Examining Yoenis Cespedes’ MVP candidacy in the National League
Everyday brings new heroism to the name Yoenis Cespedes. He never ceases to amaze, day-after-day. His own energy only seems to increase with each passing moment, and his energy has unquestionably infiltrated the Mets clubhouse in the 40 days he has been with the club.
He did it again on Tuesday night in Washington. With the Mets trailing 7-3 with two outs in the seventh, Cespedes laced a double into the left field corner to clear the bases and pull the Mets back within a run, a deficit they would soon completely overcome thanks to a meltdown from the Nationals bullpen.
For Cespedes, he extended his hitting streak to seven games, but that doesn’t even tell the story of those seven games. He has 14 hits, ten of which are for extra-bases, five of those being home runs. He has three doubles and two triples with 11 RBI and 12 runs scored during that span.
Overall, Cespedes has hit .307/.354/.660 with nine doubles, three triples, 13 home runs and 34 RBI in 164 plate appearances in 35 games since joining the Mets on August 1.
Combined with the Tigers and the Mets, Cespedes has hit .297/.332/.880 with 37 doubles, five triples, 31 home runs and 95 RBI, easily his best season to date.
As remarkable as those numbers are, they don’t even begin to quantify the significance Cespedes has had on the Mets since his arrival.
He has single-handedly transformed the Mets roster with his presence. Prior to August 1, the Mets were averaging 3.46 runs per game, a notch below league average. But since his arrival, the Mets have averaged about 6.2 runs per game, with the Mets going 24-11 during that span.
Entering play on August 1, the Mets were two games behind the Nationals. The Mets open play on September 9 with a six game lead – they’ve gained eight games on the Nationals since Cespedes joined the Mets.
For his efforts, Cespedes might easily be the team’s MVP for 2015 despite Jeurys Familia’s lights out performance from start to finish and Curtis Granderson’s consistency all year long as well.
But are his efforts worthy enough for consideration in the National League MVP race? Subjectively, he might.
The most obvious choice, and probably the favorite for the award, is Bryce Harper, who by any standard has had a monumental season for Washington. Without Harper, it’s likely these three games have little, if any, meaning to the Nationals this month.
Of course, against the team that should matter most to Washington – the Mets – he’s hit just .214/.333/.304 with three extra-base hits and 18 strikeouts in 66 plate appearances over the first 15 games against them this season. And if the MVP Award has any subjectiveness to it, that should be taken into consideration when assigning candidacy to such an award.
In terms of his significance and value to the Mets remarkable run in the second half of the 2015 season, Cespedes certainly will be viewed as a candidate. He’s posted 1.7 bWAR, and again, the Mets have almost doubled their daily output of runs scored and are 24-11 since he joined the club. As poorly as the Nationals have played in the second half, the Mets are not where they are without Cespedes, and there is no debating that.
The problem for Cespedes is he has only played in 35 games for the Mets, whereas Harper and other candidates such as Andrew McCutchen and Anthony Rizzo have been consistent forces with their teams all year long.
Here’s a look at three mid-season interleague deals over the years which had an impact on the league’s MVP races:
- In 1984, Rick Sutcliffe was traded from the Indians to the Cubs mid-year after going 4-5 with a 5.15 ERA in his first 15 starts. He went on to go 16-1 with a 2.69 ERA in 20 starts with the Cubs, leading Chicago to the National League East crown. But he only finished fourth in the National League MVP race.
- In 2008, the Angels acquired Mark Teixeira from the Braves ahead of the trade deadline, and he had a monster finish with Anaheim, hitting .258 with 13 home runs and 43 RBI in 54 games down the stretch. But that performance was only good for 20th in the American League MVP race that season.
- In 2008, Manny Ramirez was traded from the Red Sox to the Dodgers at the trade deadline. In 53 games for Los Angeles, Ramirez hit .396 with 17 home runs and 53 RBI. But he only finished fourth in the National League MVP race that season.
This doesn’t mean Cespedes doesn’t have a shot, and he most certainly should receive significant consideration for the award. But if history is any indication, Cespedes may only finish as a close runner-up.
But consider these second half marks with the Mets for Cespedes, keeping in mind he only came to the National League on August 1.
But in fewer games, Cespedes’ 13 second half home runs with the Mets is tied for second in the National League with Rizzo, Joey Votto, and Nolan Arenado. His 34 RBI are good for sixth in the National League in the second half. He has 176 weighted runs created (wRC+), which the second most in the National League behind Joey Votto, but in 35 second half games compared to Votto’s 50 games.
Right now, there may not be a better and more valuable player in baseball than Cespedes. And if this legendary performance continues through October 4, the voters will be faced with a potential history-making decision about Cespedes.