Monday, September 19, 2011

4 comments Apparently "Valuable" Means "Plays for a Playoff Team"

Jon Heyman has his choices for AL/NL MVP, AL/NL Cy Young, and AL/NL Rookie of the Year posted on and he seems to be encouraged to talk about the debate over what "valuable" means for the Most Valuable Player award. I really didn't know there should be a huge debate over what this means. The award should go to the player who was the most valuable to his team in the National and American League, not the best player on a contending team or the player who seems to have the most highlights. Jon Heyman sees it a little bit differently.

Blue Jays star Jose Bautista deserves strong consideration for the American League MVP award, and if someone thinks he's the MVP because he's been the best player in the league, that's understandable.

Thanks for permission to consider the best player in the American League as the Most Valuable Player in the American League. Personally I know Jon Heyman probably considers Russell Martin to be the American League MVP because his intangibles are measured off the chart and he has kept the Yankees clubhouse from being too uptight by doing his crazy impressions of 1940’s film stars. Plus, Russell Martin plays on a winning team so that automatically means he is a better candidate than Jose Bautista.

And if someone else thinks Tigers ace Justin Verlander is the AL MVP because they believe he's been the best and most important performer on a likely playoff team, that's reasonable, too.

Thanks again for permission to think the best player on a playoff team could be an American League MVP candidate. Of course, Verlander is a pitcher and he already has an award he can win, the Cy Young award, so Heyman immediately discounts him as well. So even though he is on a playoff team, his candidacy shouldn’t be considered because he is a pitcher.

But for now, I am going to go with the Yankees' home run and run-producing machine Curtis Granderson for MVP.

This choice absolutely makes sense. Without Curtis Granderson, the Yankees would only win the AL Wild Card and wouldn’t even be in the race for the AL East title. If it weren't for Curtis Granderson, the Yankees would have had to merely rely on their other three MVP candidates on the team. Nevermind the Yankees would be an incredibly successful team with or without Curtis Granderson, it doesn’t matter. He plays for a winning team and that’s all that really matters to Jon Heyman. So while Granderson has had a great year and deserves to be in the MVP discussion, he doesn't deserve to be in the discussion because of how many runs he has driven in or what team he plays for. Just for shits and giggles, let’s look at Granderson’s statistics compared to Jose Bautista’s numbers. Then we will compare a guy who is not an MVP candidate and see what his statistics look like compared to Granderson and Bautista's statistics. Again, for shits and giggles I won’t even put names to the numbers (as of September 2).

.248/.345/.503, 35 homeruns, 100 RBI’s, OPS+122, 2.4 WAR, 68 walks, 91 strikeouts, 3 steals, 1 caught stealing.

.309/.449/.640, 39 homeruns, 89 RBI’s, OPS+190, 8.0 WAR, 108 walks, 91 strikeouts, 6 steals, 3 caught stealing.

.275/.377/.583, 38 homeruns, 107 RBI’s, OPS+151, 5.6 WAR, 76 walks, 145 strikeouts, 24 steals, 10 caught stealing.

Which one of these players looks like he should be the MVP at this point? I say Player #2 on the list. What is interesting to me is that while Player #1 has worse numbers than the other two players, he is a homerun and run-producing machine himself, which should make him an MVP candidate according to Jon Heyman.

Let’s throw in Player #4 just for fun:

.313/.373/.525, 24 homeruns, 84 RBI’s, OPS+150, 6.4 WAR, 46 walks, 86 strikeouts, 36 steals, 11 caught stealing.

It seems like Player #4 isn’t a run-producing guy like the other guys, but he does seem to have comparable numbers to Player #3, doesn’t he? Either way, Player #3 does a lot of things well but it seems like Player #2 should be the least to me. Player #4 seems like he may not knock in a ton of runs, but he gets on-base and steals bases at a better clip than Player #3. Either way, Player #2 should probably be the MVP since he is clearly the best hitter of the bunch and I think his lack of prowess on the basepaths if made up for by his hitting ability.

As many of you have figured out probably, Player #1 is Mark Teixeira who should be nowhere near the discussion of MVP (though Jon Heyman puts him in the discussion), Player #2 is Jose Bautista, Player #3 is Curtis Granderson, and Player #4 is Jacoby Ellsbury.

And I am not strictly opposed to a player on a non-contender winning the award, which has happened on occasion (think Alex Rodriguez of the last-place Rangers in 2003)

It happened eight years ago when the best player on a non-contender won the award. Since that time, no player on a non-contending team was the most valuable player in the American League. Since there are 14 teams in the American League and only 4 teams make the playoffs, what are the odds of the most valuable player in the American League being on a non-playoff team for 8 straight years? I would imagine not very good. I understand players on contending teams get more attention and votes, and to a point I understand how more of these players are in the MVP discussion, but I think a player can still be valuable and not play on a contending team.

although I admit that's a tougher one for me since the word valuable suggests that the players' achievements did not go for naught and actually helped a team play into October.

