Archive for the ‘MVP’ Category

Happy Birthday…

September 4, 2009

Mike Piazza!

Mike, who sure seems like he should have a more Italian middle name than “Joseph,” is 41 today.

I don’t really have anything new to tell you about a guy like Piazza, but lookit (also just seeing how/if this new BBREF feature works):

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[There we go! Took a few tries.]
So…yeah. A lot of people are saying Mauer’s having the best year by a catcher ever, and maybe he is when you factor in defense and such, but it’s pretty hard to compete with that.

Piazza outhit Larry Walker by OPS+, had only four points less of batting average and six fewer RBI…and Larry Walker was a RF who played in the best hitters’ environment in history, Piazza a catcher (technically) in a pitcher’s park (which doesn’t factor into the OPS+, of course, but the HR and RBI). The Dodgers even finished ahead of the Rockies in the standings. Where does this rank among the worst MVP snubs of all time? Would Mauer 2009 be worse?

Hanley being Hanley

August 28, 2009

I know you’ve probably all seen this, but Rob Neyer thinks Albert Pujols might not be the MVP.

And I’m going to go one further: right now, right this very second, Pujols is not the MVP. Hanley Ramirez is.

It was barely two weeks ago when I said this: “it’s impossible to make an argument against Albert.” And it was. But since I wrote those words, late on the evening of August 11, here’s what’s happened:

Pujols: .261/.404/.522
Hanley: .481/.542/.731
and just for fun, Utley: .296/.500/.729

Well, that changes things, doesn’t it? I don’t think Albert’s getting that triple crown after all (sorry, lar).

As I write this, Fangraphs has the three top NL WARs as 6.9 for Ramirez, 6.8 for Utley, and 6.4 for Pujols. That half-win difference isn’t big, but it isn’t too close to call, either. Say you don’t think they’ve got defense right at all, and you want to go with plus-minus instead of UZR? That bumps them about four runs closer together. Narrows the gap a lot, but doesn’t close it. Hanley still wins.

Look, Pujols is going to win the MVP. No question about it. And that’s certainly not any kind of a tragedy; he’s still having an incredible season. But imagine you’re at the beginning of the 2009 season and building a brand-new team. You can get an average defensive shortstop (and Hanley is that, despite his bad reputation) who you know is going to hit .365/.428/.575, or you can get an average defensive first baseman (and Pujols has been that in ’09, despite his good reputation) who you know is going to hit .313/.441/.666. Knowing what you do about what most shortstops are like and what most first basemen are like, don’t you grab the SS and hope to pick up a 1B who can hit a little later on? I know I do. And that (well, the stats, but that in a nutshell), to me, is why Hanley Ramirez is the NL MVP right now.

MVPs and RsBI

July 21, 2009

Sorry for a third consecutive Twins-related post (this one doesn’t have much to do with the Twins at all, it just starts out that way), but DicknBert really ticked me off the other day.

This was Friday night, the same night that Alexi Casilla made me (and apparently Billy Smith) wish the second base position had never been invented. It was the second game back after the All-Star break, and the “ question of the day,” or some similarly silly promotion, was: who are Dick and Bert’s picks for MVP through the first half of the season?

Both picked Albert Pujols for the National League MVP, which is the only pick a thinking person can make. But Bert goes first, and his AL MVP pick (stats up to the last date he could’ve made the pick, through July 16) is:

Jason Bay. .260/.380/.527, 20 HR, 72 RBI, 56 R, 125 OPS+. He’s a left fielder, and probably the worst one in the league; UZR says he’s already cost the Red Sox 8.1 runs, or essentially 1 win, with his defense alone.

Then it’s Dick’s turn, and he starts out by indicating he agrees with Bert on his NL pick, but disagrees on the AL. Thank God, I think. Dick’s pick:

Torii Hunter: .305/.380/.558, 17 HR, 65 RBI, 56 R, 140 OPS+. He’s a center fielder, and has always had a sterling defensive reputation, but the stats have never agreed, and this year UZR has him at -2.1 runs.

So kudos to Dick Bremer, I guess, for picking a much, much more valuable player as his Most Valuable Player than Bert did; Torii is the better hitter, plays the more important position, and has been the much less damaging defender. But it should go without saying that neither of these guys is anywhere near the actual most valuable player in the American League.

And then I started thinking: what do these guys have in common? And then Blyleven listed off all the other guys he could have picked: Miguel Cabrera, Justin Morneau, Mark Teixeira, Evan Longoria…and that’s about when it dawned on me.

