In balloting for the IBWAA, my first place votes for the two awards went to Trout in the AL, and to Murphy in the NL.
The favorite in the National League, perhaps the overwhelming favorite, is Bryant from the world champion Cubs. Bryant is certainly a worthy nominee, and in fact he would be a worthy winner of the award. I gave him the second place vote on my IBWAA ballot.
In 2016, Bryant hit for a .292/.385/.554 slash line with 39 home runs, 35 doubles, 102 RBI, and 121 runs scored with a 7.7 WAR mark.
Seager, announced as the winner of the NL Rookie of the Year in both the IBWAA vote and in the official MLB voting, also had a fine season. For me, he got the hardware that he deserved, and was the third choice on my ballot.
The rookie hit for a .308/.365/.512 slash line with 26 homers, 40 doubles, 72 RBI, and 105 runs scored. He finished with a 6.1 WAR mark this season.
With Bryant as the runner-up and Seager at #3 on my ballot, that leaves Murphy as my 2016 National League MVP winner. So why did I make that choice?
First the stats, where we find Murphy is a very worthy finalist for anyone to consider seriously.
He hit for a .347/.390/.595 slash line with 25 homers, 47 doubles, 104 RBI, and 88 runs scored. Those doubles and slugging marks led the NL, as did his .985 OPS mark. He finished the 2016 season with a 4.6 WAR.
With three players like this bunched so closely together, what was decisive for me was the rest of their team, and where they finished. The three players are members of the three division winners, and the regular season is the only consideration for the award.
The Cubs led MLB with 103 victories, the Nationals were second in the NL and tied for second in MLB with their 95, and the Dodgers won 91 games. What I find when examining the three teams is that Murphy, more than either of the other two, had to carry his team.
The Cubs had nine players homer in double digits, six with 25 or more doubles, three drive in 95 or more, and four score 80+ runs. Quite simply, Chicago was a powerhouse, with a number of legitimate offensive weapons, not to mention phenomenal pitching.
I don’t know that the Cubs could have won the World Series without Bryant. But I’m frankly not so sure that they couldn’t have won the NL Central, which they did by 17.5 games.
For me there is a better argument that Seager was more valuable to the Dodgers than Bryant was to the Cubs. But I went with Bryant because of his greater statistical season, and with the idea that Seager was already getting the Rookie of the Yearhonor.
I’m not against a rookie winning both the MVP and the Rookie of the Year honors. However, to get my vote such a rookie is going to have to be a clear Most Valuable Player. That wasn’t the case here.
This left my decision down to Murphy and Bryant. I went with Murphy because I believe that without him, the Nats might not have even made the playoffs, let alone won the NL East by eight games. The Nationals had a bunch of problems this season. The 2015 Most Valuable Player, Bryce Harper, had a down season. Anthony Rendon, fifth in the 2014 NL MVP voting, struggled for much of the season before finally clicking over the final third of the schedule.
Production levels were down from two of the club’s grizzled lineup veterans, Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth. The only player who approached Murphy in consistent offensive value was rookie Trea Turner, who didn’t join the lineup for good until just before the MLB All-Star break.
Murphy signed with the Nationals as a free agent in early January after helping lead the New York Mets to the National League pennant a year ago. He was the MVP of their NLCS sweep over the Cubs last season.
It could be argued that it was the best free agent signing of last offseason. Murphy stepped into the Nationals lineup, one that was inconsistent top to bottom for most of the season, and became the lone consistent producer.
Murphy may not get your vote. He may not win the honors with either the official MLB voting or with the IBWAA. But for me, for basically carrying the Washington Nationals to a division crown, Daniel Murphy is the National League Most Valuable Player.