty of hits since his debut – enough to earn him 2015 National League Rookie of the Year honors. He has followed that campaign up with a 2016 season that has kept him in the conversation for MVP honors with a month left to play. By fWAR, he’s leading Corey Seager by 0.7 wins, and by WARP, Bryant is 1.4 wins ahead of Buster Posey, plus he has the traditional counting stats and successful team that are attractive to old-school voters.
If Bryant wins the MVP this season, he will have won ROY and MVP in consecutive seasons. How many players have done that in the history of the awards? The answer – only three. They are Cal Ripken Jr. (‘82, ‘83), Ryan Howard (‘05, ‘06), and Dustin Pedroia (‘07, ‘08). Once again, if Bryant does win the MVP, where would his 2016 season rank when compared to these three players?
|Cal Ripken Jr.||1982||28||0.347||116||4.6|
Overall, of the four rookie seasons, the best one belongs to Bryant. He provided the best value to his team and it is not particularly close, as you can see by the full two-win gap between himself and Cal Ripken Jr. in their ROY seasons. Bryant provided value for the Cubs in the field as well with a 5.4 UZR/150, enough to finish in the top ten in the league last year.
Another area where Bryant reigns supreme over the other three players is in the Fangraphs statistic “Clutch.” Clutch does not give a truly reflective look at true talent – it is a way to compare “high leverage” performance, hitting in situations where a lot is on the line, with performance in more pedestrian situations. Like Win Probability Added (WPA), the stat that it is based on, Clutch is more about telling stories than determining talent. Bryant posted an excellent 1.85 Clutch score, with the next closest being Dustin Pedroia at 0.15 and Howard and Ripken both in the negatives , -0.94, and -.69 respectively – meaning those seasons would fall into the “choke” category, while Bryant and to a lesser extent Pedroia go in the “clutch” category.
|Cal Ripken Jr.||1983||27||0.392||146||8.5|
Kris Bryant has not won the MVP award yet, but where he stood after play on Sunday has him ahead of some of the previous MVP award winners. His home run total will not approach the 58 of Ryan Howard, but he has a shot at his wOBA mark of .436. Also, he is sure to pass Howard’s wRC+ (wOBA adjusted for league average, basically) and has already surpassed him in terms of fWAR. Bryant has some work to do over the final month of 2016, but he trails Cal Ripken Jr. by only one win and almost assuredly will surpass him in that area.
Kris Bryant has provided a great deal of versatility for the Cubs in 2016, playing over 300 innings at third base and in the outfield, specifically left field. At third base, Bryant has a 6.3 UZR/150 – an improvement of 0.9 from 2015 – and he has a 20.1 UZR/150 in left field, a whopping figure (that did come in limited playing time). Combining the offensive threat Bryant is with the versatility and ability he provides defensively, Kris Bryant may have the edge in three of the four above categories by the end of 2016, but will he be awarded the National League MVP?
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Carl Triano is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score and Minor League Ball.