Joey Votto won the N.L. most valuable player award today from the BBWAA. Remarkably, he got 31 of the 32 first place votes, with Pujols getting the other and finishing second. The two had remarkably similar years, with Votto winning the Hank Aaron award as the league's best hitter and Pujols winning the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards for firstbasemen. Their stats were very similar, too. (The links are to their baseball-reference.com pages.)
I think three things helped Votto win it, one, the Reds won the division. Take Pujols off the Cards and they still don't win. Take Votto off the Reds and no way the Reds win. That's the definition of "valuable." Two, Votto was terrific in the clutch. Predicting clutch hitting has mostly been debunked by the stat heads, but that doesn't mean particular clutch hitting shouldn't be rewarded. Can you say Votto is a clutch hitter? Not really. Can you say he came through in the clutch this year? Big time.
Finally, I think this was considered a "down" year for Pujols, even though he led the league in rbi for the first time in his career. After all he hit only .312, his worst season for batting average in his career.
The best thing to happen to Votto this year? Perhaps getting snubbed for the All-Star game. That made him a household name only half way through his historic season.
Mike Mussina, Hall of Famer
4 months ago