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November 21, 2015 [LINK / comment]

Unanimous: Bryce Harper is the NL MVP!

By a unanimous vote (30), Bryce Harper was selected by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) as the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player. Harper was the first Washington player to be so honored since 1925. He is also the youngest player ever to be elected unanimously. Most Nationals fans expected him to win, since he was clearly the most likely candidate, but the overwhelming "mandate" from the experts was a pleasant surprise.

The Washington Post devoted almost the entire front page of the sports section to a painting of Bryce Harper, including a day-to-day chart showing Harpers on-base-plus-slugging percentage compared to the three other Nationals' players who hit decently this year: Yunel Escobar, Ryan Zimmerman, and Clint Robinson. Harper vastly outshown his team mates. The Post produced this online video summarizing what Harper accomplished. Here are the numbers that made Harper's selection almost a no-brainer:

The only reason to question Harper being the MVP is that there is a tradition of favoritism to players whose teams make it into the postseason. But neither Paul Goldschmidt (D-Backs) nor Joey Votto (Reds) played for postseason-qualifying teams this year, so that was that.

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper, in some of his finer moments that I had the good fortune to see. Clockwise from top left: home run #31 on August 21, 2015; at bat on September 22, 2013; at Nats Fest in D.C. on January 26, 2013; sliding into second on September 28, 2014*; in left field on August 15, 2013.
* the same day that Jordan Zimmermann threw a no-hitter!

It was nice to hear that Harper expressed a hope to make Washington his career home, which will of course depend on whether the Lerner family is willing to fork over the megabucks it will take to keep him here. For a player with his amazing early accomplishments and enormous future potential, that could be one of the biggest baseball contracts ever.

I confess to being hesitant about believing in the hype surrounding Harper, but there is no doubt about it: He is for real!

Congratulations, Bryce! We look forward to many more years with you playing in D.C.!

Nationals annual records

Since Bryce Harper set so many records this year, I thought it would be appropriate to update the Washington Nationals page, which now includes a day-to-day graph of the team's winning percentage for the 2015 season, along with those for the previous ten years. As you can plainly see, from mid-July until late August it was just horrible:

Nats winning percentages 2015

That page also features the team's individual batting and pitching annual records going back to their inaugural year of 2005. I have only been keeping that data systematically for the last few years, so I had to refer to the Nationals' official Web site for the older numbers. Here is a slightly "squeezed" version of that table:

Washington Nationals:
Best batting and pitching annual records
Year Batting average Home runs RBIs ERA Wins Strikeouts
2005 Nick Johnson .289 Jose Guillen 24 Jose Guillen 76 John Patterson 3.13 Livan Hernandez 15 John Patterson 185
2006 Nick Johnson .290 Alfonso Soriano 46 Ryan Zimmerman 110 Ramon Ortiz 5.57 Ramon Ortiz 11 Ramon Ortiz 104
2007 Dmitri Young .320 Ryan Zimmerman 24 Ryan Zimmerman 91 Matt Chico 4.63 John Rauch 8 Matt Chico 94
2008 Cristian Guzman .316 R. Zimm. & L. Mill. 14 Lastings Milledge 61 John Lannan 3.91 Tim Redding 10 Tim Redding 120
2009 Ryan Zimmerman .292 Adam Dunn 38 Ryan Zimmerman 106 John Lannan 3.88 John Lannan 9 Jordan Zimmermann 92
2010 Ryan Zimmerman .307 Adam Dunn 38 Michael Morse 103 Livan Hernandez 3.66 Tyler Clippard 11 Livan Hernandez 114
2011 Michael Morse .303 Michael Morse 31 Michael Morse 95 Jordan Zimmermann 3.18 John Lannan 10 Jordan Zimmermann 124
2012 Ian Desmond .292 Adam LaRoche 33 Adam LaRoche 100 Gio Gonzalez 2.89 Gio Gonzalez 21 Gio Gonzalez 207
2013 Jayson Werth .318 Ryan Zimmerman 26 Jayson Werth 82 Stephen Strasburg 3.00 Jordan Zimmermann 19 Gio Gonzalez 192
2014 Denard Span .302 Adam LaRoche 26 Adam LaRoche 92 Doug Fister 2.41 Doug Fister 16 Stephen Strasburg 242
2015 Bryce Harper .330 Bryce Harper 42 Bryce Harper 99 Max Scherzer 2.79 Max Scherzer 14 Max Scherzer 276


Schu will return

After being let go, along with the rest of the Nats coaching staff, Rick Schu has been rehired as the Nationals' hitting coach. It was new manager Dusty Baker's call, evidently. See the Washington Post

Josh Donaldson wins AL MVP

On the American League side, Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays was chosen as Most Valuable Player. It wasn't unanimous, as with Bryce Harper, but he did receive 23 first-place votes and seven second-place votes from the 30 BBWAA voters. Mike Trout of the L.A. Angels came in second place. The last Blue Jay MVP was George Bell, in 1987. Donaldson batted .297, hit 41 homers, and had 123 RBIs. See Coincidentally, I saw Donaldson play in Toronto last July:

Josh Donaldson

Josh Donaldson after drawing a walk in a game at Rogers Centre on July 19, when the Blue Jays beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-0.

Best rookies: Bryant & Correa

The Chicago Cubs' Kris Bryant and the Houston Astros' shorstop Carlos Correa were awarded the 2015 Rookie of the Year awards, and few people argued. Bryant hit 26 home runs, batted in 99 runs, and had a batting average of .275. (He struck out 199 times, however, the most in the National League.) Correa hit 22 home runs, with 68 RBI and a batting average of .279, managing to outshine the Astros' other young star, Jose Altuve. See

Football and "football" news...

On November 6, the Toronto Argonauts played their final game in the Rogers Centre, beating the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 21-11. Toronto failed to make the Canadian Football League playoffs, going 10-8 for the season. Because the Blue Jays made it to the MLB playoffs, the Argonauts were obliged to host their October home games in Ottawa. See Next year the Argonauts will play their home games in BMO Stadium, built primarily for soccer. It is located about a mile to the west, on the north edge of where Exhibition Stadium used to be. I saw it while driving into Toronto last July. Accordingly, I have updated the text on the Rogers Centre page.

When I updated those diagrams in late September, I should have mentioned that the Buffalo Bills are no longer playing any of their "home" games in that stadium. The decision was announced in December 2014; see the CBC. The Bills only won one of the six games they played in Toronto since 2008, and the lack of fan enthusiasm seems to have hurt the team's performance. The Bills plan to build a new stadium to replace Ralph Wilson Stadium, one of the oldest NFL venues.

In Washington, meanwhile, the D.C. Government has undertaken eminent domain procedures to acquire land to be used for the future D.C. United soccer stadium. It will be located about three blocks southwest of Nationals Park in the Buzzards Point area of Washington. See the Washington Post. D.C. United had an excellent regular season, but once again fell flat in the playoffs, losing to the New York Red Bulls on November 8.

Posted (or last updated or commented upon): 22 Nov 2015, 12: 47 AM

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