Fernando Tatis Jr.’s MVP chances dwindling amid Padres nosedive

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

For the majority of the season, it seemed all San Diego Padres’ shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. had to do was stay healthy, and he would win National League MVP. Now, however, that award race is far from decided.

Following baseball as a diehard fan is not for the faint of heart. It’s the ultimate marathon of a regular season. No other sport can compare to the length, grind, and demand of a 162-game season which Major League Baseball rolls out. You are guaranteed to have a roller coaster of emotions as even the best of teams lose around 60 games, and even the worst of teams win around that money.

The Padres and its players and fans have been tested in just about every way over this grueling baseball calendar. Heading into early summer, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Padres would be heading into the playoffs, be it as a wild card or perhaps even a division winner. Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. led the National League in most major categories, including home runs, stolen bases, OPS, and WAR.

Then, Tatis’ shoulder deteriorated, and he was forced to the injured list on multiple occasions. He has missed 32 of San Diego’s 149 games heading into Tuesday. Upon his return, the Padres felt it best to put him in the outfield to try and preserve his shoulder from further damage and keep his bat in the lineup.

Through mid-August, Tatis had seemingly all but wrapped up his MVP trophy. He just needed to stay healthy.

However, it turns out. It’s not that simple. First, on Tatis’ side, his performance over the last month has not been at an MVP level. Since August 18, he is batting .240 with a .784 OPS, five home runs, and a 117 wRC+ in 27 games. Those numbers are certainly above average but nowhere near the MVP-level clip he started 2021 with. The team is also 9-18 during that stretch, seeing their playoff chances go from likely to next to nonexistent.

Meanwhile, on the other coast, another baseball titan awoke. The Philadelphia Phillies’ Bryce Harper nearly single-handedly willed the Phillies back in playoff contention after being two games below .500 at the end of July. Since August 1, Harper has been on a different planet with a .340 average, 1.240 OPS, and 211 wRC+, while the Phillies are now just 4.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. Clearly, Tatis and Harper are going in opposite directions.

Will the MVP voters pick one over the other if one makes the postseason and the other doesn’t? That’s certainly something to consider.

The Most Valuable Player award should not be given to whoever finishes the hottest. However, looking at their entire season as a whole, Harper is surging ahead of Tatis in a few categories.

Bryce Harper 33 80 1.047 172 181 5.3 6.3
Fernando Tatis Jr. 39 92 .985 159 170 6.3 5.9

Harper leads Major League Baseball in OPS and OPS+. Tatis leads the majors in slugging and is tops in the National League in home runs.

A legitimate argument can be made for either one.

MLB.com just released a poll from experts, voting on who should be the AL and NL MVPs. For the first time in months, someone other than Tatis won the top spot for the National League. The experts picked Harper with 42 first-place votes, compared to Tatis’ 27.

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With the Padres in a nosedive to end the season and Tatis playing below his superstar level, his chances at bringing home the first MVP award for the Padres since 1996 are dwindling. If the season ended today, it looks like the award might go to Harper. The Padres’ 22-year-old phenom will need a strong finish and perhaps some cooling off from Harper if he is to win the award.

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