The first half of the 2012 season saw some surprise teams rise to the top of the National League standings. The Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates have emerged as legitimate playoff contenders. Pittsburgh's rise to the top has been powered in large part by center fielder Andrew McCutchen who is a leading candidate for Most Valuable Player. Let's see how McCutchen stacks up against his National League counterparts.
Albert Pujols' defection to the American League left Votto with the clear designation of the best player in the NL. Votto hasn't disappointed in 2012. He's currently posting leading the league in doubles, walks, on base percentage, and OPS. Votto is a devastating offensive weapon looking to add a second MVP trophy to his collection.
The 25 year old McCutchen is fulfilling his vast potential. He's currently leading the NL in total bases and batting average. The center fielder is on pace to set career highs in runs, home runs, and RBI. He has formed a powerful duo with third baseman Pedro Alvarez. If the Pirates can hold on to make the playoffs McCutchen will be a favorite to win the MVP award.
The Giants were roundly criticized for failing to properly address a stagnant offense during the winter. The team floundered offensively in 2011 after winning the 2010 World Series. San Francisco dealt left-hander Jonathan Sanchez to the Royals for outfielder Melky Cabrera in November. Cabrera has rewarded the Giants by having a career season and helping the team reach first place in the NL West. Cabrera, a free agent after the season, currently leads the National League in hits.
Wright missed significant time last season due to injury. He's bounced back with a vengeance in 2012. Wright leads the upstart Mets in most offensive categories and is currently posting career highs in batting average (.351), on base percentage (.441), and OPS (1.004).
Ethier has done a remarkable job picking up the slack for the injured Matt Kemp. He's knocked in 55 runs despite having very little protection in the lineup. The Dodgers slumped badly after Ethier went on the disabled list in late June with an oblique strain.
*Information gathered from http://www.baseball-reference.com