Javy Baez had an absolutely fantastic 2018 campaign, but he is not the National League MVP.
Brewers star Christian Yelich was deemed the best player in the Senior Circuit, receiving 29 of the 30 first-place votes. Baez finished second with no first-place votes. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado finished third after leading the NL in homers (38) and posting a .935 OPS for a Colorado team that lost out on the division in Game 163 and then beat the Cubs in the NL Wild-Card Game.
It may not be popular with Cubs fans who love them some Javy, but it’s easy to see why Yelich will take home the highest yearly honor.
The 26-year-old outfielder enjoyed a special season, leading the league in OPS (1.000), batting average (.326) and WAR (7.6 — FanGraphs), finishing 1.3 WAR above the next highest guy (Anthony Rendon — 6.3). For reference, Baez notched a 5.3 WAR.
Baez led the NL in RBI (111) and was among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category while also filling a huge role for the Cubs playing very good defense all over the infield (104 games at second base, 65 at shortstop, 22 at third base and even played an out at first base).
It’s easy to say Baez was the Cubs’ most important and valuable player in 2018 and there’s no way they win 95 games or maintain a share of first place through Game 162 without his contributions.
But the Brewers surged past the Cubs in the NL Central in large part because of Yelich, who slashed .372/.451/.762 (1.213 OPS) from July 14 on, driving in 68 runs and hitting 25 homers in only 68 games. He was even hotter over the last two weeks of the season — posting a .488/.621/1.116 slash line (1.737 OPS) while Milwaukee went 11-2 and caught the Cubs from behind.
With both players under contract through at least the 2021 season in the same division, it’ll be interesting to see if they can build off their breakout campaigns and continue to battle against each other for future NL MVP voting.