After tonight’s 3-for-3 performance, complete with a home run, a double, two runs, two RBI and two walks, Toronto Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion is having a historic year. I raved about it earlier, but it has only gotten better: Encarnacion’s walk-to-strikeout ratio (BB/K) coupled with his isolated power (ISO) are an insane combination. (In the context of the post-Steroid Era.)
Let’s do an almost-quick exercise. As of Sept. 3, here are Encarnacion’s stats…
Since 2005 (because Barry Bonds‘ last relevant year is 2004), 19 players have amassed 29 seasons with a BB/K ratio better than one and a .200+ ISO. Twenty-seven of 29 cracked the top 15 in Most Valuable Player voting, and the average MVP finish was 6th or 7th (6.3).
Let’s start with the BB/K ratio. Of the 29 seasons with at least a 1.00 BB/K, only 12 topped a 1.25 BB/K. Narrowing it down further, only nine topped 1.33 BB/K. Finally, only seven topped Encarnacion’s current BB/K — five of them were done by then-St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, and the other two by Chipper Jones and Nomar Garciaparra. Not bad company, if I dare say so.
Now, onto the ISO. Of the 29 seasons with at least a .200 ISO, only 13 topped a .250 ISO, and only eleven were higher than Encarnacion’s .267 ISO.
Still with me? I’ve yet to reach the best part yet. Fourteen of the 29 seasons notched a better BB/K ratio or ISO than Encarnacion’s. So here’s where it gets most interesting: Of those 14 seasons, how many seasons eclipsed both Encarnacion’s BB/K ratio and ISO?
Four. At the hands of whom, you ask? Albert Pujols, Albert Pujols, Albert Pujols and Albert Pujols. (Speaking of good company…)
And how did Pujols rank in the MVP voting those four years? First, first, first and second. (He finished second behind the Philadelphia Phillies’ Ryan Howard in 2006.)
During any other year when Miguel Cabrera wasn’t vying for back-to-back Triple Crowns and Chris Davis wasn’t blocking Cabrera’s path in the home run c ategory, Encarnacion would be more than just a MVP candidate; he could be the MVP candidate. His 36 home runs and 102 RBI trail only Cabrera and Davis in the American League (he trails Goldschmidt, of the National League, in RBI but has the edge in home runs), and his BB/K ratio is actually improving, with 22 walks to 10 strikeouts since Aug. 1.
Of course, there are endless factors to consider when voting for a MVP, such as defensive metrics and team success (a better batting average wouldn’t hurt, either), so the race certainly doesn’t come down to just BB/K and ISO. But Encarnacion’s plate discipline and power combination in 2013 is something that, aside from what Pujols has done, hasn’t been seen in a decade. That’s something to be commended, and I will be thoroughly disappointed if Encarnacion doesn’t finish a top-5 American League MVP candidate.