The NL MVP voting results were released on Thursday and much to the surprise of San Francisco Giants fans, Kevin Pillar received a 10th-place vote.
He shored up the center field position and led the team in hits (157), doubles (37), RBI (87), runs scored (82) and steals (14), while tying for the team lead in home runs (21).
However, he also finished with a brutal .293 on-base percentage thanks to a non-existent 2.9 percent walk rate, and he graded out as merely an average defender in the outfield despite plenty of highlight-reel plays.
Across the board, these are good-not-great numbers from a player who led his team in most offensive categories by default. In fact, there’s a legitimate question whether the Giants will tender him a contract this offseason, as he’s projected to earn $9.7 million in his final year of arbitration.
However, it was enough to convince at least one BBWAA member that he was one of the 10 best players in the NL this season.
Here’s what Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle had to say in defense of penciling Pillar into the No. 10 spot on his NL MVP ballot:
All due respect to Schulman, this was a homer pick, plain and simple.
Here’s his full ballot, via BBWAA.com:
- Cody Bellinger, LAD
- Christian Yelich, MIL
- Anthony Rendon, WAS
- Ketel Marte, ARI
- Freddie Freeman, ATL
- Pete Alonso, NYM
- Nolan Arenado, COL
- Juan Soto, WAS
- Ronald Acuna Jr., ATL
- Kevin Pillar, SF
Here are just a few notable players who were absent from that ballot, with Pillar’s numbers for comparison:
- Kevin Pillar, SF: 93 OPS+, 61 XBH, 21 HR, 87 RBI, 82 R, 1.4 WAR
- Trevor Story, COL: 118 OPS+, 78 XBH, 35 HR, 85 RBI, 111 R, 6.4 WAR
- Josh Donaldson, ATL: 127 OPS+, 70 XBH, 37 HR, 94 RBI, 96 R, 6.1 WAR
- Max Muncy, LAD: 133 OPS+, 58 XBH, 35 HR, 98 RBI, 101 R, 5.7 WAR
- Kolten Wong, STL: 106 OPS+, 40 XBH, 11 HR, 59 RBI, 61 R, 4.7 WAR, Gold Glove
- Eugenio Suarez, CIN: 134 OPS+, 73 XBH, 49 HR, 103 RBI, 87 R, 4.5 WAR
- J.T. Realmuto, PHI: 108 OPS+, 64 XBH, 25 HR, 83 RBI, 92 R, 4.4 WAR, Gold Glove
To put Pillar’s 1.4 WAR into perspective, there were 82 NL players that posted at least 1.5 WAR during the 2019 season, including Pablo Sandoval. Donaldson and Story were both worth four times what Pillar was in terms of overall value.
Again, advanced metrics are not for everyone, and I can appreciate that.
But even by the simplest of counting numbers, Pillar doesn’t come close to deserving a spot on the NL MVP ballot over a multitude of players.
Schulman has earned the right to vote for NL MVP and he can do with that vote whatever he pleases. But just once, I’d just like to see a BBWAA member own up to one of these homer picks.
“He played for the team I covered and I like him, so I voted for him because I can.”
At least that rings true.
Oh well, congratulations to Kevin Pillar, who can now put “22nd-place finish in 2019 NL MVP voting” on his MLB resume.