National League MVP goes to Andrew McCutchen, which makes sense

Molina carried a neck tattoo average of .500 into this photo of the World Series. - Jamie Squire

Yadier Molina might have been as good, but it's hard to say he was definitely better.

I couldn't really get worked up about this year's National League MVP vote. Part of that's because I was too busy getting worked up over the American League MVP vote. Part of it's because Andrew McCutchen is a pleasure to watch play baseball, and is not playing baseball in the same league as Mike Trout. But here's the reason I couldn't get worked up about it in the specific way some Cardinals fans (and people outside St. Louis, in the opposite direction) have been getting worked up:

I'm not at all sure Andrew McCutchen was better than Yadier Molina, but there's even less that makes me sure the opposite is true. I believe that most of the things we think of and argue about as intangibles—his ability to steady a young pitching staff, or whatever piece of catcher's defense is carved out of pitchers and umpires next—will eventually be made tangible, and at that point it could become thuddingly obvious to us that Molina was better, or at least much closer than the two-plus win gap both WARs leave us with.

But I just don't see two wins' worth of value lurking Planet-X-like in the shadows right now—everybody's orbit seems more or less predictable. It's one thing to say, choosing between a lumbering first baseman and a center fielder in 1980, that we can't measure the defensive gap between them but it's probably pretty big. It's another thing entirely to say that we've done a lot of work on defense, but it's probable that in addition to pitch-framing there's another thing that makes catchers among the most valuable assets in baseball.

It has to make up for McCutchen's offensive advantage; it has to make up for 130 additional plate appearances; it has to make up for the difference between running like a Molina and not running like a Molina. There are so many tangible gaps between the two that I can understand voting for him, but I can't understand being surprised or annoyed that other people mostly didn't.

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