The streak was impressive, little-noticed and came to an end, but just barely. After three straight top-five finishes, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado was sixth in voting for the National League Most Valuable Player Award.
Four players ahead of Arenado helped their teams reach the postseason and all five ahead of him played on winning clubs. The Rockies were a 91-loss laggard, who fell apart in late June and avoided a last place finish in the NL West on the final day of the season. Arenado’s career-highs in batting average (.315), on-base percentage (.379) and OPS (.962) along with 41 homers and 118 RBI weren’t enough to buoy the pitching-challenged Rockies.
Thirty members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, two from each NL city, cast MVP votes. And the one third- and one fourth- place vote Arenado received came from members of the Colorado chapter. He was named on 27 of 30 ballots. Ballots are submitted before the start of the postseason. The system awards 14 points for first place, nine for second, eight for third on down to one for 10th.
Arenado finished third in the 2018 MVP voting, fourth in 2017 and fifth in 2016. He was also eighth in 2015, the first time he received any MVP votes.
His three top-five finishes are the most in the 27-year history of the Rockies’ franchise. Shorstop Troy Tulowitkzi is the only other Rockies player with two top-five MVP finishes, twice finishing fifth.
Larry Walker in the 1997 is the only Rockies’ player to win MVP honors, and Dante Bichette in 1995 and Matt Holliday in 2007 finished second in close votes, both losing out to shortstops.
Here is a glance at the top-five Rockies finishers in MVP voting.
1995: Right fielder Bichette, second. This was the Rockies’ third season and their first at Coors Field, where the effect on offense influenced the voting and has been something that continues to work against Rockies hitters but doesn’t seem to benefit their pitchers’ success there to the same degree. The players’ strike that ended the 1994 season in August and caused the World Series to be canceled lingered, and the 1995 season began in late April and ran for 144 games. Shortstop Barry Larkin of the NL-Central champion Reds, received 11 first-place votes and 281 points. Bichette’s total of 251 points included six first-place votes. Larkin hit .319 with an .886 OPS, 15 home runs, 66 RBI, 51 stolen bases and 5.9 WAR. Bichette hit .340 and led the league in both home runs (40) and RBI (128). He compiled a .984 OPS while leading the league in slugging percentage (.620), hits (197) and total bases (359) with a 1.2 WAR, diminished by his defense.
1996: Center fielder Ellis Burks, third.
1997: Right fielder Walker, first. He had an overwhelmingly great season for a third-place (83-79) team. Walker received 22 first-place votes and 359 points. Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza was second with three first-place votes and 263 points. Walker hit .366 and led the league in on-base percentage (.452), slugging percentage (.720) and OPS (1.172). He also led the league in home runs (49) and total bases (409), drove in 133 runs and stole 33 bases. In 664 plate appearances, Walker had nearly as many walks (78) as strikeouts (90), compiled a 9.8 WAR and won a Gold Glove.
2000: First baseman Todd Helton, fifth.
2007: Left fielder Holliday finished second to Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who had 16 first-place votes and 353 points. Holliday received 11 first-place votes and 336 points. Rollins hit .296 with an .875 OPS, 30 home runs, 94 RBI and 41 stolen bases and won a Gold Glove. Rollins played all 162 games, led the NL with 139 runs scored and 20 triples. Holliday won the batting title with a .340 average, hit 36 home runs with a league-leading 137 RBI, compiled a 1.012 OPS and led the league in hits (215) and doubles (50). The Phillies won the NL East. The Rockies beat the Padres in a one-game playoff to reach the postseason as the wild-card team.
2009: Tulowitzki, fifth.
2010: Tulowitzki, fifth.
2013: Outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, third.
2016: Arenado, fifth.
2017: Arenado, fourth.
2018: Arenado, third.