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Awards - NL MVP
Posted by Stanley Gibson at 9/30/2008 2:50:00 PM
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MLB Award Voting Rationale

Predicting the outcome of the major MLB season awards including Cy Young, Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year has proven an inexact science over the years. Rarely is there an indisputable winner on more than one instance in a season. We did see and exception last year with Jake Peavy garnering all 32 first-place votes for NL Cy Young and Alex Rodriguez received 26 for AL MVP. The fact that after the statistics are set in stone and we still can’t predict who will actually come away with the hardware is somewhat hard to swallow. Then again, would it be much fun referring to a mathematical equation to determine the winner? No. The fact is that there are different mind-sets for those who ultimately make the decision on the winners of these prestigious awards that are often times brought up in Hall-of-Fame discussions in the future.

I wanted to go through each of the three major awards in both leagues and make cases for each possible candidate. Following that, I will pick the winner of each award and stand by it through mid-November when they are actually released. Since each writer is asked to give a list 1-10, I’ll do just that. There will be six installments. Here is a tentative schedule:

Today – NL MVP
Tomorrow – AL MVP
10/2 – NL Cy Young
10/3 – AL Cy Young
10/4 – NL Rookie of the Year
10/5 – AL Rookie of the Year

The first thing that must be understood is that two of the awards are tied to team success (MVP more so than ROY) but the pitcher’s version of the award for one reason or another doesn’t carry the “team must make the post-season” rationale. It is simply the best pitcher in the league. Also, keep in mind that it usually takes record-breaking performances and no 20-win seasons for a closer to be considered for the Cy.

Away we go.

National League MVP

Why not start with the one garnering a lot of the attention going into the awards season? Here are the candidates and the cases for each.

Albert Pujols. It would only be right to give the award to the guy snubbed in 2006 for Ryan Howard whose Phillies didn’t make the post-season. If the award really goes to the most valuable player to his team, Albert is that guy. His numbers and ranks speak for themselves: .364 average (2nd), 37 HR (t-4th), 116 RBI (4th), .462 On-base % (2nd), .653 Slugging % (1st).

What about the guys hitting around him? Ryan Ludwick ended up with a great season statistically, but it didn’t stop teams from intentionally passing Pujols an MLB-high 34 times (next closest was Delgado at 19). The Cardinals overachieved in 2008, but without No. 5 they would’ve checked out in late May. His value to the team can’t be measured with a playoff appearance, just gaudy numbers with no protection. Let me finish by asking a question: If you were the GM of the Cardinals, would you trade Albert Pujols for any one player? If you answered “nope”, he is the most valuable. If you answered “yes”, you need your head examined.

Ryan Howard. The Phillies are looking for their third MVP award in as many years and Howard eyes his second in that span. Question: Does carrying a team the final month of the season into the playoffs by hitting .352 with 11 homers and 32 RBI and finishing the season leading MLB in homers (by eight) and RBI (by 16) outweigh a sub-par .251 batting average and a league-leading strikeout total? The answer is an emphatic YES. At the end of the day, a strikeout is the same as a weak ground out to the pitcher.

Chase Utley. Maybe he shouldn’t of uttered “F U” to the fans during the Home Run Derby introductions as New York fans booed him. Karma. His second half doesn’t compare to the first. But that first half was incredible and staked the Phillies out to a lead that they eventually relinquished and ultimately won in the NL East. Many would make the argument that the Phillies went as Chase Utley went. His numbers aren’t eye-popping but solid across the board; .292 batting average, 33 homers, 104 RBI, .380 on-base percentage. Solid numbers plus playoffs equals MVP candidate.

David Wright. The Mets must have a candidate to speak of. They were in it all year and choked again. The collapse had more to do with the Mets pitching, and specifically bullpen woes than Wright. He finished with a .302 batting average, 33 homers, 125 RBI and 15 stolen bases. He hit .340 down the stretch in the final month and drove in 21 runs. What more could you ask for? Delgado surged down the stretch but could only drag his average up to .271 and didn’t match Wright’s RBI total. Jose Reyes did the exact opposite of Wright and choked in September, hitting .241 with just 15 runs scored. Beltran was good this year but ended up trailing Wright in every major statistical category other than stolen bases. Wright was the man on the Mets this year and shouldn’t be blamed for them missing the playoffs, rather carrying them to a chance to play in October.

