The Should’ve Been-Will Be MVPs: Part One

This is the first of a two part article on MLB’s MVP decision. Part One will convince you concerning matters AL related, while Part Two will do the same for all things NL. If you believe me to be an ignoramus or massively maniacal I am deeply sorry, but that is your problem, please leave all complaints in the comments section.

Let me begin by laying out a few facts before completely blowing your minds with some numbers:

1 Many believe that in order to garner any votes for MVP you must take your team to the playoffs. I say, tell that to the players who are stuck on teams that are forced to keep up with the big marketers or suffer thru a bout of the injury bug.

2 The MVP is generally not a pitcher; starters appear once every 5 games and closers get an inning roughly every other game. The last MVP pitcher was Dennis Eckersley in ’92. Since 1980 there have only been 4 pitchers to win the vote (all from the AL). Three closers and a Roger Clemens.

3 The MVP generally comes from the meat of the order (3-4-5), leadoff hitters get little love. Ichiro won in 2001 and Rickey Henderson in 1990. Back-to-back #2s in 1985 and ’84 were Willie McGee and Ryne Sandberg.

4 The DH also gets little consideration due to his status as a purely offensive player. In my opinion a player’s defense on the field should rarely have an effect on his MVP eligibility unless it happens to be the difference between something like 8 errors and 24 errors. On the reverse end, pitchers are the most defensive players on a team. Yet, while in the AL no pitcher gets any AB unless in the World Series pre-interleague or during interleague play, 6 AL pitchers have won the MVP since the last NL pitcher, Bob Gibson, did in 1968 (one of Gibson’s worst years swinging wood, however, he logged 33 H for a .303 BA in ’70, but with worse numbers from the mound). Understandably, the pitcher is not seen as a game changer due to his few AB and usually feeble batting percentages.

5 Voting is highly erratic (not erotic). A-Rod won in 2003 for a Texas team that was 71-91, in 2001 Texas was 73-89 and nearly all of A-Rod’s stats were better than those he had in 2003 (his BA was 20 points higher) yet he came in 6th in voting as Ichiro took the honors. Ichiro later had a career year in 2004 with a .372 BA and set the record for hits in a season, but finished 7th (Seattle was awful that year) as Guerrero walked off the winner. If a pitcher were to have won the award it would have been Santana that year as he set career bests in wins, ERA, WHIP, and Ks all while leading the Twins to the top of their division (he was also 3 for 8 with 2 RBI at the plate).

6 As the Yankees spend oodles of cash on players it should be realized that any Yankee should not win the award. On a team of superstars no one player will stand out from the rest unless he puts up completely ridiculous numbers (a stat line with 73 HR?) that happen to be so beyond the rest of the league you have to think that there is something else involved.
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Now begins the sub-introductory paragraph (a defining moment in my writing career). You can decide for yourself whether the MVP should be the player with the best numbers that season, the player with the best numbers on a postseason eligible team, or the player who manages to set himself apart from the rest of his team so much that without him the team is kaput. It is not my place to tell you what to think, but I can show you why two players from separate leagues got undeservedly shunned for the award and why they will be setting their sights on righting that wrong in the coming season. Actually, I am going to tell you what to think, read everything I write and believe it with every ounce of your brains, because the two guys I am putting in the spotlight are baseball phenomenoms when they step up to the plate and tap their insoles with a bat.

Besides having one of the most bizarre nicknames in baseball (Pronk) just why is Travis Hafner better than those other ‘no-name’ guys from the cream of the AL? Well, Cleveland had no lack of capable hitting, their pitching can be attributed to their lack of success in the win department, yet Hafner’s numbers were beyond all of his teammates. Sure, Victor Martinez and Grady Sizemore put up great numbers, but even as he played fewer games his totals were on the whole much better. His projected totals for 550 AB are even more stunning. Some key numbers to think about in his case are his OBP (come on, Moneyball!) at a massive .439 along with his enormous .659 SLG. Now, another thing I don’t get is that Justin Morneau and Derek Jeter finished ahead of David Ortiz, who had a better season than both of them, not to mention he was king of the game winning HR. With all due respect to the Cleveland bats, these three men were surrounded with talent that helped their teams waltz across the .500 mark, while the Indians ended six games under.

