Whenever the 2017 National League MVP discussions have popped up throughout this season, Kris Bryant’s name has usually been saved for remarks that he was the guy who won the award last year.
After all, he wasn’t even an All-Star at his position this year, let alone the best player in the entire league. And, to be fair, the NL is STACKED with offensive talent this season, so the race is quite crowded.
However, like we saw with the 2015 NL Cy Young award winner Jake Arrieta a couple years ago, you don’t need to be a All-Star at mid-season to take home the highest honors at the end of the year. You just need to deliver an unbelievably impressive second-half … and, just sayin’, that’s what Kris Bryant has done.
In the second half of 2017, Kris Bryant has unleashed his inner monster, slashing .332/.426/.560 with 11 home runs and a 157 wRC+. Only Francisco Lindor (3.7 WAR) and Giancarlo Stanton (3.6 WAR) have earned more WAR in the second half than Kris Bryant’s 3.3 WAR.
Of course, Bryant also had a really great first half, which means he’s now the National League leader in WAR …
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) September 26, 2017
For more context, only Aaron Judge (7.6 WAR) and Jose Altuve (7.4 WAR) have been more valuable (by fWAR) this season, but both are in the American League.
So, yeah, if you’re the reigning MVP and you are the current National League leader in WAR while playing for a team headed to the postseason, I think your name deserves to be in the ring for a repeat. (There’s also the crazy fact that, despite not playing in even three full seasons yet, he already ranks 36th among Cubs position player WAR of ALL TIME (56th all-time if you include pitchers)).
Of course, there are some things holding him back.
For one, Bryant’s 73 RBI are sorely lacking and rank 70th in all of MLB this season. While that’s not a particularly useful stat for predictive purposes, it will absolutely be taken into consideration by the voters this offseason. However, I still think there’s a way he can wiggle himself back into the very top and I think our friend, Rian Watt, nailed it on Twitter:
If Bryant gets to any two of
30 home runs
I think he has a good shot of winning MVP.
— Rian Watt (@rianwatt) September 26, 2017
Right now, Kris Bryant is slashing .297/.411/.543 with 73 RBI and 29 home runs. It’s quite possible, then, that he can end up with all three: a batting average over .300, at least 80 RBI, and 30+ HRs. While I don’t think hitting any of those benchmarks will somehow prove he’s more worthy of the honor, I think it’ll help voters make the “traditional stats” argument (to themselves, I guess) and send votes his way.
I should also point out that Bryant, who has frequently batted second, does have 110 runs scored, and, like RBI, that doesn’t necessarily mean he was or will be good, but it definitely doesn’t hurt to have the 5th most runs scored in MLB.
Ultimately, without an absolute homer-filled tear this last week of the season, I doubt Bryant actually wins the award – there’s just too much talent in the NL and other interesting things going on (Giancarlo Stanton’s 57 homers, for example), but Bryant should finish among the top five and, in my opinion, deserves to be one of the finalists.