Who's the MVP of 2008 for the National League? The question isn't really that easy. Do you include only players from teams that make the playoffs? Do you only include players from those teams that were important in the late innings of games? Did this player single handily carry the team? The original question has several interesting movable parts. For this reason it's always enjoyable to debate who should be the MVP.
What would do know is what has happened in the past. Ryan Howard was the 2006 NL MVP, but wasn't part of playoff team. St. Louis First Baseman Albert Pujols believed that Howard was undeserving because the Phils weren't in the playoffs that season. As of today Pujols ranks 1st in OBP, SLG, and OPS, 2nd in BA, 3rd in Walks, , 6th in Hits, 9th in Doubles, and 10th in RBI. (All stats are ranked among NL categories.) The numbers are definitely there and the argument could be made that since Alex Rodriguez won the award for AL MVP back in 2003 then Pujols should be included in the conversation. It would be interesting though to see if Pujols wins the award given his recent comments from 2006 about eligibility for the award given his team's playoff status. There are approximately 30 games to play, the Cards could still make a huge push. The only problem is that they have to get past the Brewers who have had the best record in baseball since the All-Star break. The same argument could be made for Lance Berkman who has comparable stats to Albert Pujols. Berkman currently leads the NL in Hits and Doubles. I haven't heard many Lance Berkman for MVP discussions, but it is very interesting when you compare their stats. Go ahead, check it out. The only big difference statistically is the strikeouts. Pujols has roughly has as many as Berkman, all while playing fewer games.
If you are to include who gets the big hits in the late innings of games. Pat Burrell should be considered. Burrell leads the NL in Home Runs and Walks in the late innings of game in 2008. Ryan Howard has been hot and cold all season, Jimmy Rollins hasn't put up the MVP numbers he did last year, and Chase Utley got off to a hot start but has cooled recently due to slumps and injuries that he's playing through. Burrell has easily carried the Phils through a year in which they needed him most. Don't forget that this is his walk year though, so in a way, he needed it too.
One other NL candidate that brings a surprising amount of speculation is C.C. Sabathia. No one has carried a team like Sabathia has in the 2ndhalf. In 9 starts he's 8-0, with an 1.60 ERA, 5 CG, and 2 Shutouts. The man is simply dominating. The 69 K's in 73 IP doesn't hurt either. The only drawback to the Sabathia discussion is the fact that he's a pitcher and will only help the team every 5th day. It's my honest opinion though that the addition of Sabathia has brought a prescence to the team that shows management is committed to winning. The addition of Sabathia has also allowed the bullpen to further rest, and in 5 occasions to get a day off.
My prediction: Albert Pujols will win the NL MVP. I'm sure some news reporter will pick up on the fact that he complained about Howard winning the award in 2006, despite not being on a playoff team. Pujols has put up impressive numbers among a lineup that only has Ryan Ludwick to gloat about. Let's not forgot that the Central was the best division in the NL. The Cubs and the Brewers have better records than the Phils, Mets, D-Backs, or Dodgers. All of which could make the playoffs.
Speaking of teams that could make the playoffs, the Yankees plan to start Carl Pavano today in hopes that he can help a rotation that is seriously hurting. Wang and Joba are currently out and no one is sure whether they will return this season. It's time for Pavano to live up to the multi-million dollar overrated contract he signed with the Yankees after a career year in Florida. For the Yankees' sake he needs to put all the injuries, car crashes, and pansy stuff behind him. The Yankess are 5 games back in the Wild Card and will have to hope that Pavano can be the ace they signed him to be. Even if Pavano comes through, it could still take and epic collapse (worse than that of last year's NY Mets) by Boston or Tampa Bay for a playoff appearance to even be a possibility.
Even though Carl Pavano has been one of the most injured pitchers in the last few years, he still has a semi-bright future ahead of him. This week was bad news for veterans Tom Glavine, Curt Schilling, and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez. All of which have suffered from different injuries that have either kept them limited from action or out completely this year. All are considering retirement, though Glavine has the highest current chance of returning next year. There is no real incentive for Glavine to return as he currently has millions of dollars and over 300 career wins. He's surely a Hall O' Famer and it doesn't look like the Braves have a chance of winning a playoff spot next year.
I went to a Nashville Sounds game this past Friday night and watched as Ray King of the Round Rock Express got the save against the Nashville Sounds. It was only King's 5th save of the season, but it was still pretty cool. He appeared to be a little overweight, but still put the young kids in their place at this AAA game. This game also saw Jay Gibbons get into the on deck circle in the bottom of the 8th until the hitter ahead of him made the 3rd in the inning. Gibbons never entered the game after that. Other past Major Leaguers included J.R. Towles and Tony Gwynn (Jr.) who each had multi-hit games.