With the Chicago Cubs’ overwhelming success this season and Kris Bryant’s central role in it, the main question in the National League MVP race was not whether he would win the award but by how much.
The answer: near unanimously.
The versatile third baseman added an MVP to the rookie of the year award he won in 2015 when he overwhelming outpolled Washington Nationalssecond baseman Daniel Murphy, 415 points to 245. Bryant was named first in 29 of the 30 ballots by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, with Murphy collecting the other one. Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager, who on Monday was named rookie of the year, finished third with 240 points.
Bryant, 24, is only the fourth player ever to earn top rookie and MVP honors in consecutive seasons, following Cal Ripken Jr., Ryan Howard and Dustin Pedroia.
Bryant contributed considerably more than one of the league’s most potent bats to the Cubs’ major league-best 103-58 record, which paved the way for their first World Series championship since 1908.
Besides playing high-caliber defense at third, Bryant logged at least 55 innings at three other positions – left field, right field and first base – facilitating manager Joe Maddon’s pursuit of matchup advantages. At 6-5, 230 pounds, Bryant also proved to be a super baserunner, finishing second in Fangraphs.com’s rankings in the NL.
And of course, he was also one of the league’s most feared sluggers, batting .292 with 39 homers, 102 RBI and a .939 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. Bryant made remarkable strikes from his outstanding debut season, reducing his strikeouts from 199 to 154 and raising his OPS by 81 points.
Murphy made a solid case for MVP honors himself after joining the Nationals as a free agent following his postseason breakout with the New York Mets in October 2015.
Long regarded as a fine hitter, Murphy built on his power surge from 2015 by putting up career highs in home runs (25), RBI (104), slugging percentage (.595) and OPS (.985). The last two figures led the league. He also finished second in batting average at .347.
Murphy’s chances to win the award took a hit when he had to sit out most of the last two weeks of the season with an injury, but he was a major factor in the Nationals overcoming a down season by reigning MVP Bryce Harper and running away with the NL East title.
Seager, 22, provided a steady presence in both the field and the lineup for the Dodgers, who claimed their fourth consecutive NL West crown. He was ranked among the league’s top four defenders at shortstop while hitting 26 homers and registering an .877 OPS.