In 2013, center fielder Andrew McCutchen batted .317 with 21 home runs for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Meanwhile, McCutchen's teammate Pedro Alvarez blasted a career-high 36 home runs and drove in 100 runs.
McCutchen would go on to win the National League Most Valuable Player award in 2013, while Alvarez did not even factor into the voting.
This season, Alvarez looks primed to have an even bigger season statistically for the Pirates, as he seeks to become the first Pirates player with three consecutive 30-home run seasons since Brian Giles did it four straight seasons from 1999-02.
In only eight games in 2014, Alvarez has blasted four home runs and driven in seven at the plate.
His most recent home run came on Thursday in the seventh inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs. With his team trailing 4-2, the third baseman hit a three-run shot to put the Pirates ahead for good.
Alvarez has picked up the slack from the majority of his teammates on offense so far this season, and that is what should be looked at most when considering the most valuable player for a given year.
One of the main factors that kept Alvarez out of the MVP voting in 2013 was his low batting average. Alvarez has never hit for a high average over a full season, owning a lifetime batting average of .235.
Since 1990, there has only been one player in the National League who has won the MVP award with an average below .300, as Jimmy Rollins won it with a .296 average in 2007 with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Still, despite his low average, Alvarez has been one of the best hitters in the National League over the last two seasons.
There is no doubt that he deserves to at least be in the running, as he was tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt for first in the league in home runs last season.
The second major factor that kept Alvarez out of the voting last season was his tendency to swing and miss, as he led the National League with 186 strikeouts. He already has five strikeouts this season, but if he can make more contact, his average will go up a considerable amount.
The Pirates have an above-average middle of the lineup with Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin.
However, without Alvarez hitting behind him, McCutchen simply wouldn't get as many good pitches to hit. Alvarez's presence in the cleanup spot is vital to the Pirates' offensive production, and that should not go without being noticed.
The Pirates are coming off a 2013 season in which they won an outstanding 94 games but failed to win the National League Central Division over the St. Louis Cardinals. However, if Pittsburgh goes on to win the division in 2014 thanks in large part to Alvarez's presence in the lineup, he will deserve to be in consideration as the 2014 National League MVP.
*Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference
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