Giancarlo Stanton Can Steal 2014 NL MVP with Dominant Stretch Run

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2014

Giancarlo Stanton will win an MVP award. That's not a bold prediction; given his five-tool skill set and prodigious power, it'd be a surprise if the Miami Marlins outfielder didn't win one.

The question is whether he'll win one this year.

As of Wednesday, Stanton owned a .290/.390/.542 slash line to go along with a National League-leading 26 home runs and 74 RBI. 

Excellent numbers. But good enough?

For most of the season, the prohibitive front-runner has been Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies, who leads all of baseball with a .340 batting average, .432 OBP and 1.035 OPS.

Tulo also recently landed on the 15-day disabled list with a left hip flexor strain, per Nick Groke of The Denver Post. He's due to return soon, but even more damaging to his MVP chances could be the fact that he plays for a losing team.

Right or wrong, voters generally favor a guy who not only puts up numbers, but does so for a winning cause.

"Something needs to change," Tulowitzki told Groke of the Rockies' struggles. "Hopefully that comes fairly quickly. You can't force it. But at the same time, we're all frustrated with this year—especially me."

Does that sound like an MVP?

To be fair, Stanton also plays for a club that almost certainly isn't playoff bound. Entering play Thursday, the Marlins stood at 55-58, 6.5 games back in the NL East. The Rockies, meanwhile, were 45-68 and in dead last in the NL West.

The difference between a mediocre team and a bad one likely isn't enough to tip the scales. To win arguably the most coveted personal accolade in baseball, Stanton will have to get crazy hot down the stretch.

His performance Wednesday was inauspicious: 0-for-4 in a 7-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Speaking of the Pirates, they have a player by the name of Andrew McCutchen—the reigning NL MVP—who might also factor into the conversation. 

MVP Hopefuls By The Numbers
PlayerAVGOBPHRRBI
Giancarlo Stanton.293.3932674
Troy Tulowitzki.340.4322152
Andrew McCutchen.311.4111767
Baseball-Reference.com (as of August 6)

Like Tulo, McCutchen is nursing an injury. But he's posting numbers on par with his stratospheric 2013 season. Oh, and Pittsburgh is in the thick of the playoff race.

Or, if you listen to the Vegas oddsmakers, Stanton's stiffest competition comes from Southern California. Here's Craig Davis of South Florida's Sun Sentinel

Despite some struggles to make consistent contact over the past month, Giancarlo Stanton remains among the favorites for National League Most Valuable Player. Stanton is the second favorite at 7 to 4 in revised odds by Bovada online sports book (Bovada.lv), sandwiched between two Dodgers. L.A.’s dominant left-hander Clayton Kershaw is the favorite at 4 to 7, and outfielder Yasiel Puig is third at 10 to 1.

Coincidentally, Stanton played high school ball in SoCal. And maybe someday, when he's too rich for Miami's blood, he'll come home.

"[I get asked that] all the time," Stanton told Bill Shaikin of The Los Angeles Times when pressed about a possible return to L.A. "They're like, 'You need to come play for us.'"

For now, Stanton is a Marlin. And, as Davis notes, he's a Marlin who hit a flaccid .226 in July.

If he's going to charge to the front of the MVP race, the 24-year-old slugger will need to pick it up, to find his stroke, to make NL pitchers remember why he's the last man they want to face.

On July 30, the Marlins beat the Washington Nationals 3-0 to claw back to .500. After the win, Stanton was asked if the Fish were peaking at the right time.

"Towards the end is the best time,” he told The Miami Herald's Manny Navarro. “But we’re peaking at the right time to make this push to be significant.”

The same could be said about Stanton's MVP chances. Peak now, and keep peaking, and he could hoist the prize, whatever Miami's fortunes.

Falter, and his trophy case will sit empty a little longer.

 

All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.

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