Andrew McCutchen coasted to victory in the NL MVP race Thursday night, winning 28 of 30 possible first-place votes to easily top Paul Goldschmidt of the Diamondbacks and Yadier Molina of the Cardinals. Molina received the other two first-place votes, but Goldschmidt got 15 second-place votes to come in second.
Awards voters perform their tasks so badly, and mangle them so frequently, that it's hard to care much who they think the MVP ought to be -- if you understand what's happening on a Fangraphs player page, you're probably in better shape than the average awards voter. See, for example, what happened in the American League for the second year in a row. Not to be too smart-alecky about it, but MVP voting really is a joke.
This time, though, Andrew McCutchen really was the best player in the league, as most of us already knew. His hitting was much better than Molina's, and his defensive/positional value was significantly greater than Goldschmidt's. McCutchen's defense took a significant step forward this season, not only statistically, but visually, as he looked much more sure, particularly on balls hit to the wall. (The Pirates' aggressive approach to positioning probably helped with that, as did the presence of a world-class left fielder in Starling Marte.) McCutchen's baserunning was also a big asset.
McCutchen actually took a slight step backward with the bat in 2013, but only a slight one, going from .327/.400/.553 in 2012 to .317/.404/.508 this year as his home run total dropped from 31 to 21. Either way, though, he's great, and he more than made up for the difference with improvements in other aspects of the game.
You'll also hear a lot this week about how much McCutchen meant to the Pirates this season. Most of it will be true. It's impossible to imagine the Pirates having anywhere near the success they had in 2013 without him. But that's not what the award is supposed to measure. It's enough to say that he's the best player in the National League, and he's therefore a deserving winner.
A hat tip to the six voters who put Matt Carpenter second on their ballots, by the way -- Carpenter arguably had a better season than Molina, and that wasn't obvious if you just watched him every couple weeks the way most of us probably did. The voters didn't do so well in the American League, where there was not only Cabrera vs. Trout: Debacle Part II, but also Josh Donaldson having a quietly brilliant season that didn't even make him a finalist.