In 2014, Anthony Rizzo finished tenth in the National League MVP voting, marking the first, but certainly not the last, time he’d receive such recognition
In each of the two seasons that followed, Rizzo was even better than he was in his breakout 2014 campaign, and finished fourth in the MVP race (ultimately losing out to his teammate Kris Bryant last year).
However, once the dust settles on 2017, I’m sad to say that I don’t quite expect Rizzo to take home the coveted NL MVP honors. But it won’t have been for a lack of trying (or success!). The NL just so happens to be LOADED with offensive talent this season, which means that Rizzo’s efforts will probably come up short.
With that said, the Cubs are pushing for Rizzo to be in the conversation, and he is almost certainly going to get down-ballot MVP votes – perhaps even in the top 10 – once again. So let’s take a closer look at where he stands among the best of the best in the National League.
This season, Rizzo is slashing .279/.394/.533 with 31 homers, 30 doubles, and 100 RBI – and it’s just the beginning of September. The guy is crushing it this year.
But, compared to the rest of the National League, Rizzo’s 140 wRC+ ranks just 12th overall. Still, when you look at some of the more traditional numbers he’s a lot closer to the top of the pack.
2017 NL HRs Leaders
- Giancarlo Stanton: 53
- Cody Bellinger: 36
- Joey Votto: 34
- Charlie Blackmon: 33
- Paul Goldschmidt: 33
- Marcell Ozuna: 32
- Anthony Rizzo: 31
- Adam Duvall: 31
- Nolan Arenado: 30
- Ryan Zimmerman: 30
Obviously, Stanton is the king of this race this season, but Rizzo’s 31 homers here at the beginning of September are nothing to sneeze at. Any day now, he’ll match his previous season high of 32 homers (2014, 2016), and I’ll bet he’ll finish in the top five when all is said and done.
Perhaps even more impressively, only one other player on the top ten list above (Votto, of course) has a lower strikeout rate than the Cubs’ first baseman. That’s the sort of all-around player that gets special consideration over the mono-dimensional slugger or base stealer, or hitter, who’s capable of succeeding in only the one thing he’s best at.
2017 NL RBI Leaders
- Giancarlo Stanton: 112
- Nolan Arenado: 111
- Paul Goldschmidt: 109
- Marcell Ozuna: 107
- Anthony Rizzo: 100
I’m not a huge fan of the RBI “stat,” of course, but others certainly are, and Rizzo’s membership in the NL’s top 5, as well as his proximity to the very top, is sure to be taken heavily into MVP consideration.
You know what else doesn’t hurt? The fact that many of his homers and RBI have come at precisely the right time. Indeed, Rizzo has done among the very most to help his team win this season:
2017 NL WPA
- Giancarlo Stanton: 4.78
- Anthony Rizzo: 4.71
- Bryce Harper: 4.60
- Charlie Blackmon: 4.37
- Joey Votto: 4.34
According to the Win Probability Added stat, just one other player has done more to help his team win than Anthony Rizzo. I know it’s difficult to contextualize the actual number itself, but consider that he’s not just number 2 in the NL this season, he’s number 2 in all of baseball. Similarly …
2017 NL Clutch Score:
- Nolan Arenado: 1.17
- Cody Bellinger: 1.06
- Brandon Phillips: 1.05
- Anthony Rizzo: 0.79
- Jake Lamb: 0.68
Again, this is one of the stats for which he don’t have much of a reference, but you can use his relative distance to the top as an idea of just how good he’s been.
And remember, while a player’s clutch score, WPA, or RBI may not strongly correlate to future performance, each does express what has actually happened. They also serve as a pseudo-measurement for how memorable a given player’s performance has been (a walk-off homer sticks in your mind a lot longer than a random shot in the 4th inning). So for the purposes of award-giving/recognition, I’m 1.) OK with including these numbers in the conversation, and 2.) expecting them to help Rizzo disproportionately.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon tends to agree (Cubs.com): “This is quality stuff that’s going on – the homers, the RBIs, and they’re clutch RBIs …. I know Stanton is having a great year, I understand that, and I know a couple guys with the Dodgers are having good years, I get that. If [Rizzo] keeps this pace up in September, he’ll make a strong push for it.”
And I tend to agree that if Rizzo keeps up his blisteringly hot pace, he’ll cement himself further into the conversation at the very top (especially because, although he’s a first baseman, he’s generally considered to be quite good defensively there (he was the Gold and Platinum Glove winner last season, after all!)).
It’ll be a struggle to mash his way into the finalist voting this year, because, like Maddon suggested, the National League is absolutely stacked. But I have no doubts at all that Rizzo will get his fair share of votes. He’s a stud and ranks among the very best in the National League. So for the fourth consecutive season, I’ll bet that he’ll finish among the top ten.
Although that could still leave him somewhere behind Kris Bryant … but that’s a conversation for another day.