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Jesús Aguilar is more than an All-Star, he is an MVP candidate

Looking at Aguilar’s phenomenal first half

MLB: Milwaukee Brewers-Media Day Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe you’ve noticed or maybe not, but Jesús Aguilar is having a pretty good season. In fact, it might be the best offensive season for the Milwaukee Brewers since 2014 Carlos Gomez — maybe even earlier than that.

The Brewers’ slugger leads the National League in homers, is dominating the slugging percentage race, and has commanding control of he OPS leaderboard. So that begs the question, just how good has Aguilar been? He’s been MVP good.

Let’s start with some context in Aguilar’s performance. Not only has he been putting it up phenomenal numbers, but he’s had less time to do it than his peers.

In April, Aguilar was mostly a part-time player who lost playing time to Eric Thames and Ryan Braun at first. To demonstrate that point, Aguilar entered play Wednesday night tied for first with Nolan Arenado in the National League in homers. Arenado not only has Colorado to enhance his power production, but 87 more plate appearances. Despite that lack of time, Aguilar is outpacing many of the other players in production.

Then you look at advanced offense measurements, like Aguilar’s wRC+. wRC stands for weighted runs created and attempts to measure a hitter’s value by telling you the offense they are responsible for. wRC+ takes that measurement and levels it to try to compensate for the affects of leagues and ballparks. The average wRC+ is 100, and an excellent wRC+ is 160. Entering play before last night’s game, Aguilar sat evenly at 160.

Comparing that and Aguilar’s other numbers to recent National League MVPs, here’s how he stacks up:

Former NL MVPs

Year Player Avg. OBP Slg wRC+
Year Player Avg. OBP Slg wRC+
2018 Jesus Aguilar 0.302 0.369 0.631 160
2017 Giancarlo Stanton 0.281 0.376 0.631 156
2016 Kris Bryant 0.295 0.409 0.537 146
2015 Bryce Harper 0.33 0.46 0.649 197
2013 Andrew McCutchen 0.317 0.404 0.508 156
2012 Buster Posey 0.336 0.408 0.549 164
2011 Ryan Braun 0.332 0.397 0.597 171

Historically, there’s few instances since 2011 where production in line with Aguilars isn’t recognized with one of baseball’s highest honors.

How has he been finding so much success? Destroying fastballs and off-speed pitches.

wFA is a ranking of runs produced above average on fastballs. Aguilar is ranked third in the NL with a wFA of 13.4. The two above him are Paul Goldschmidt (16.4) and Bryce Harper (15.1), some overall good company to keep. Aguilar is also the leader for wFS, or runs scored above average on splitters. When we look at the other run values on the other pitches, Aguilar is finding positive impact on almost any pitch he hits.

He’s getting so much production out of these pitches because every time he hits it, it’s either a line drive or a fly ball. This shows that Aguilar is making extremely hard contact on hard pitches, getting the balls deep. To speak to how hard Aguilar is hitting the ball, he has the sixth highest hard hit percentage in the NL at 46.7%.

Meanwhile, Aguilar still is making solid contact on off-speed pitches. Since May, he’s turning about 30% of the off-speed pitches he sees into line drives.

Simply put, Aguilar is dominating because he’s hitting every thing and hitting it hard. This is leading to huge offensive production, in line with other MVPs in recent years. Throw in that he’s on a playoff contender (which matters to the voters), a full season of this performance will see Aguilar bringing home some beautiful hardware.

Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Brooks Baseball