by Fairway Jay

The National League still have division and wild card races to settle with 10 games remaining, and the Most Valuable Player award is also up for grabs. Less than a month ago, the Arizona Diamondbacks led the NL West by 1½ games and FanGraphs gave them a 43 percent chance of winning the division and 65 percent chance of making the playoffs. The D’backs have dumped going 4-13 in September to fall 6 full games behind the division leading LA Dodgers, while the Colorado Rockies are 1.5 games behind in the NL West and the same 1.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals for the second NL wild card. The Brewers are the top wild card and trail the Cubs by 3.5 games in the NL Central. All of this is impacting the NL MVP odds in a big way.

While three NL pitchers have arguably been the most valuable players this season, it’s not likely Jacob deGrom (Mets), Max Scherzer (Nationals) or Aaron Nola (Phillies) will win the award like fellow pitchers Clayton Kershaw (2014) or Justin Verlander (2011) did in recent seasons.

Top-5 NL MVP ODDS as of Sept 19th
Javier Baez (CHC) -110

Matt Carpenter (STL) +250
Nolan Arenado (COL) +250
Paul Goldschmidt (ARI) +500
Christian Yelich (MIL) +600

The top favorites to win the NL MVP are 2B Javier Baez, Rockies 3B Nolan Arenado, Rockies shortstop Trevor Story, Cardinals 1B Matt Carpenter, Braves 1B Freddy Freeman and Brewers CF Christian Yelich. This grouping might produce one of the worst MVP winners in memory (remember Andrew Dawson in 1987), especially if the current favorite Baez wins. Brewers CF Christian Yelich should be getting stronger consideration. Paul Goldschmidt has faded with the Diamondbacks September demise.

PLAYER AVG OBP SLG HR RBI RUNS SB bWAR
Baez .295 .329 .571 33 107 96 21 5.2
Arenado .295 .374 .552 34 101 96 2 4.7
Carpenter .263 .380 .537 35 77 104 4 4.7
Freeman .307 .386 .501 22 89 91 9 4.5
Story .288 .347 .559 33 102 81 26 4.9
Yelich .317 .384 .569 31 93 102 20 5.8

Baez is producing runs, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio (150-25) is horrible. So is his plate discipline with a league-worse chase rate (45%). He’s versatile having also played more than 55 games at shortstop and 3B, and his WAR rate is top-3 in the national league but behind leader Yelich. The Cubs are rolling and Baez is a huge engine for them, so it’s worth noting that this is a reason his NL MVP odds are so high.

Story missed the Rockies extra innings loss to the Dodgers Sept. 18 with inflammation in his right elbow and is likely out a few more games. That’s damaging to the Rockies playoff hopes and Story’s NL MVP odds, which have been bolstered by a strong second half and a .300 batting average at his hitter-friendly home ballpark at Coors.

Can a guy like Baez win the MVP award with an On Base Percentage of .329? Shouldn’t a stronger case be made for Milwaukee CF Christian Yelich? The sweet swinging lefty has been a big force in his first season in Milwaukee, leading the Brewers to the playoffs. He’s posted career highs in batting average, runs scored, home runs and likely RBIs by the end of the season. He was a gold glove award winner with Miami, and he’s the anchor in the Brewers outfield and the MVP in my book. By far, his NL MVP odds are posting an insanely strong value. You can bet on it.