As we discussed recently in the context of his two enormous games this year, NL MVP Kris Bryant was not especially flashy this year. He was simply consistently excellent over the course of the season – yes, with a few peak games built in – such that it was clear that he was the best player in the league this season when September rolled around.
I say it that way because August was really when Bryant flipped the switch and put his stamp on the season, culminating in an August 26 win over the Dodgers where Bryant homered in the 8th inning to bring the Cubs within a run, and then homered in the 10th inning to give them the win.
The reaction from Adam Liberatore, who gave up the second homer to Bryant, says it all:
This is what it looks like when you give up a game-winning, extra-innings home run to a guy who just locked up the NL MVP. pic.twitter.com/tC7pgrDWWK
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) January 6, 2017
And when it happened, here’s what I wrote:
That’s what the Cubs-filled crowd was chanting last night in Los Angeles after Kris Bryant hit his second of two homers in the game, and I think they were right. It’s going to take some kind of herculean run by another player plus a dramatic fall-off for Bryant at this point for him not to win the award. That is simply the reality of what he’s done this year, and reflective of the trajectory that he’s on. There are no signs of him slowing down.
He didn’t slow down, at least not enough to derail what would become a near-unanimous MVP vote. (Very near. So near. Dang it, that should have been unanimous.)
By the time August ended, Bryant had posted the best month of any player in the National League (and only Gary Sanchez’s August tear was better than Bryant’s) with a 219 wRC+. The only other Cubs months over 200 were Anthony Rizzo’s June (213 – 6th best month in baseball this year), and Ben Zobrist’s May (201 – 19th best month in baseball this year).
An MVP award was coming for Bryant, and it was clear to me – and everyone in attendance that night in Los Angeles – that it was all but locked up at that point.