CINCINNATI -- Joey Votto did not finish his tremendous 2010 season at the top of any Triple Crown categories. And when the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove Awards were revealed last week, the Reds first baseman's name was not listed. With those points well taken, it would still be viewed as an upset if Votto wasn't the winner of the National League's Most Valuable Player Award. The balloting, filed at the end of the regular season, will be announced at 2 p.m. ET on Monday. More than likely, Votto is vying with Cardinals superstar and fellow first baseman Albert Pujols, as well as Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez. Monday should be Votto's day to block Pujols from winning his third consecutive MVP trophy, even though all three contending players had seasons worthy of recognition for flirting with the Triple Crown.
Then, why should the hardware belong to Votto? For starters, Votto is the only one of the three players that helped get his team into the playoffs, and that can't be discounted. Cincinnati won the NL Central by five games over Pujols' second-place St. Louis club. The 27-year-old Votto was second in the NL with a .324 average and was third in both home runs, with 37, and RBIs, with 113. He was tied for fourth with 106 runs scored, was sixth with 177 hits and fifth with 91 walks. Gonzalez led the NL with a .336 average and 197 hits. Pujols led with 42 homers, 118 RBIs and 115 runs. Pujols also received the Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award nods over Votto. Those awards were picked by NL managers and coaches that often pick based on reputation and their subjective eye test. The MVP is voted on by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America who tend to focus more on empirical data beyond the basic numbers. And this is where Votto could pull ahead. Votto stood at top of the league in key categories like his .600 slugging percentage, a .424 on-base percentage and obviously, on-base plus slugging (OPS) with 1.024. Although he played 81 games at the bandbox confines of Great American Ball Park, Votto had one more homer on the road (19) than at home (18). His .349 average on the road led the NL, as did his RBI ratio of one-per-every 4.8 at-bats and a .347 average vs. right-handed pitching. He was second in the NL, just ahead of Gonzalez and Pujols, with a .369 average with runners in scoring position. Votto finished among the top three in 11 offensive statistical categories. Gonzalez falls short with the consistency test, since 26 of his 34 homers came at Coors Field, and his batting average was also 91 points higher at home than on the road. It was likely tougher for voters to find a lot of fault with Pujols' numbers, except that his 2010 season didn't rival the extraordinarily high offensive standards he's set over his career. His .312 average was only sixth in the NL. Again, it's worth mentioning that Votto's Reds bested Pujols' Cardinals in the standings and reached the postseason. This has been Votto's first flirtation with MVP consideration. "It's flattering. I'm proud of it," Votto said in late September. "If people end up thinking that way about me, it will be appreciative." It likely won't be his last.