By: Neil Munro
Canadian Baseball Network
The most likely candidates for the American League and National League Player of the Month for August are listed in the tables below. Mike Trout (the AL winner for July) is included for comparison purposes, especially for added insight into the debate for the AL Most Valuable Player award.
It will be interesting to see whether the fact that Toronto has two leading candidates for the honour might split the vote in favour of Seattle’s Nelson Cruz. My vote for the American League winner is Edwin Encarnacion. I think his hitting streak and his three-home run game elevates his candidacy above that of Josh Donaldson.
Included in the table of statistics is the important category of Times Reaching Base (TRB). It represents the number of times a player reached base safely via a hit, walk or hit by pitch.
The players in the tables below are ranked in terms of OPS (On-base plus Slugging percentage) – probably the one category along with WAR (wins above replacement) that the voting writers pay the most attention to when considering their vote for the MVP candidate at season’s end. However, the Player of the Month Award usually goes to the batter with the most eye-popping home run and RBI stats.
The NL player most deserving of the award is Cincinnati’s (and Toronto’s by way of birth) Joey Votto. The senior circuit does not have a candidate with the typical winning resume this month – impressive HR and RBI stats.
The respective leaders in those categories have modest or low bating, on-base and slugging percentages. Votto's bases on balls are particularly noteworthy. His 38 BB are far ahead of any other major leaguer in walks for the month (Bryce Harper is second with 24). Extended over a full 162 game schedule, Votto would have 220 walks and 376 TRB.
For comparison purposes, the league season records for these categories are given below.
Not surprisingly, the Babe tops the American League in both BB and TRB. However he did it when run scoring was at record levels. Ted Williams (possibly the greatest batter ever to play the game) is runner-up and he got to play his home games in hitter-friendly Fenway Park.
Bonds’ NL records likely even eclipse the magnitude of Ruth’s stats except for the fact that his figures were heavily assisted by performance enhancing drugs. His pre-2000 season best for TRB was a “mere” 311 in 1996.
Billy Hamilton was a Hall of Fame lead-off hitter from the 19th century that may be an unknown star to most modern fans. His 1894 NL record was achieved in the year in which baseball set the all-time record for runs scored per game (7.4 runs per team per game); a figure that is almost a full run per game higher than any other season and two runs per game better than the top production years of play of Ruth, Williams or Bonds.
Votto’s imposing .524 OBA and his NL leading 1.140 OPS should make him the leading candidate for the NL Player of the Month Award, but there are several possible contenders with similar stats so the outcome is highly speculative.
Should Votto win the award, it will mark the just the fifth time a Canadian-born player was named the league player of the month (Fergie Jenkins won the NL award in July of 1971, Justin Morneau was the AL winner in May, 2007 while Larry Walker captured the award twice (in April, 1997 and July, 2002). It should be noted that the National League first established the Player of the Month Award back in 1958 (for batters and pitchers combined).
The American League did not follow suit until the mid-1970’s when a separate category for pitchers was also established in both leagues. Erik Bedard (July, 2007) and Eric Gagne (June, 2002) were the only Canadian born winners of the monthly award for pitchers.
I can’t believe the ground that Votto has made up on Paul Goldschmidt and Bryce Harper in the last six weeks or so.
Recall that in mid-July the stats were (for BB, TRB, OBP, Slugging, OPS): Votto (57, 146, .392, .484, .876), for Goldschmidt (68, 175, .455, .610, 1.164) and Harper (63, 169, .464, .704, 1.168).
Now they read (same categories): Votto (115, 257, .456, .553, 1.008), Goldschmidt (100, 254, .441, .564, 1.005) and Harper (98, 241, .458, .626, 1.084).
Boldface indicates the player led his league in that category for the month of August (percentage leaders require at least 80 Plate Appearances to qualify).
Taking Votto’s August BB and TRB over a full 162 game schedule at the same rate equates to 220 BB and 376 TRB. The all-time records for these categories are shown below:
BB and TRB Major League Records (including NL steroid-free records):
*Williams also had 162 BB in 1947