The word “valuable” does NOT only suggest a player has to be on a playoff team to achieve the definition of the word. So Heyman seeming to indicate this is what "valuable" means is misleading. A player on a last place team can be much more valuable to a player on a contending team. Curtis Granderson is a great example. You really think he is more important to the Yankees than Jose Bautista is to the Jays? Without Bautista the Jays still don’t win the AL East, but with Curtis Granderson I would bet the Yankees still are in the hunt for the playoffs and I think Bautista is playing better than Granderson this year. So “valuable” doesn’t only pertain to a player on a contending team, but to a player who has the most value to his team, regardless of his team's record. The MVP should not be a team-based award.

Although there is no rule saying pitchers should count any less in any MVP debate, history suggests that they generally have only captured the award either in years in which they put up alltime great numbers (and sometimes not even then; Ron Guidry was passed over in 1978 and Pedro Martinez in 1999, two decisions I disagree with).

I’m sort of torn on this. A pitcher can be valuable to his team, but I think the pitchers already have the Cy Young award to honor them. So for the sake of ease in voting, I would only consider hitters on the MVP ballot. Maybe this makes me small-minded since Jon Heyman and I agree on this.

Players on playoff teams (or at least contenders) for MVP should be preferred.

This is an opinion, not a fact. Don’t try to pass it off as a fact by couching this in terms of a fact when it is truly an opinion. The guidelines for the MVP award don’t say a player on a contending or playoff team should be preferred. In fact, there aren't too many guidelines for the award, so creating guidelines is essentially making things up.

There is a decent amount of precedent for that, as well,

This isn’t a court of law. We can ignore precedent and allow common sense to dictate our decisions. If we always looked only to precedent to make decisions society and sports would rarely progress.

though I feel even more strongly about it than most others.

Good for you. I feel more strongly the award should go to either the best player in each league or the most valuable player in each league…regardless of the current standings.

But since the award is for mostvaluable player, and not most outstanding, the effect a player had on the pennant race should be vital.

That’s fine if you want to consider this. I would submit that a player can be the most valuable player to his team even if that team doesn’t make the playoffs. Jose Bautista is an example of this. I realize it isn’t the most outstanding player, but baseball is a team sport and a player’s statistics are dependent on his teammates.

The best way to counter this argument is to take Jose Bautista’s statistics and put him on the Yankees team. Let's take the team aspect out of it. Would he win the MVP if he played on a team that won their division? He would have a pretty good shot I think. So why can’t he win the MVP if his team doesn’t win the division?

If someone else wants to interpret most valuable as synonymous to best, they can.

Don’t get your panties all in a wad. You just interpreted valuable to mean “plays for a contending team,” so don’t go all high-and-mighty talking crap about other people interpreting the word one way or another.

And if someone else wants to interpret it as being valuable to a particular team, they can, too. But there is plenty of precedent to suggest it means valuable in the league.

Fine. Again, this isn’t a courtroom. Precedent doesn’t have to rule. We can use logic or arguments that are based on logic. Logic would dictate if you take Player X’s statistics and put him on a playoff team and he all of a sudden becomes an MVP candidate then he should have been an MVP candidate regardless of whether he played on a playoff team or not.

Of course, some will argue that precedent shouldn't count, and past mistakes should not be repeated. But I say the players understand going into a season that the criteria counted by most voters includes the team's standing to some degree.

So the players know they will be screwed out of the MVP if they don’t play for a contending team? That makes it perfectly fine then. Carry on.

Players also know that winning is the goal. And I have yet to see a player on a non-contender publicly claim to be MVP.

What player on a contending team has claimed to be the MVP this year?I don't remember Curtis Granderson proclaiming himself the AL MVP.

Stats are most assuredly a major part of the equation. But they shouldn't be completely determinative. Otherwise, let's just run the numbers through a computer.

Forget that non-computer stuff. Let’s use a computer to run the stats through a computer so another computer can determine the winner.

I have come to realize a writer isn't comfortable with his argument when he starts complaining about computers and how anyone with a counter point of view wants to use computers to decide everything.

Because there's no way to put a number on the value of leading a team into the postseason, which should be everyone's goal.

Actually there is a way to put a number on the value of leading a team into the postseason and a number to determine a player’s value on a non-playoff team.

The ultimate goal of any player is to win, so the value of the individual accomplishments that lead to a pennant should be viewed in that context.

I absolutely agree. The value of a team’s accomplishment should be viewed through the context of an individual award, just like an individual's accomplishments can only be viewed through a team context. Wait…what?

So while Bautista has been the most outstanding player in the league whether you use WAR or OPS or or any other key stat,

See Bautista has been the most valuable player (non-capitalized version) in the American League this year based on his individual performance. He hasn’t been the Most Valuable Player (capitalized version) in the American League this year based on the performance of his teammates and that’s why he shouldn’t win an individual award for being the MVP of the American League. If only you had better teammates Jose, then you could be considered for an individual award honoring your accomplishments. It doesn’t make sense, but if you would bitch publicly about it, Jon Heyman indicates he may re-consider his position.

it's a tough case to make for him as MVP in a year when so many stars are ushering their team into the playoffs.

