It’s been nearly two decades since a pitcher has won the MVP award. Even then, the award went to a relief pitcher, who won based on a gaudy saves total. In order to find the last starter to win the MVP award, you would have to go back to 1986 — when Roger Clemens took home the hardware. Any way you look at it, it’s become increasingly rare for a pitcher to win the MVP award. Despite leading the entire National League in WAR, Roy Halladay is getting virtually no support for MVP. When it comes to the MVP award, one thing is clear: pitchers are extremely undervalued.
The American League MVP race may currently be receiving more publicity, but the NL MVP race is just as exciting. Although Roy Halladay leads the NL in WAR with 6.9, Shane Victorino, Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and Troy Tulowitzki aren’t far behind. Looking at the recent trends, one of the position players mentioned is most likely to take home the hardware once the season ends — most likely Victorino or Upton since they play on contending teams.
Problem is, Halladay is the most deserving of the award. Due to an increased strikeout rate — and a severely depressed home run rate — Halladay may be on his way to posting the strongest year of his career. Luck hasn’t played much of a favor either since Halladay’s 2.56 ERA matches his 2.56 xFIP. Once again, Roy Halladay has been a ridiculously good pitcher.
In recent years, however, the BBWAA has not been kind to starting pitchers. In the AL, relief pitchers have been more likely to make the ballot than starters. The last time a starting pitcher ranked higher than a relief pitcher in the MVP ballot was 2006 — when Johan Santana placed seventh despite ranking second in WAR.
Over in the NL, things have been a bit better. Roy Halladay did manage a sixth place finish last season — a fair showing based on his stats. Unfortunately, that’s the highest a starting pitcher has placed in the NL in quite some time. The last time a starting pitcher was considered a serious contender for NL MVP appears to be 1995 — when Greg Maddux placed third, but deserved to win. In more recent years, Tim Lincecum finished 18th on the ballot despite posting the second highest WAR in the NL, and CC Sabathia placed sixth following his incredible stretch run with the Milwaukee Brewers.
If recent history is any indication, Roy Halladay is still fighting an uphill battle. Unless he can win 20+ games (a number the voters still love), or goes on a ridiculous September scoreless streak, it’s more than likely that a less deserving player will walk off with the NL MVP award this season. Even if Halladay accomplishes those feats, there’s no guarantee he’ll be considered a legitimate contender based on the current hype surrounding Upton. That’s not to say that Upton isn’t a deserving candidate; he’s just not the best option available. Sadly, it wouldn’t be the first time the voters got it wrong.
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