Votto?s Cincinnati Reds hold a six-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central with six days left in the season. One Cincinnati win or one St. Louis loss means Votto heads to the postseason.
The Reds? first baseman has had the best season of his career, one that should propel his team to its first playoff game since 1995.
Votto?s 1.033 OPS leads the NL, his .326 average and 37 home runs are both second and his 111 RBIs are third.
There?s no question that Votto has been the best player on the best team in the NL Central, but is he the league?s most valuable player? I think not.
That honor belongs to Votto?s division rival, Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols.
Even though the Reds are going to beat out the Cardinals in the Central, Pujols? 2010 season is more impressive than Votto?s.
Pujols leads the NL with 42 homers, 117 RBIs and 113 runs. His 1.015 OPS and 99 walks are second and his .313 average is fourth. Pujols has struck out just 75 times in 575 at-bats, while Votto has struck out 119 times in 534 at-bats.
The MVP Award should not necessarily go to a player on a playoff team, and Pujols is the prime example of this. In 2006, Pujols? Cardinals won the World Series, but he finished second in MVP voting to Philadelphia?s Ryan Howard, who didn?t lead his team to the playoffs.
Quite simply, the league?s MVP is just that: the most valuable player.
Pujols, for all intents and purposes, is far more valuable to his team — a contending team, at that — than Votto is to the Reds. Other than Matt Holliday, Pujols hits in the middle of a lineup filled with unproven youngsters and aging veterans. Votto is sandwiched in between All-Stars Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen.
While Cincinnati ranks sixth in the majors in runs, third in team OPS, fifth in average and fourth in homers, St. Louis ranks 14th, 14th, 10th and 15th, respectively.
Out of four composite MLB player rankings on ESPN.com, Pujols beats Votto in three.
It?s not Pujols? fault that his team isn?t going to win the NL Central — it?s his team?s fault. That should not hold him back from winning his fourth NL MVP Award.