Team – : Team’s stats without Player
Team + : Team’s stats with Player
%Team-Diff: % of team’s stats player accounts for OR how much he changed the team’s percentage in a stat

AL MVP AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB BA OBP SLG
Travis Hafner 454 100 140 31 1 42 117 100 .308 .439 .659
Team – 5165 770 1436 320 26 154 722 456 .278 .339 .439
Team + 5619 870 1576 351 27 196 839 556 .280 .349 .457
%Team-Diff 8.1 11.5 8.9 8.8 3.7 21.4 13.9 18.0 +.002 +.010 +.018
550AB Proj. 550 121 170 38 1 51 142 121
Justin Morneau 592 97 190 37 1 34 130 53 .321 .375 .559
Team – 5010 704 1418 238 33 109 624 437 .283 .343 .409
Team + 5602 801 1608 275 34 143 754 490 .287 .347 .425
%Team-Diff 10.6 12.1 11.8 13.5 2.9 23.8 17.2 10.8 +.004 +.004 +.016
Derek Jeter 623 118 214 39 3 14 97 69 .343 .417 .483
Team – 5028 812 1394 288 18 196 805 580 .277 .356 .459
Team + 5651 930 1608 327 21 210 902 649 .285 .363 .461
%Team-Diff 11.0 12.7 13.3 11.9 14.3 6.7 10.8 10.6 +.008 +.007 +.002
David Ortiz 558 115 160 29 2 54 137 119 .287 .413 .636
Team – 5061 705 1350 298 14 138 640 553 .267 .343 .413
Team + 5619 820 1510 327 16 192 777 672 .269 .351 .435
%Team-Diff 9.9 14.0 10.6 8.9 12.5 28.1 17.6 17.7 +.002 +.008 +.022

Let’s read into these a little, in fewer AB Hafner had more R, HR, and BB than Morneau, more HR (3x more!), RBI, and BB than Jeter, and only managed more 2B than Ortiz. Now, obviously Jeter isn’t the power hitter that the other three are, but he has frequently managed to put up a better HR tally than the flimsy 14 he had this season. Jeter’s 1999 season was more complete across the board, surpassing all except his 2B and SB numbers from this season. With his 550 AB projections, which still places him below the AB of all the others, Hafner eclipses most, if not all, of his foes’ non-percentage stats.

In the Minnesota batting order Morneau was usually placed in the 5th spot, switching from the 6th spot in early June, which was around the time that he began transitioning his woeful numbers into superb ones. Michael Cuddyer (102 R, 109 RBI) and Joe Mauer (.347 BA, .429 OBP) also put up numbers that aided Minnesota’s late rise into the playoffs. However, much of the credit goes to Minnesota’s pitching staff. Led by Johan Santana, Francisco Liriano, and Joe Nathan, this crew gave the Twins the 3rd best ERA in MLB, behind the Twins and the Padres.

Jeter was a member of the absolutely ridiculous Yankees lineup. The team’s numbers without Jeter’s still are enough to put them ahead of most other teams and still leave them with an average runs/game of over 5. The Yankees also had several players who would have made decent #2 hitters in the order. Robinson Cano, Melky Cabrera, and, when he arrived, Bobby Abreu all featured BAs and/or plate discipline worthy of a #2. Mike Mussina, Chien-Ming Wang, and Mariano Rivera all had great seasons and were the exception to the Yankees awful pitching.

Ortiz had another mammoth season, but suffered from a slight dip in his BA. He was aided by Manny Ramirez (when he decided to play) and occasionally (though not exceedingly well) by Kevin Youkilis and Mike Lowell. Curt Schilling and Jonathan Papelbon were the only bright spots of an otherwise useless staff that clearly needed a Japanese (Nippon) import, even as Josh Beckett somehow managed to piece together a winning record with a 5.01 ERA.

As I stated before, Hafner was aided primarily by Sizemore and Martinez, but that was it. The Cleveland pitching was beyond abhorrent (besides Jake Westbrook and C.C. Sabathia, who had so-so seasons) and their bullpen was so bad that Danny Graves was a member (shortly). The Indians were unfortunate to have had a losing record, but they were in a stacked division to begin with. Their average score per game was 5.37 – 4.83 (difference of 0.54), which is better than the Chicago White Sox, who finished ahead of them, and the St. Louis Cardinals, who shouldn’t have won the World Series. Their Pythagorean Winning Percentage for exponents of 2 or 1.83 pegs them at records of 90-72 or 89-73 respectively. Look for Cleveland to take back the AL Central and for Hafner to show that he’s worthy of the MVP award this coming season.

Don’t forget to return for the NL side of life.

