The early list for post-season awards is up and, as usual, some races are fairly easy to predict (barring anything crazy happening from now until the end of the season, I'd be surprised if either Rookie of the Year vote is even close). Some aren't so easy. But the early list of MVP candidates in the NL raises an important question: Can someone win an MVP award without hitting a single home run all season?
Let's examine the case of Austin's 26-year-old SS William Satou. By some measures, he seems to be a curious choice for MVP. He hasn't hit a single home run all season. He's driven in 34 runs. He's hitting a pretty good but not overwhelming .297. His OPS (on-base + slugging) is an underwhelming .709 (by comparison, the average OPS of the other 4 guys on the list is .913).
But Satou is a viable candidate for other things that he does. He leads the NL in runs (110- only George Lowe at 108 is within 15 runs of that). He's tied for third in triples (8). But his claim to fame is the stolen base- I'm not sure if it's more amazing that he's stolen 124 in 126 games (needing only 11 steals in the last 36 games to break the record), or that he's only been caught once all season. Unlike the other candidates, he plays a pretty good shortstop. And he's done all this for a team that only now, in the midst of his best season, among the NL's elite.
So there are several questions here. Can a player who doesn't hit a home run all season win an MVP award? I would say yes, it's possible. Is Satou that guy? I think he would have to raise his OBP and cut down on his strikeouts a little, but he's close. He'll be up against stiff competition; I know he's not on the list yet, but I'd be surprised if Salt Lake City's Ruben Hernandez doesn't end up in the top 5 and Trenton's Calvin Chang is having a fine all-around season. Would he be in my top 5 this season? I'd say so. We'll just have to wait for the end of the season to find out how this plays out.