Statistically, neither Ryan Howard nor Carlos Delgado has done more overall than other contenders, but in a weak National League field, voters could be swayed depending on how the Phillies and Mets finish these last two weeks.
It’s shaping up to be another year when voters cast their ballots based on who steps up most late in the season, when cameras are rolling and flashbulbs burning. And as we've seen in the last two seasons, it never hurts to play on an East Coast stage, as Howard and Delgado do in media-saturated Philadelphia and New York.
After seeing his OPS fall under .800 for nearly two-thirds of the season, Howard is having a brilliant September and carried the Phillies’ offense through a sweep of Milwaukee. He’s going to shatter his own strikeout mark before it’s over, but he leads the NL in HRs (44) and RBIs (133) by a significant margin. Meanwhile, Delgado has written a similar story. The first baseman was seen as a lost cause early, then unexpectedly went nuts in July. Delgado’s surge coincided with the Mets’ ascent to the top of the NL East, and many of his big blasts have been clutch.
Statistically, Lance Berkman’s line is one of the best overall (.326/.430/.594), but the Astros are still seen as darkhorses, and Berkman has actually had a bad month. Albert Pujols is the best hitter in the league (.360/.465/.650), but his Cardinals fell out of the race weeks ago and have lost five straight. Then there’s David Wright, who many statisticians felt should have won MVP last season. He’s had another fine year, but hasn’t delivered the same number of snapshot moments Delgado has for the Mets. Lastly, don’t discount Ryan Braun if the Brewers can pick up the pieces, and Manny Ramirez also merits consideration as the Dodgers continue to prevail in the NL West.
Here's another name voters could fall back on: Catcher Geovany Soto of the Cubs. Just as voters factored in Rollins' position on the field a year ago, Chicago's catcher could get the 'intellectual' vote to reward the Cubs' excellent season.