Unless you're a Washington Nationals fan and Anthony Rendon is your favorite player, you've probably missed how strong a season he is having. Rendon has set career highs in almost every offensive category and ranks first in the NL with a 6.4 WAR (per Fangraphs), thus making him a strong contender in an NL MVP race that has been tough to call at this point.
No disrespect to Giancarlo Stanton and his epic home runs, nor the hard work of Charlie Blackmon or the dream debut of Cody Bellinger, but Rendon is making a case that top conventional numbers aren't exactly necessary to add to one's overall value.
If he were to be named NL MVP, it thus wouldn't be that big a surprise.
Rendon at bat
Rendon, who turned 27 earlier this season, is having a career season in the hitting department. He is batting .301 with 23 home runs and 90 RBI. His OBP is .401 and his OPS .940, both career highs. Rendon has also set a new career best with 72 walks this year and his strikeout rate has dropped almost four points from 18.1% last year to 14.2% in 2017.
He is poised, locked in, and much more disciplined. Rendon is showing a new attitude up at bat and should be considered accordingly in the MVP race.
Rendon in the field
Rendon has also shown marked improvement in the field this year, looking like a solid defensive third baseman. He only has seven errors, a career best since he became an everyday player at his position, and his defensive WAR is 1.1. That may not seem like much, but Rendon also has eight defensive runs saved on the season.
As was said before, Rendon is very quietly having a great year for the Washington Nationals. At the very least, he serves strong consideration to be named the National League MVP.
The case for MVP
At this point, there are two men most likely to beat out Rendon for NL MVP. Those two are Giancarlo Stanton and Charlie Blackmon.
Stanton has a 6 WAR on the year and has done great work for the Miami Marlins. He is finally having a season that wasn't cut short by injury and has set new career highs with an MLB best 53 home runs and 112 RBI. Despite that, Stanton's Marlins are a sub-.500 team and seven games out of the second NL wild card spot. Given how recent MVPs have come from winning teams, with Mike Trout's win last year and Bryce Harper's in 2015 being exceptions, Stanton could fall just short depending on how voters see the landscape this season.
That argument would somewhat boost Blackmon's case, as his Colorado Rockies currently own the second NL wild card spot and he is leading the league with a .339 batting average to go with 33 home runs and 86 RBI, both career highs. Despite that, his numbers are boosted by a .390 batting average in his home stadium, the hitter-friendly Coors Field. Blackmon is batting .292 on the road, but that is enough of a difference that voters will surely take it into consideration.
Enter Rendon, whose Nationals lead the NL East by 17 games and look the strongest they have been since becoming a playoff contender. He has been cool, calm, and collected both at the plate and in the field and is just having a great overall season. Much like former Chicago White Sox great Nellie Fox did in 1959 when he hit .306 with just two home runs and didn't lead in any major offensive statistic, Rendon is proving that one doesn't need flashy and eye-popping numbers to be the MVP.
If voters can use that bit of history as a reference, Rendon's case for MVP immediately grows, so here's hoping it happens.