FOXSportsSouth.com checks in with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray to get the latest on the Braves.
FOX SPORTS SOUTH: Let's talk award candidates. First off, Freddie Freeman is deservedly getting MVP attention amid a season in which he's been consistently strong. But why don't you think he's getting mentioned among the favorites?
CC: I think part of it is the 'it's not a major market' thing.
His numbers are great but they're not super sexy. He's not hitting .330, he doesn't have 30 homers, he doesn't have 120 RBI. He has very good, very consistent, very solid, excellent numbers that rank him in the top 12 in all those categories in the National League, but he doesn't have that one number that really makes you go 'Wow.'
I think all of us are guilty of forgetting that he was on the disabled list for a couple of weeks, which certainly carved into his numbers with the oblique problem. We've seen him play everyday first place with the runs that he's saved with his defensive work.
All of those things sort of add up (to an MVP candidate), for those of us who cover the team on a daily basis ... and he's playing on a first-place team and that's the part that's often overlooked. It's one thing to have big numbers on a bad club, but are we going for the player of the year or the guy that's most valuable to to a team or to a league.
I think the entire award process when it comes to the MVP is such a nebulous, open-ended, subject to interpretation award that it creates the kind of arguments that we have and have had in baseball, especially in the American League last year with Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera.
Freddie has been consistent, he's hit against lefties, he's hit with runners in scoring position, he's gotten the big hits, he's made the big plays defensively, he has been the big anchor in this lineup hitting third or fourth almost the entire season. To me those are the kinds of things an MVP-caliber hitter does for you. You want me him up with the game on the line against the other team's best pitcher, left-handed, right-handed, starter or closer.
Freddie Freeman, in my opinion, has certainly demonstrated those qualities for the Braves.
FSS: There's not a lot of flash to Freeman's stat line, but when it comes to clutch hitting, few do it better. He's second in the majors with RISP, higher than Miguel Cabrera. Shouldn't clutch matter more?
CC: I think it's all part of the mixture.
I don't get a vote anyway and I don't want to make it sound like I'm taking pot-shots at people who vote and make these decisions but I think that's the disadvantage for national writers or writers who see a player twice or five times in a season.
You just don't have enough opportunities to really gauge, value and evaluate a guy's contributions to a ball club. With all due respect to the national writers, they pop in, they pop out, they see the Braves two or three teams, they watch the highlight shows and at the end of the year they look at the numbers and they start comparing Freddie Freeman to Paul Goldschmidt or Freddie Freeman to Ike Davis or Freddie Freeman to Matt Carpenter or whoever and that's how they come about making these decisions.
Then you get into all the new-fangled Wins Above Replacement stats or VORP and all those crazy things ... and look, like I said before, it's simple: he's the best hitter, he's the best clutch hitter, he's the best hitter against left-handed pitching in run-scoring situations on the best team in the National League. I would think that would make someone the most valuable player on his team if not for an entire league.
Clutch counts for something. Team performance counts for something and if he's not having the year he's having, the Braves aren't up by this much in the division.
FSS: As far as Craig Kimbrel, you could make the case he's the most dominant player in baseball right now. But no closer has won the Cy Young since Eric Gagne in 2003. The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw seems to be the favorite. Make your case for Kimbrel?
CC: A relief pitcher has won the Cy Young Award nine times. Usually when a closer or a relief pitcher wins the Cy Young, it's in a season when a starting pitcher hasn't had a dominant year in wins, ERA, strikeouts, opposing batting average, etc., etc.
Over in the American League, the Tigers' Max Scherzer is 19-2, he's pitching for a first-place team. All the things that we described with Freddie Freeman are going to make Scherzer the front-runner in the American League.
You look at Clayton Kershaw's record and with all due respect, he's probably the best starting pitcher in the National League. But he has eight losses. He's won only 13 games. He's playing for a Dodgers team that doesn't score many runs for him.
I think the case for Craig Kimbrel is simple: he impacts the game in a way that's dramatic. He impacts the game twice as often as Clayton Kershaw does. He's saved 46 games now. He's saved 36 games in a row, which is a team record. He's striking out nearly a guy an inning again.
He's overpowering. When he comes into the game, the game is over. With the way the game is being played now, you work the game from the ninth inning forward and not the first inning backward and knowing that the Braves have a distinct advantage over just about everybody else in baseball with Craig Kimbrel, I think is worth of consideration.
No, he's not a starter. No, he's not going to pitch as many games as Clayton Kershaw. But he's going to impact twice as many games and consequently be a bigger weapon in a short series than a starting pitcher ever can or will be.
I've stated his case on the air a couple of times. He's overpowering, he's on an incredible run and this is a season when there isn't a dominating National League guy that you say 'Yeah, he's got to be the front runner.' I think you can make the claim about Kershaw, you can make the claim about Adam Wainwright, Matt Harvey, Jose Fernandez, there are several guys that have had compelling seasons, but I don't know that anybody has had a season that has been as dominant as Craig Kimbrel's has been.
The Cy Young Award doesn't say it goes to the best starting pitcher. It says it goes to the best pitcher and Craig Kimbrel, in my opinion, is that guy.