After a hot start to the 2022 season, it seemed that St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado was on his way to capturing his first career Most Valuable Player Award. Despite five straight seasons of top ten finishes for the superstar third baseman, Arenado is still searching for the illustrious award. He faces competition from some of the game's best players, Padres third baseman Manny Machado, Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts, and a familiar face, his teammate Paul Goldschmidt.
Goldschmidt's super star status has been overlooked for his entire career, from Arizona to St. Louis. Despite Goldy being one of baseball's most consistent stars, few fans point to him as a future Hall of Famer, despite his overall career excellence. Goldschmidt's career consists of two runner ups in the Most Valuable Player voting, finishing behind Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen in 2013 and Nationals Outfielder Bryce Harper, who won the award unanimously after a historic season. Like Arenado, Goldschmidt is aiming to win his first Most Valuable Player Award in his career.
Despite a slow start to 2022, including the first eleven games of the season where he slashed 146/271/195 with zero HRS and only one RBI, Goldy ranks among the National League's best in many categories. Goldschmidt batting average of .338 ranks second, trailing only Machado's .365. He ranks second in hits to Machado with 53 to Manny's 58, and only trails New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso in runs batted in, with 33 to Alonso's 40.
For Goldy to win his first career MVP award, it is clear that he will have to surpass Manny Machado in many statistics. Machado currently leads the NL in OPS, hits, batting average, WRC+, OPS, wins above replacement, and park adjusted OPS+. Machado is in a similar stage of his career as Arenado and Goldschmidt; he has proved that he is a superstar. player and is in search of winning the MVP award. In 2022, Machado has the hitting stats to back it up, along with being an all world defender at third base and keeping the Padres in the playoff race in an ultra competitive NL West without their arguable best player, a dynamic superstar shortstop in Fernando Tatis Jr. Machado certainly has the lead in the race currently, but there is a long way to go in the Major League Baseball season. Let's see if there is some potential for regression for Machado and if Goldy can get even more hot with the bat.
For both Goldschmidt and Machado, their expected numbers are significantly lower than their actual numbers. While it is unwise to say that both of these players are getting "lucky", as their quality of contact is still much higher than the league average, it can be expected that both of these players will eventually come down to Earth. Both of their weighted on base averages are over 55 points higher than their expected, which shows that potential regression may be coming. A certainty in Machado's favor is that his defense will not regress, as he has played a hall of fame caliber third base for his entire career. Goldy has been passable at first base for his career, but does not compare to Machado at third, a more valuable position. For Goldy to win his first career MVP, he will have to continue his hot stretch of his last fifteen games, including a 438/458/859 slash line with 5 HRS and a ridiculous 22 runs batted in.
As many know, the Major League Baseball season is a 162 game marathon, meaning that this race is no where close to being over and that many other candidates could emerge. By the end of the season, Nolan Arenado could end up being the leading Cardinal candidate. Superstar outfielders such as Atlanta's Ronald Acuña Jr, Washington's Juan Soto, or the reigning MVP Bryce Harper could win the award. The Cardinals are fortunate to roster two of the leading candidates and the fanbase should not take Goldy's hot stretch for granted, as this could be the beginning of a MVP campaign for the future hall of fame first baseman.