Ryan Howard, who led all of baseball with 48 homers and 146 RBIs, is in a two-horse race with Albert Pujols, who hit .357/.462/.653 for a Cardinals team that finished fourth in the NL Central.
The votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America will be revealed today to decide whether Ryan Howard’s scorching September is enough to fight off another solid, full-season performance from Albert Pujols. Typically, voters tend to poo-poo candidates from non-contenders, and although the Cards’ 86-76 final mark isn’t terrible, they still finished fourth in their division. Meanwhile, Howard’s name didn’t enter the MVP conversation until the final few weeks, while the Phils mopped up 17 wins during the weakest stretch of their schedule. Before that, Howard was entrenched in a fight just to get anything going, sinking as low as .227/.317/.477 as late as Aug. 26, while finishing with a career-high 19 errors at first, which led baseball at the position. Pujols committed just six of them.
Howard had a scorching September and was very good in July and May, but as one writer points out on Viva El Birdos, a blog covering the Cardinals, combine Howard’s four great months and his OPS is still 65-points lower than Pujols's year-long mark (1.114). The site also compared Howard's and Pujols’ best 12 months by EQA to show that Howard topped Pujols just once, and it was that hot month of September. EQA measures total offensive value per out, with corrections for league offensive level, home park, and team pitching.
Beerleaguer: Nothing scientific: Someone who drove me as nuts as Howard did in 2008 doesn’t deserve to take home the National League’s top prize. He should have been a better hitter and fielder and I’m not swayed by his home run and RBI totals. He was perpetually out of sorts this season, and I believe that as long as opposing pitchers have the smarts, they can stay out of trouble. His hot streaks seem to coincide with a run of mediocre opposition or happen after he sinks to new lows and pitchers get careless.
If Howard wins, there will be no way to say with a straight face that Howard did more to lead the Phillies than anyone else, not when Cole Hamels pitches 227 innings of 3.09 ERA ball, Brett Myers transforms into a second-half stud, Jamie Moyer collects 16 wins and Brad Lidge goes a perfect 41-for-41 in saves.