Aramis Ramirez. The League’s best team has to have a candidate. Ramirez was inconsistent this season, but the numbers were there at the end and when he caught fire, the Cubs soared. His final numbers pale in comparison to say Pujols, Wright and even Utley, but again, he was the MAN on the best team in the NL all season long. .289-27-111 doesn’t jump off the page, but the Cubs 97 wins sure should.

Ryan Braun. Braun’s pure numbers probably rank third of all those on here, but one of the players with better numbers isn’t playing anymore (Pujols) and the other hit 31 points lower than the Brew Crew’s best hitter. He was also clutch, hitting some key late-September homers to launch Milwaukee into the playoffs for the first time since 1982. 37 homers and 106 RBI is a nice total in each key category. I hate to go off the style here, but I must mention that Braun hit a miserable .208 in September and his homers declined all the way to just three in the final month. He might have been their best hitter over the whole season, and the big homers could give the impression he was a hero in the clutch, but don’t buy that. I will now go back to the theme of supporting each player for the award. So, vote Braun for NL MVP in ’08. cough

Lance Berkman. Berkman was downright scary good for stretches in 2008 and the Astros ended up in the race until close to the very end. His first half numbers were something to behold: .347 average, 22 homers, 73 RBI, .443 On-base and even 15 stolen bases. He got injured and was slowed in the second half. I have to do it again. Even if the Astros snuck into the playoffs, it wouldn’t have been because of Berkman. We can’t discredit what he did in the first half, but the second half really shows he wasn’t the best player all season long.

Here is how I would vote if I were lucky enough to carry that BBWAA membership card:

1. Albert Pujols
2. Ryan Howard
3. David Wright
4. Chase Utley
5. Aramis Ramirez
6. Ryan Braun
7. Lance Berkman
8. Carlos Delgado
9. Carlos Beltran
10. Matt Holliday

AL MVP is coming tomorrow.


Agree with Pujols, but disagree with the idea that strikeouts are the same as groundouts. Sure, putting the ball in play can result in a double play whereas a strikeout "only" equals one out, but seems to me that putting the ball in play more often than not is actually a good thing. Getting wood on the ball can lead to hits, errors, advancing a runner etc., while a strikeout is the most unproductive thing you can do.

Howard had a great finish, but he was only the second most productive player on his own team. The 48 homers are great, but when you hit behind guys like Rollins and Utley, you'd have to be comatose not to drive in 120.

On the pitcher side, you'll notice that more often than not, the elite pitchers usually have pretty good strikeout rates.
Posted by vtadave at 9/30/2008 6:02:00 PM
Good stuff. I agree that Pujols is MVP. But I don't think that "would you trade Pujols for anyone else" is a good rationale for it - that depends on things that have nothing to do with MVP, like age and salary.
Posted by MPStopa at 10/1/2008 5:19:00 AM
Agree Mark. Would the Cards trade Pujols for Evan Longoria and use Pujols' $16 million salary to upgrade the pitching staff? Probably not, but it wouldn't be an awful business decision (of course the Rays woundn't do it).
Posted by vtadave at 10/1/2008 8:36:00 AM
All good points. I am working on the AL MVP now. Talk about no clear cut winner.
Posted by stanley_gibson at 10/1/2008 12:55:00 PM
Last week, on Friday I think, I was watching the Indians-White Sox broadcast, on the CLE channel. Their text message Question of the Day was about the NL MVP. They gave four options - which player did they not include?

Player A: .251/.339/.543; 48 HR, 146 RBI; 35.3 VORP
Player B: .271/.353/.518; 38 HR, 115 RBI; 38.5 VORP
Player C: .357/.462/.653; 37 HR, 116 RBI; 96.8 VORP
Player D: .285/.335/.553; 37 HR, 106 RBI; 43.6 VORP
Player E: .396/.489/.743; 17 HR, 53 RBI; 47.6 VORP

That's right, Player C - Albert Pujols. I know this just a dumb text poll, but this is where the BBWAA screw job is coming folks.
Posted by Erickson at 10/1/2008 11:20:00 PM

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