Thursday, December 5, 2013

6 comments Bernie Miklasz Thinks Yadier Molina Got Overlooked in the MVP Voting Because He Played for a Successful Team

It's pretty well known that many MVP voters factor in how well a player's team performed during the season when deciding which NL/AL player to vote for MVP. This has been done for a long while now. Last year in the American League the fact Miguel Cabrera's team made the playoffs and Mike Trout's team did not, despite Trout's team having won one more game than Cabrera's team, was used as a reason that Cabrera deserved the AL MVP. Bernie Miklasz introduces an interesting idea today that Yadier Molina was overlooked in the NL voting because he plays for a successful team, which is an idea I absolutely can not believe can be true. If anything, the fact Molina played for the NL World Series representative had to help his cause for NL MVP. Not so, says Bernie. While he makes a few valid points in this column, his efforts fall short because Bernie also lauds the two Cardinals beat writers for voting for Molina as MVP because they know of his daily contributions to the Cardinals team. Isn't this true of any beat writer though? They follow a team all year long and so they naturally will think certain players on a team are more valuable than a player on another team and could have a bias towards that player at times.

During the season the Cardinals seemingly had three MVP candidates: catcher Yadier Molina, second baseman Matt Carpenter and first baseman Allen Craig.

Allen Craig is a really spiffy player, but you've lost me off the bat by calling him an MVP candidate. Unless this is Bernie's way of showing that nearly EVERY player is an MVP candidate because any active player could be named MVP, in which case he is mocking the way the MVP is discussed and I send him congratulations.

With three contenders in play for the award, it would make it difficult — if not impossible — for a Cardinal to win it.

The 2012 Detroit Tigers had three MVP candidates: Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. They all were in the Top 10 of the MVP voting. Against all odds, Miguel Cabrera won the 2012 MVP. Justin Verlander won MVP in 2011 when there were four Tigers in the Top 16 of the voting. So no, it is not impossible at all for three contenders that play on the same team to win the award. It is impossible for three candidates, none of which have an extremely strong case for the MVP, to win the award when they split the vote. That much may be true.

The field was winnowed to two when Craig suffered a serious foot injury on Sept. 4, missing the remainder of the regular season. That unfortunate, fluke mishap essentially eliminated Craig from receiving upper-ballot votes.

This must be as opposed to the non-fluky injuries that athletes suffer during a baseball game. 

With the Cardinals' prime MVP contenders reduced to Molina and Carpenter, it led to an obvious question: would the teammates siphon votes from each other? Or more specifically: would support for Carpenter penalize Molina's MVP case?

In other words, can two players from one team, neither of which have the strongest case to be the MVP, win the National League MVP award? The answer is "no." I would submit Carpenter and Molina's MVP candidacy was hurt by their statistics relative to the other MVP candidates more than the idea they split the Cardinals vote. Bernie disagrees.

We know the answer. 

Absolutely, yes. 

Molina finished third in the voting.

Carpenter was fourth.

Thanks for writing.

Just like Bill Plaschke.

It's appreciated.

And not at all annoying.

Now that we've seen the voting results, Molina had no chance to win the award. He should have finished second. And Molina would have been second without Carpenter making a strong showing.

So basically Bernie admits that Molina would not have won the MVP even if Carpenter didn't receive any votes, yet he will continue down this road of saying the split votes between Cardinals teammates could be what prevented Molina from being MVP.

Not to mention, the idea of a split vote seems silly to me. I don't see how a person would vote for Molina if Carpenter wasn't on the ballot. Wouldn't that person conceivably not for Molina and vote for Andrew McCutchen or any of the other candidates on the ballot? I shudder to ask this, but are there really that many voters who say, "The Cardinals made the World Series, so I need to vote for one of their players as MVP." You know what, don't answer that. I just think a vote for Carpenter isn't necessarily a vote taken away from Molina, but could be a vote given to Andrew McCutchen or Paul Goldschmidt.

And 12 of the 30 MVP voters put Carpenter ahead of Molina on their ballots. Carpenter had a terrific and important season for the Cardinals, and it's nice to see him get this kind of recognition. 

Good for you, Matt Carpenter! Now burn in Hell because you took votes away from Yadier Molina, the preferred St. Louis Cardinals MVP candidate.

But if you take a vote of Cardinals players, I'm certain that Molina would win the in-house MVP, and it would probably be unanimous.

Well, Cardinals player don't get to vote. If you took a vote of Matt Carpenter's family, I am sure he would be their choice for MVP and it would be unanimous. If you took a poll of the clubhouse of every team on who the MVP would be, it may not be Yadier Molina. It may be. It doesn't matter, Cardinals player don't vote.

That isn't a slap at Carpenter.

End of paragraph, on to the next paragraph!

It's more of a reflection on how much teammates revere Molina.

Great, his teammates like him. That doesn't make him the MVP.

It really didn't matter what any other NL player did in 2013; this MVP was going to be handed to McCutchen, and voters had their minds made up as soon as the "Cinderella" Pirates clinched a winning season, then a playoff spot. The landslide was underway.

The Pirates had not had a winning season in 20 years. The "Cinderella" can be taken out of quotes. But yes, everyone is biased against the Cardinals and the fix was in. Clearly the Cardinals were undermined by the fact everyone is jealous of what a great baseball town St. Louis is and didn't even consider how the Cardinals play the game the right way.

McCutchen was a worthy winner. I criticize no one who voted him first. But I just hope they voted for him for the right reason — a reason that would show McCutchen the respect he deserves.

This is as opposed to voting for Yadier Molina because, you know, his teammates really like him. Voting for Molina because he's well-liked it what is known as voting for him for "the right reasons."

