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Voting for NL MVP will likely be tight

NL MVP battle too close to call

Since Barry Bonds won his fourth consecutive National League Most Valuable Player Award in 2004, the NL MVP has had different winners each year, with Albert Pujols outpointing Andruw Jones and Derrek Lee in 2005 and Ryan Howard edging Pujols last year.

Those campaigns were close, and this season figures to have another tight race and perhaps a fourth straight year with a different winner, as several players turned in MVP-caliber seasons.

This year's race should also be close in part because, while there are a number of deserving choices, no player figures to be a unanimous top pick of the voters.

The NL MVP will be announced today at 2 p.m. ET.

Colorado's Matt Holliday led the NL in batting average and RBIs for the NL champion Rockies, while Philadelphia's Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley put up MVP-worthy numbers for the NL East champions.

Although the Brewers missed the playoffs, Milwaukee's Prince Fielder led the league with 50 home runs, so he has a shot to become the franchise's first league MVP since Robin Yount won the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 1989.

The 32 voters on the NL Most Valuable Player Award committee were required to file their ballots, listing the top 10 candidates in order, before the playoffs began. Player are awarded 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for a second-place vote, etc.

Here's a rundown of the top candidates in alphabetical order:

Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers: Fielder led the league in home runs and finished tied for third with 119 RBIs. He also batted .288, slugged .618 and had a .395 on-base percentage, all figures that rank among the league leaders. Since Milwaukee moved to the National League in 1998, no Brewer has finished in the top 10 in MVP voting and just three (Carlos Lee, 17th in 2005, Richie Sexson, 12th in 2003 and Jeromy Burnitz, 19th in 1998) received votes. That will change this season with Fielder.

Matt Holliday, Colorado Rockies: Holliday helped the Rockies win the pennant by finishing first in two Triple Crown categories (batting .340 and driving in 137 runs). His 36 home runs were the fourth most in the NL behind Fielder, Philadelphia's Ryan Howard (47) and Cincinnati's Adam Dunn (40). Holliday also finished among the league leaders in runs (120, third place), hits (216, first) and total bases (386, first).

Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies: Rollins (.296, 34 HR, 94 RBIs, 41 SB) had more total bases (380) than any player in the league except Holliday (386), and Rollins played Gold Glove-caliber defense. No NL shortstop, however, has won the MVP Award since Cincinnati's Barry Larkin in 1995.

DARK HORSES
Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals: Since he made his Major League debut in 2001, Pujols has finished fourth, second, second, fourth, first and second, respectively, in NL MVP voting. The first baseman was among the league leaders in several statistical categories, including batting average, home runs, RBIs, OPS and slugging, but he faces an uphill campaign this season.

Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies: Rollins will likely garner more votes, and Utley's 28-game stint on the disabled list because of a broken hand undermined the All-Star second baseman's MVP campaign. Even so, Utley's numbers -- a .332 batting average, 22 homers, 103 RBIs and 300 total bases in just 122 games -- are impressive and certainly ballot-worthy.

HONORABLE MENTION
Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and David Wright, New York Mets; Howard, Philadelphia Phillies; Miguel Cabrera and Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins; Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves; Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres; Derrek Lee, Chicago Cubs.

Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["awards" ] }
{"content":["awards" ] }