The two names that grab all the headlines for National League MVP are Joey Votto and Albert Pujols. The two are not only fighting for their team's chances in the NL Central, but also for personal glory in the Triple Crown categories. Both are having monster seasons. Votto has emerged to superstar status while Pujols is doing what Pujols always does. You can forget about other candidates such as Torres for San Francisco (slick fielding still hasn't grabbed the throat of voters) and Ryan Zimmerman (plays for a losing team). The other candidate that has to be mentioned is Adrian Gonzalez.
One of the biggest obstacles in determining the value of the three first basemen is the complete incompatibility of Fangraphs and baseball-reference.com when it comes to glove ratings. Just for an example, Fangraphs rates Mark Teixeira as a -6 fielder, or worse than Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder or Garret Jones. That seems a little dubious to this writer. baseball-reference.com rates Teixeira's fielding at a plus 2. That's an 8 point swing in value between the two sites. How do you figure that? Do you split the difference? What do you do with it? The Fan tried to do a search on those who compare the two sites, and could find none (quickly at least). So maybe someone can help here.
But it is a big difference maker. For example, Fangraphs rates the three players in WAR thusly: Votto - 6.0; Pujol - 6.0 and Gonzalez at 4.8. That valuation clearly dumps Gonzalez out of the picture. But baseball-reference.com rates them thusly: Gonzalez - 5.7; Pujols - 5.6 and Votto at 4.8. The big difference is in the fielding category where B-R rates Gonzalez much higher than Fangraphs does.
One other thing that should play into voters minds is where Gonzalez plays half of his games. His home park is not friendly to hitters and it clearly shows in the splits. Here are the home/away splits for the three players:
Home: .306/.397/.528 15 homers
Away: .345/.446/.634 16 homers
Home: .352/.444/..648 17 homers
Away: .290/.387/..563 17 homers
Home: .280/.392/.463 10 homers
Away: .324/.388/.576 17 homers
It seems that Gonzalez pays a big penalty in where he plays at Petco Park for half his games. That brings his offensive values way down. It seems reasonable to state that if Votto played half his games in Cincinnati or St. Louis, he would come close to his away numbers.
Some other numbers for you:
wOBA: Votto - .440; Pujols - .423; Gonzalez - .385
Line Drive Percentage: Votto - .19.2%; Pujols - 18.2%; Gonzalez - 19.1%
BABIP: Votto - .361; Pujols - .305; Gonzalez - .323. (this would seem to suggest that Votto should slow down)
Another thing to consider is relative worth to the batting order. Pujols has Holliday behind him. Votto has Rolen (having a great season). Gonzalez has...uhh...nevermind. Managers haven't taken to intentionally walking Votto. He's only gotten 4 such free passes thus far. Albert Pujols has been given a lot of respect in that he has 31 intentional bases on balls. But Gonzalez is pretty close with 22 of his own. Joey Votto has hit 21.3% of his team's homers. Pujols has hit 27.4% of his team's homers. Gonzalez has hit 25.7% of his team's homers. Gonzalez is tied with Pujols in getting 13.1% of his team's hits. Votto has 12.7% of his team's hits.
Not doubt that all three players are having fantastic seasons and are a major part of their team's run for the playoffs. If you go completely by Fangraphs, Votto and Pujols are the only two viable candidates. But if you look at baseball-reference.com, Adrian Gonzalez is right in the mix.