There's a certain stigma attached to Ryan Braun's name following last year's PED controversy, however, that shouldn't stop the writers from giving him a much deserved, second straight NL MVP Award.
Now before you jump to conclusions, I'm a Reds fan and have no bias favoring Braun. The fact of the matter is that Braun's numbers are far and above every other player in the National League.
In 139 games, Braun is batting .312/.387/.602/.989 with 40 HR, 103 RBI, 95 runs, 30 doubles and 24 steals.
According to ESPN's projections, Braun is expected to finish the year at .312/.387/.602 with 44 HR, 114 RBI, 105 runs 33 doubles and 26 steals. If by some miracle Braun steals six bases between now and the end of the season, he'll be just the 11th player in in MLB history to reach the 40-30 mark.
Braun's numbers truly speak for themselves. His 40 home runs give him a commanding lead in the National League, while his 95 runs, 103 RBI and .312 batting average are good for second, second and fifth respectively.
Braun's 103 RBI are second only to Chase Headley's mark of 104. Additionally, when MVP voting begins, Braun's .312 batting average will likely be viewed as fourth best, considering the fact that suspended outfielder Melky Cabrera leads the National League.
Braun could easily lead two of the three Triple Crown categories by the time the season ends, which that won't go unnoticed.
Who will win the 2012 NL MVP Award?
In addition to the basic slash line, RBI and home run totals, Braun's .602 slugging percentage and .989 OPS are both NL bests.
Though it's lower than the value he posted last year, Braun's 6.5 WAR is just .02 behind the NL leader Andrew McCutchen. He and McCutchen are also tied for the NL lead in runs created at 126, giving them a sizable 19 run lead over Buster Posey's 107.
Braun isn't just an offensive juggernaut though, his 2.8 defensive WAR is good for second behind Cubs second baseman Darwin Barney. Although it doesn't make a huge difference to writers, whose decisions are based largely around offensive performance, it is worth noting.
Perhaps what's most impressive about Braun's 2012 campaign is that he's produced these numbers without the protection of Prince Fielder. Many people, including myself, wondered and/or doubted whether Braun could produce equally impressive numbers without Fielder.
Those doubts quickly were stifled in 2012.
There's no doubt that Braun's name and performance carries a stigma, but it's hard to believe that if he was using this season, he wouldn't get caught.
What's really helping Braun's case is his team's performance down the late-season stretch. The Brewers have won 20 of their last 26 games and find themselves just 2.5 games out of the second NL Wild Card spot.
The Brewers being in the playoff hunt, puts the spotlight on Braun and his impressive season. However, he really deserves the award no matter how the Brewers finish in 2012.
Need your own proof? Take a look at Baseball-Reference's listing of the National League batting leaders.