The winners of the most valuable player awards were announced Thursday night, and Mike Trout and Clayton Kershaw, deservedly, won the prizes for each league as voted upon by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Anthony Rendon, the Nationals’ best position player last season, finished fifth in the NL voting, sandwiched between Jonathan Lucroy and Buster Posey. Fifth place may not seem like much but it is, undoubtedly, an accomplishment in Nationals history.
The results offered yet another chance to appreciate Rendon’s stellar season, and this is the biggest reason why: In the team’s 10-year history, Rendon’s fifth-place finish is the highest ever for any Nationals player.
Franchise cornerstone Ryan Zimmermann nearly hit .300 in 2009 — with 33 home runs and 106 RBI — and played Gold Glove defense, but he didn’t even crack the top 10. (He hasn’t finished any higher than 16th in his career.) Jayson Werth, the Nationals’ biggest free agent signing to date and former World Series champion, finished eighth in 2010 with the Phillies and 13th in 2013. Adam LaRoche’s career year in 2012 was recognized with sixth place, as was Alfonso Soriano’s 40-40 season in 2006. Ian Desmond finished 16th with his breakout 2012 campaign.
Rendon, in his first full major league season and only 24 years old, topped them all. He hit .287/.351/.473 with 21 home runs and 83 RBI. He played stellar defense, managing a change from second to third base with ease. He stole 17 bases and was an excellent base runner. According to FanGraphs.com’s version of WAR (wins above replacement), Rendon was worth 6.6 WAR, second only to Andrew McCutchen, who finished third in MVP voting behind Giancarlo Stanton.
The Nationals’ future, with Rendon manning third base and hitting in the heart of the lineup, is bright. He is under team control through the 2019 season. His bat and glove will form a key part of the Nationals for years to come. Those who voted for Rendon gave him mostly fifth- and sixth-place votes, but one voter handed him a third-place vote. Werth finished 18th in the voting, followed by Denard Span at 19th.
Thursday’s MVP results also showed a change in voter’s tendencies, a better appreciation of all-around play. Only five of the players in the top 15 in RBI in the NL placed in the top 10 in MVP voting. All-around play, rate stats and impact were rewarded instead of fickle numbers like RBI. Rendon didn’t have the home run or RBI totals of players like Adrian Gonzalez or Stanton, but he was acknowledged for his impact.