The Tenth Inning – Week 25 – MVP Race ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
By Mike Ivcic
M. V. P. Three simple letters, really, and taken apart from each other represent nothing more than 1/26 of the standard alphabet used by every English-speaking country and found in every romance language that originated from Greek and Latin. But put those three letters together in that very order, and suddenly sports fans across the globe begin a debate that has never truly been answered.
What does it mean to say someone is the “Most Valuable Player?”
The problem I have always had when applying this argument to baseball is that because the game (and the history of the game) is so numbers driven, we often times get too caught up in a player’s individual statistics and assume that because they were the most productive player in the game that year, they were also the most valuable. I have a strong differentiation in my mind between “best” and “valuable,” and I believe the baseball writers that vote for the respective MVP awards also have a wide array of ideas on this subject. So first, allow me a proposal to help alleviate some of these issues.
Pitchers have the Cy Young award. Fielders have Gold Glove awards. And yes, hitters have Silver Slugger awards, but let’s develop a “Babe Ruth” award and present that to the best position player in the game. Clearly, the focus would be on the offensive numbers more so than any type of fielding percentage, but things like stolen bases and WAR numbers should certainly play into this newly created award. Pure numbers should really be the determining factor here, and not the play of any candidate’s particular team. After all, teams win championships, but a single player’s individual season should not be downplayed or ignored because of the poor performance of those around him.
That opens up the possibility of presenting the MVP award to the player who truly is judged as the most valuable player to his particular team. I find it extremely difficult to give either Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout the AL MVP award if neither the Tigers nor the Angels, respectively, make the playoffs. Think of it this way â if the Tigers with Cabrera miss the playoffs, wouldn’t it suffice to say that the Tigers without Cabrera would have also missed the playoffs? And as such, what difference did Cabrera really make to the Tigers if game 162 of the regular season was the last game they played regardless of Cabrera’s presence on the roster? The same applies to Trout, who should be a shoe-in to win rookie of the year but shouldn’t come close to winning the NVP award. The argument could easily be made he’s not even the most valuable player on his team (where are the Angels without Jered Weaver every fifth day?) so how could he be the MVP of the league?
And that leads into my main point. The MVP needs to be the determination of which individual player had the biggest impact on the entire season. Which player’s performance was the single biggest reason that the season looks the way it does after 162 games, and which player’s removal from his team or lack of performance would have altered the season’s outcome in the biggest way? It’s the reason that the 2008 NL MVP was Brad Lidge, no matter who actually won the award (for the record, it was Albert Pujols). Without his perfect season of saves â 42-for-42 in the regular season, another 6-for-6 in the postseason â the Phillies do not win the NL East and may not even make the playoffs. His performance that year was the single biggest factor in the final results of the regular season â the Phillies won the NL East by 1 game and the season-average of blown saves by a team’s primary closer that season, including Lidge’s numbers, was 3.4 â so subtracting three wins from the Phillies not only removes them from the division lead, but from the playoffs entirely. THAT is a difference maker, and THAT is the definition of an MVP.
With that in mind, who are the AL and NL MVP’s this season using my method? For the American League, assuming Detroit misses the playoffs, the answer is Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. He’s the only legitimate left-handed bat in the entire lineup, which means he’s virtually solely responsible for carrying the offense against right-handed pitching. Even though he sees almost nothing good to hit from righties in most situations, he’s still managed to hit .284 with 32 homeruns and a .982 OPS â when he’s the only scary lefty in the entire batting order. Multiple managers have said they tell their right-handed pitchers to pitch around Hamilton, and yet he’s still lit up the scoreboard in ways most other players never dream of doing. His team is not only in first place, but holds the best record in what has proven to be the toughest division in baseball. Without Hamilton, the Rangers may be behind both Oakland and Los Angeles, even with a stacked lineup remaining, simply because Hamilton is that important to the Rangers offensive balance. In fact, he is their balance, and as such he’s the AL MVP.
The NL MVP is a bit more difficult to determine. Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun would likely win the newly created Babe Ruth award, but the Brewers absence in the postseason would limit his value in this discussion. R.A Dickey may very well win the Cy Young, but the Mets have been irrelevant in the second half of the season except for boosting the win totals of whomever they’ve played. I’d certainly consider Buster Posey of the Giants, Andrew McCutcheon of the Pirates, Jason Motte of the Cardinals, and Joey Votto of the Reds under this new umbrella, but would ultimately eliminate them because the Giants would win the division away, the Pirates faded in September, the Cardinals win more because of offense than defense, and the Reds actually played better during the time period that Votto was injured. Instead, in this discussion, the NL MVP award almost certainly goes toâ¦
Last season the Nationals won 80 games. This season they may win 100. Yes, Stephen Strasburg was a big factor in that jump as well, but Gonzalez is currently the only pitcher in the majors with 20 wins. The Nationals are in first place, and even with Strasburg the removal of Gonzalez from this team makes Washington an 85-win team at best. He’s been the most consistent starter on what currently stands as the best team in all of baseball, and his overall numbers (20-8, 2.84 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 73 walks and 201 strikeouts) has him at least as one of the top three or four candidates for the Cy Young award anyway. He is the single biggest factor in how the National League has developed this season, and without him the Nats may not be preparing to host their first-ever playoff game is D.C. He won’t get a sniff as NL MVP this season, but he should.
And in my mind, he should win.
Playoff “Dead” List
Three series to watch this weekâ¦
If the season ended today, the playoff teams would beâ¦
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