HYDE PARK– It’s like the baseball gods were trying to rain on our Championship parade. First, Donald Trump finesses his way into being President of The Untied States of America. Then, Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts edges out Joe Maddon for “Manager Of The Year” honors. Roberts deserved the nod, but Cubs fans who were hoping for a clean sweep on offseason hardware had to pump their brakes on that dream. Last night both Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks had to watch Max Scherzer have a champagne celebration of his own as he won the National League Cy Young award in a landslide racking up 25 of the 30 possible first place votes.
But now as I sit at the crib chilling with a Dogfish Head 60 min IPA, all is right again in Cubs Nation. Kris Bryant has been crowned MVP of the National League I find myself thinking, “#TheNatural is here to stay…”.
If you’ve been following #TheBIGS through social media then you know what it is. What started as a hashtag in late July very quickly began to materialize into reality. On their way to 103 regular season wins, Kris Bryant blossomed into every bit of the versatile superstar player that he was advertised to be. The Cubs have their star of stars in Bryant and there was never a time where he wasn’t the pound for pound best player on a roster full of special talent. Let’s take a look at how Kris Bryant became the most valuable player in the National League and “King Cub” on the North Side.
HE GOT GAME…
Power, versatility, and base running lead his superior skill set. Not only did “KB” hit for average, he hit for power and has learned to take what the pitchers gave him and execute at the plate (he only hit into 3 double plays all season). He runs the bases extremely well, beating out numerous double play balls this season and was great at taking the extra base in clutch situations. #TheNatural, as #TheBIGS donned him because of his ability to comfortably play any position on the field, offensively carried the load for the Cubs all year.
NUMBERS DON’T LIE…
In 3 years Kris Bryant has gone from top collegiate player in the nation , to National League “Rookie Of The Year”, to National League “Most Valuable Player”. It’s been a helluva ride for “KB” in his young career. He is the first player since Dustin Pedroia (07-08) to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive seasons. In his rookie season, Bryant hit .275 with 26 HR and 99 RBI with a .488 SLG% in 559 AB/151 games. He walked 77 times while striking out 199 times and made 17 errors at 3rd base.
Sophomore slump? Not for #17… In his second season, Bryant stepped into greatness, hitting .291 with 39 HR and 102 RBI with a .554 SLG% in 601 AB/154 games. He walked 74 times and cut down on his K’s, striking out 153 times and while also making less errors int he field(13 total errors-12 errors at 3rd base and 1 in left field).
THE “KB” EFFECT…
With the Cubs having such a dominant lineup on paper top to bottom, skipper Joe Maddon took a huge gamble in early April that ended up paying off big time. By batting Bryant 2nd, Anthony Rizzo 3rd, and Ben Zobrist 4th, it allowed the RBI wealth to be spread throughout the lineup as well as seeing guys grow through the process. (Rizzo 108 RBI, Bryant 102 RBI, Russell 95 RBI, Zobrist 76 RBI, Cubs catchers combined for 100 RBI). Bryant excelled in the 2 spot and with Rizzo coming right behind him, it has that feel of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder for the Detroit Tigers in 2012. (Cabrera hit .330 with 44 hr and 139 rbi and won the triple crown while Fielder hit behind him at .313 with 30 hr and 108 rbi)
NOT QUITE UNANIMOUS…YET
Kris Bryant was right on the doorstep of some elite company. Check out his 2016 MVP numbers compared to the last 4 unanimous MVP’s. With the leaps that Kris Bryant seems to make on a yearly basis, it makes you wonder, is a unanimous MVP in his future?
Kris Bryant – .292 39 hr 102 rbi .554 SLG %
Bryce Harper – .330 42 hr 99 rbi .649 SLG%
Albert Pujols – .327 47 hr 135 rbi .658 SLG%
Barry Bonds – .370 46 hr 110 rbi .799 SLG%
Jeff Bagwell – .368 39 hr 116 rbi .750 SLG%
THE OTHER GUYS…
Kris Bryant has long been the favorite to be crowned King of the National League…but who were those other guys?
Daniel Murphy 2B (Washington Nationals) .347 avg 25 HR 104 RBI. Last years MVP Bryce Harper was just about average this season so Murphy’s impact at the plate was huge in leading the Nats to the division title. His defense could have been much better but he was surely KB’s biggest challenge to the MVP crown.
Corey Seager SS (LA Dodgers) .308 avg 26 HR 72 RBI. The 2016 NL Rookie of the Year was Mr. Everything for the NL West champion Dodgers. His sound defense up the middle and his durability compliment his outstanding bat.
KB #TheNatural raised his batting average, HR total, RBI count and slugging % in his sophomore season (John L. Alexander/The BIGS Visuals)
#THENATURAL IS HERE TO STAY…
To say “KB” put the Cubs on his back this year would be an understatement. We all know the pressure the Cubs had on them to finally bring a Championship home to the Friendly Confines after last years impressive 97 win season. He exceeded expectations in his second year so just imagine how much growth and development there will be over the next couple of years. He brings unmatched value with a team first attitude, the ability to play everyday/all over the field and being able to adapt and excel in that 2 spot.
The North Siders have surely found their “King Cub” and with a future as bright as any star’s in the league, this MVP could be the first a few for #TheNatural.