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11 Responses

  1. Wow You suck. Giant Giraffe testicles then wash it down with a golden shower from a baboon.

    But really, you are talking about Hafners projected stats, meaning they didnt happen so they couldnt take that into account when picking an MVP. though hes good and deserves a nod. If you look at the percentage difference in regards to the team, if you look at jeter his are pretty good, in fact all three guys beat hafner overall, meaning that in a team of superstars jeter made a signifigant difference to help the team have a winning season. (though he may not have been necessary) So there.

  2. ran some more numbers on hafner, jeter, morneau, etc. other statistical curiosities worth considering:

    -hafner and ortiz had roughly the same VORP in 2006 for DH/1B

    -according to the hardball times, jeter and morneau both had more win-shares last season (33 and 27, respectively) than did hafner (25),

    -buuut, hafner blew them both out of the water in win-share percent, which takes into account opportunity to earn win-shares (i.e. AB or lack thereof in hafner’s case)

    what does this all mean? hard to say, mainly cause it’s 1:40 in the morning and i’m delirious. win-shares doesn’t seem particularly useful, because the calculation is partly based on a team’s total wins and the yankees and twins finished with far better records than the indians. i like that hafner outperformed both in win-share pct, but it seems unfair to judge his performance against theirs when you consider he missed almost a month of baseball at the end of the season.

    i think i’m on board with your argument for hafner. i think…

  3. If Hafner had a full season it would be beyond a doubt. In terms of value to team, while playing a full season (thus ruling out Pronk), it is pretty safe to say Ortiz surpasses Jeter and Morneau. MVP voting is insanely undefined, so we could just go and name Gil Meche MVP.

  4. prediction: Gil Meche will be the 2007 AL MVP.

  5. Keith Hernandez will be the 2007 mvp.

  6. Another way to look at things:

    Sure we could all Moneyball, but you have to ask yourself if the MVP should be a stats machine or an overall leader. I still stick to the premise that an MVP must be on a good team, because Most Valuable implies, yes, he rules, but it also implies that he is valuable to his team. If you have an A-Rod on a Texas, it really doesn’t matter because he doesn’t disseminate his rockocity. So my pick for MVP: though I hate the Yankees, it would have to be Jeter edging a bit ahead. Why? WHY?!

    Because there is a crucial anti-moneyball stat that need to be looked at: RISP. Yes, Jeter had more chances than most to have runners in scoring position with that stacked lineup, but look at his stats.

    RISP: .381! (and OBP. 404)

    Compare:
    Morneu: RISP.323, OBP .401
    Hafner: RISP .305, Obp .472
    Ortiz: RISP .288, OBP. .429

    Mr. Clutch Big Papi is not all as clutch. And Morneu is above average. Hafner’s .472 definetely is impressive, but if you are not a Moneyballer (i.e. if you infinitely get on base you infinitely score runs), then I argue for Jeter on the basis that he makes things happen. Sure, Hafner get on base when there are men on base, but if they are in scoring position, he is most of the time not as valuable on first as he is at the plate (he just fills up the empty base.) And this leaves the guy behind him to get the hit.

    With .381, Jeter is basically a dangerous guy to have in a clutch situation, when you need your MVP the most.

  7. Take Jeter away and will the Yankees still be able to produce? Yes. Slot any number of guys in at the 2 spot, and guess what, A-Rod can play SS. His numbers were great last season, but they don’t blow me away with a team of that caliber around him.
    Take Hafner or Ortiz away from their respective teams and they will suffer.

  8. i look at it this way. if we knew an objective way to measure the number of games a player won for his team by being in the lineup, and that number was more than that of any other player in the league, shouldn’t that stat trump rbi, ops, risp, EVERYTHING? now finding this formula is like the quest for a unified field theory (but more important to me, frighteningly). i don’t think win-shares is perfect, but i believe thinking about baseball and value in terms of win-shares puts us on the right track. SABR-bias aside, i’d say this is the way to go. if you don’t win games for your team, what good are you?

    plus it incorporates RISP and arguably leadership (assuming you want the player to lead you to victory).

  9. I’ve only read a little about Win-Shares, so my knowledge on it is a little hazy, but does it take into account the team surrounding the player? In the case of some hitters, their team has no pitching whatsoever, and thus can end up losing more often than it should.

  10. […] The Should’ve Been-Will Be MVPs: Part Two For a more comprehensive introduction and the AL portion please refer back to my last incredible post. […]

  11. As a far-away (Netherlands) Minnesota Twins fan, I am always looking for new sites with Twins news.
    I hope that Morneau and Mauer stays healthy all season.

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