1. None of these guys is Joe Mauer.
2. On a related note, each of these guys is near the top of the league in runs batted in.

Now, let’s be clear about this. He had a huge slump over the weekend that has muddied the waters a bit, but as of July 16, there was only one remotely reasonable selection for AL MVP, and that was Joe Mauer. There’s just no debating that. You could’ve made an argument for somebody else, but you would’ve been indefensibly wrong. Check it:

.373/.477/.622, 15 HR, 49 RBI, 49 R, approx. 182 OPS+. He wasn’t just leading the league in batting average, or on-base percentage, or slugging percentage, or OPS, or OPS+; he was leading the league in all of those things. And he’s a catcher, and one of the best in the business; consider that while the average AL LFer (Jason Bay’s position) has a .771 OPS and the average AL CFer (Torii’s) has a .743, the average AL catcher has just a .712 OPS…and that number is significantly buoyed by Mauer himself. Aside from Pujols, there is nothing in all of baseball right now that even has a case for being anywhere near as valuable as a great defensive catcher with an 1.100 OPS. And, yeah, he missed a month, but he was still leading the league in almost every cumulative stat that attempts to measure player value, too; that’s just how much better he was than everybody else.

So there are DicknBert, Mauer’s own home team announcers, and not only do they not pick him, they don’t even mention him as being in the conversation. Morneau, sure, but not the runaway best player in the league hitting right in front of him (incidentally, the only other player even arguably in the conversation is Ben Zobrist, who also went unmentioned).

So it’s really clear to me that all they did was look at the RBI leaders and pick the one they think is having the best year (Bert didn’t even do that, he just picked the #1 RBI guy, despite the fact that he’s hitting roughly as well as you’d expect a LF to hit, and much worse than you’d expect a terrible defensive LF to hit). That would be fine and all, since it’s just two guys on a small-market local broadcast filling air space, except I’m pretty sure that that’s what the writers do, too. Here’s an ordered list of how the leader in RsBI has fared in the MVP voting the last five seasons (so 10 total contests, AL & NL):

1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3*, 5, 7*, 23

The average of these numbers is 4.8; the median is 2. In the two races with asterisks, there was a very close second-place finisher in the RBI race who finished first or second in MVP voting. The 23 throwing the whole thing off is Vinny Castilla, who had about an average offensive year in the middle of the lineup for the 2004 Rockies…if the Rox had won 94 rather than losing 94, Vinny might have wound up as the worst MVP pick in modern history.

Writers (and most everybody else) have seemingly always been in love with the RBI; I stopped with 2004 because before that, Barry Bonds stepped up, was intentionally walked approximately 800 times a year, and forced them to get away from RBI for a couple years. And of course every now and then they’ll pick a middle infielder–like Rollins in 2007 or Pedroia in 2008–but they almost never end up with the right middle infielder. The only way they end up on a non-RBI guy is: when the RBI champ is playing for a bad team (and where your team finishes in the standings should have nothing to do with how valuable you are, but that’s a discussion for another day); when other big RBI guys all have something go wrong; and when some little middle infielder is bestowed with the tag of “heart and soul” or “team leader” of some first-place team. In 2008, Morneau was the big RBI guy for the contending team, but he fell flat on his face in September, so he finished “only” second to sparky ‘n’ scrappy little Dustin Pedroia, whereas in 2006 Morneau did well down the stretch, so he won it. In both years, Joe Mauer was far and away the Twins’ MVP, and you could’ve made a case for him for league MVP too (though Derek Jeter was in the discussion in ’06 and Pedroia actually had a decent case in ’08).

The thing about it is–and I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but whatever–raw RBI total has almost nothing at all to do with a player’s value. It’s remarkably easy for a decent hitter with some power who spends 160 games hitting 4th or 5th in a high-scoring lineup to wind up in the top two or three of the league in RBI, and to be an average or worse overall player (see Ryan Howard ca. 2008 and 2009). The work Mauer did in getting on base in front of all those Morneau RBI, and in playing impeccable defense at catcher, was just much, much more valuable to the Twins, in ’06 and ’08 and again in ’09, than the RBI themselves are. And I think people are starting to recognize that, or at least the writers who refuse to recognize it are retiring or dying off and being replaced by the Rob Neyers, Keith Laws and Christina Kahrls of the world. But when the two guys whose entire livelihood is made by watching Mauer do his thing and relaying the wonder of it all to the masses can’t get this down, it really makes you realize how far we still have to go.