I can’t wait to look at Heyman’s list of MVP candidates. I’m getting tingly.

Here is my AL MVP ballot through three-fourths of the season, and my other ballots as well.

Here is Heyman’s ballot of 15 players.

1. Curtis Granderson

2. Adrian Gonzalez

3. Jacoby Ellsbury

4. Justin Verlander

5. Jose Bautista (Really? Below Verlander?)

6. Dustin Pedroia

7. Michael Young

8. Alex Avila

9. Robinson Cano

10. David Ortiz


CC Sabathia, Asdrubal Cabrera, Mark Teixeira, Miguel Cabrera, Ben Zobrist

There are 4 Yankees, 4 Red Sox, and 3 Tigers on this list.

This brings me to a question. If:

Because there's no way to put a number on the value of leading a team into the postseason, which should be everyone's goal.


The ultimate goal of any player is to win, so the value of the individual accomplishments that lead to a pennant should be viewed in that context.

So if an individual MVP led his team to the playoffs and the team accomplishment can be seen through this player's individual performance, how can it be that there are 4 Red Sox, 4 Yankees and 3 Tigers players that have led their team into the postseason? Wouldn’t that mean it was more of a team effort if these teams had this many players leading the team into the postseason? I would just think if a team made the playoffs and there were 4 players on that team who played at a high level, wouldn’t that mean the team accomplishment of making the playoffs was more of a team effort than a result of one player being outstanding enough to lead that team into the playoffs? Guess not.

Heyman’s NL MVP ballot is worse because he has Ryan Braun at #1 and Prince Fielder at #2 on the list. So if they both had outstanding performances that led the Brewers to the playoffs, how can the fact they both performed outstandingly be ignored and claim one of them was much more valuable than a guy like Matt Kemp who was the only player on his team performing outstandingly?

After this part of the column, Heyman explains the reasoning behind the selections for each award. I have a feeling this MVP/Cy Young discussion is just starting. It’s that time of the year for debates.


rich said...

There is a decent amount of precedent for that, as well,

There have also been players on truly terrible teams who have won the MVP. Andre Dawson did it, ARod did it and Cal Ripken did it.

The ultimate goal of any player is to win, so the value of the individual accomplishments that lead to a pennant should be viewed in that context.

No, the goal of every team is to win. The goal of every individual is to perform well enough to help the team win. There's a difference, especially when you're talking about an individual award.

Wouldn’t that mean it was more of a team effort if these teams had this many players leading the team into the postseason?

Shhhh. Don't let them know you're onto their stupidity.

ivn said...

I honestly don't know how someone can't vote for Justin Verlander for MVP. his stats are ridiculous this year, and where would the Tigers be without him? I don't think that there's any position player in the field that is so good that you have to vote him over Verlander.

Pat said...

I tend to agree with ivn. I don't think it is fair to consider any players on either the Yankees or Red Sox because both teams have gotten MVP caliber seasons from multiple players. I think it is a toss up between Justin Verlander and Jose Bautista. My vote would go to Verlander, although I definitely understand the arguments against pitchers. One thing to consider: true Bautista would seem to have a greater impact because he is an everyday player but If you combine his 612 PA with his 244 Defensive Chances (I don't love this statistic because it does not take into account range and extraneous factors but it does offer a rough estimate of the number of defensive plays he played a role in) and 13 total SB attempts you get a rough estimate of him participating in 869 plays throughout the season, give or take depending on unquantifiable baserunning and defensive factors. Verlander, on the other hand, has faced 938 batter this season which means he has had an impact on more individual plays this season. Considering they have both had phenomenal statistical seasons and that Verlander has been lights out down the stretch while Buatista dipped slightly, I think Verlander is a fine choice.

Bengoodfella said...

Rich, see Andre Dawson was the exception. He wasn't the rule. Only ever so often can a player be valuable and not be on a winning team.

What you said in the second paragraph. I am on to their stupidity and there is a difference in an individual award and a team award. That's it exactly...which leads me to Pat and Ivn's comments. I wrote this about a week ago, and since then I have read a couple pretty convincing arguments for Verlander to be MVP. I don't know if I can agree with them b/c the Cy Young seems to be that award for me, but I am definitely more open to the idea of Verlander being MVP.

If Granderson is named MVP then the award should just go to Verlander b/c I feel like Granderson had less of an impact on the Yankees than Verlander did with the Tigers.

So I didn't go back and edit my thoughts for this post, which I probably should have, but I'm not sure the Tigers are in the playoffs without him. Not to take anything away from Yankees or Red Sox players, but it is hard to say one player on teams talented up and down the roster is the MVP. If Granderson wasn't there, would the Yankees be in any worse shape?

So Ivn and Pat, I still think the MVP should be for a hitter...mostly. I can buy that a guy like Verlander has been more valuable than the other players in contention. I think Bautista should be the guy, but I also don't know if I can stand by my hard-and-fast rule of pitchers not getting MVP votes this year. The field is full of guys who have had help on their team and then Jose Bautista. Pretty good point, why shouldn't Verlander get the award? So I think was wrong this year, but generally I would rather the MVP be a hitter.