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  • Writer's pictureEvan Woods

Who Takes Home the Hardware? NL MVP 2020

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

As this bizarre, shortened MLB season comes to a close, fans are beginning to look forward to the crowning of the 2020 MVPs. Since the American League MVP race is all over the place, I'll avoid any speculation there. Rather, I'd like to touch on who I believe should be the MVP of the National League, as it is a bit more clear. A case could be made for many players, but for the sake of this article I’ll put the spotlight on the front runners: Mookie Betts, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Freddie Freeman. Appropriately, these players represent the top three teams in the NL. And don’t come at me with that Juan Soto BS - I can’t hear you from the bottom of the division. It's the job of the Baseball Writers Association of America to decide the MVP by determining which player has contributed the most to a winning team’s success, and the choice is obvious: Freddie Freeman. Let me explain.

Freeman has been a stalwart in the line-up of the Braves, who have been devastated by injuries throughout the season. Ronald Acuña Jr. missed two weeks, Ozzie Albies missed four weeks, Mike Soroka missed the entire season due to a blown achilles, Cole Hamels’ arm falls off every time he throws a baseball, and Felix Hernandez just took the money and ran. In a 60-game season, these kinds of absences are amplified and would derail any team with playoff aspirations. However, despite all of that adversity, Freeman lead his team to a third straight NL East title while playing in every single game - even after a rough bout with COVID before the beginning of the season. The old saying rings true: The best ability is availability – looking at you, Soto. Without Freddie’s consistently elite performance, the Braves would have no shot of making the playoffs.

I get it - my argument is completely objective and biased to this point. But before you jump the gun, let’s look at the stats.¹ Freeman finished second in the NL with a batting average of .341, while Betts hit .292 , and Tatis Jr. batted an unimpressive .277. Let’s continue. Again, Freeman finished second in the NL with 53 RBI, trailed by Tatis Jr. with 45 and Betts with 39. Sure, both Tatis Jr. and Betts each had at least 3 more homers than Freeman, but having the advantage in two of the three Triple Crown categories bodes well for Freddie.² Freeman also finished the season in the top 4 in RBI, hits, doubles, runs, and walks. Last person to ever do that? Lou Gehrig. Maybe you've heard of him.

Another significant, yet complicated statistic that is critical in considering the next MVP is Wins Above Replacement (WAR).³ In layman’s terms, WAR describes how essential a player is to the success of their team, as it quantifies a player's value in terms of wins. There are many different ways it can be calculated, but to keep it simple, I'll refer to ESPN's calculation of offensive WAR.⁴ Continuing the trend, Freeman finished tied for the highest WAR in the NL at 2.9, trailed by Tatis Jr. with a WAR of 2.4, and Betts with a WAR of 2.3. Now, this might not mean a lot to a casual fan, but some baseball aficionados would tell you that this statistic alone should determine who wins the MVP. Sure, there are more stats out there that would bolster my claims for Freeman, but for simplicity's sake, I'll focus on the points above.

I know I just threw a lot of numbers at you - and to some, they may be meaningless. Many fans base their MVP opinion on narrative rather than statistics, and that’s completely fine. Even so, Freddie Freeman should still be the NL MVP based on his ability to carry an injury plagued team to the playoffs, with one of the best records in the NL. Furthermore, if the money-chasing Betts or the macaroni-haired Tatis Jr. didn’t play at all this season, their teams realistically could have still made the playoffs with all of the consistently healthy star power on each of their rosters. Without Freeman, the already decimated Braves would be sitting near the bottom on the NL East standings (but not as low as the Nats). The MVP is supposed to be awarded to the player who is most instrumental to the success of a winning team, and I believe I have made my case. Your move, MLB.



¹ “2020 National League Stat Leaders.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures,

² Stats by Stats (@StatsbySTATS) "This year Freddie Freeman of the @Braves finished in the top 4 in the majors in runs, hits, doubles, RBI and walks. Since RBI became an official stat in 1920, the only other player to finish in the top 4 in the MLB in all those categories was Lou Gehrig in 1927." 9/27/2020, 8:42pm. Tweet.

³ “What Is a Wins Above Replacement (WAR)?: Glossary.” Major League Baseball,

⁴ “MLB Wins Above Replacement - 2020.” ESPN, ESPN Internet Ventures,

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