McCutchen was worthy of the MVP because of how he played... there was no need to vote for him in order to validate the Pirates' surprising year and put a happy ending on a so-called storybook season.

You are just speculating this is why some voters voted for McCutchen. Voters should have voted for Molina because of how well he played and not because his team was the National League representative in the World Series. I hope no voter did that.

If Molina can't win it in a 2013 season in which he (A) won the Gold glove for defense; (B) won the Silver Slugger for offense; and (C) was the best player on the team with the NL's best record ... well, I ask you: when exactly will he win it?

When he has the best individual season among National League players and is considered by voters to be the most valuable player in the National League. That's when Yadier Molina will win the NL MVP. Paul Goldschmidt won the Gold Glove for defense and the Silver Slugger for offense but for some reason Bernie doesn't think he even deserves second place in the NL MVP voting. Why could that be? Oh yeah, Goldschmidt's team wasn't good enough for him to be the best player on the best team. If only Goldschmidt had found a way to have better teammates around him then he could have the same case to be made that Bernie just made for Molina.

Of course, there are some who believe voting for a player simply because he was the "best player" (who decided Molina was the best player on the Cardinals team?) on the best team is a stupid way to decide an MVP vote. So if a person thinks voting for the best player on the best team is a dumb way to decide an individual award, it seems Goldschmidt and Molina have the same case for NL MVP.

The obvious issue: So much of Molina's value is derived from areas that can't be quantified and ranked.

If you can't quantify and rank Molina's value, then how do you know he has value in those areas?

I get to watch Molina play on a daily basis, so I have a full understanding of just how essential Yadi is to every aspect of Cardinals' baseball. I really believe you have to see it every day to fully appreciate Molina's all-around brilliance, which transcends baseball-card stats and grade-school level baseball analysis.

That's great, but nearly every team has a player like this. Nearly very MLB team has a player you must watch everyday to appreciate his greatness and only by watching him everyday do you realize how valuable he is to a team. This doesn't make this player the MVP. I'm not discounting Molina as a serious MVP candidate, just elaborating on the truth that certain writers who see the same players on a daily basis learn to appreciate and think highly of these players. This is where biases are created.

This explains why Post-Dispatch baseball writers Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel cast the only two first-place votes for Molina: Because they see him far more often than the other 28 voters. This gives them a unique and comprehensive perspective of what Molina means to the team, and they recognize Molina's crucial role in elevating the performance of a very young pitching staff in 2013.

Right, but the fact they see him everyday and have a unique perspective doesn't mean the Diamondbacks beat writers don't see Goldschmidt everyday and sees what he means to the Diamondbacks team. A Braves beat writer sees how many runs for the Braves Andrelton Simmons saves with his defense and a Giants beat writer knows how well Buster Posey manages the Giants pitching staff. See, that's the problem. While Molina does have a case for MVP, this unique perspective doesn't mean Goold and Hummel know something the rest of the voters don't that elevates Molina above other candidates. It simply means they see Molina everyday and it creates this own bias of perceived importance to the Cardinals relative to the other MVP candidates and their importance to their team.

I commend my Post-Dispatch teammates for voting their conscience instead of showing anxiety over being called a "homer" by simple minds out there. Molina's problem is that there are no sabermetric valuations or basic baseball-card orthodoxy that accounts for his massive contributions in scouting opponents, running meetings, setting strategy, the calling of pitches, making adjustments, calming pitchers, motivating pitchers, and running the game.  There's no way to put a stat on those things. It's something to be savored, not calculated.

Again, that's great. This is a bias of perceived importance relative to the other MVP candidates though. So it is being a bit of a "homer," because it assumes Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew McCutchen don't make the same massive contributions to making adjustments, positioning their fellow fielders or having a positive impact on their teammates.

Early in the postseason an MVP voter asked me to elaborate on Molina's value as a leader of the pitching staff. 

"He's more than just a leader," I explained. "He's a de facto pitching coach." 

The voter seemed confused by my assertion; I assume he thought I'd lost my mind. 

But then during World Series the same voter approached me and said: "I get it now."

Just like if Bernie was around Andrew McCutchen he could see the way he motivates his teammates and helps them play better. I get Molina is a catcher and handles the Cardinals pitching staff, but screaming for voters to take into account intangible evaluations of a player that involves watching that player for more than a few games a year isn't possible. It's a flaw in the MVP voting system, but many times these beat writers who vote don't see all of the candidates as much as they should.

"Exactly," I said. "The pitching coach or manager doesn't have to go to the mound and use one of their visits in an inning. They don't have to, because Molina does it for them. They view him as an equal.

Apparently Dave Duncan had to do zero in-game management of his pitchers when he was with the Cardinals. That's good to know.

Just think about all of the pitching changes that Molina has prevented during a long season by making that trip to the mound instead of the pitching coach or the manager. That way, Mike Matheny can afford to stay with a pitcher a while longer, because the Cardinals aren't using their mound visits."

First off, Molina isn't the only catcher that does this. Second, this doesn't mean Matheny can stay with a pitcher long, it just means he or the pitching coach won't have to use up one of his mound visits to talk to a pitcher. The pitcher won't necessarily stay in the game longer because Molina visits the mound in place of Matheny or the pitching coach.

The people who see it on a daily basis get it. The people who don't have the opportunity to witness Molina daily have no way of really knowing, and I don't rip them for that.

This is just like Bernie doesn't have an appreciation for players on other MLB teams because he doesn't seem them play everyday. There seems to be an overwhelming feeling over the past few months from Cardinals beat writers and fans that the team has this innate specialness that no other MLB teams have.

If I wrote sports in another market, I wouldn't fully appreciate Molina, either.

Just like you don't fully appreciate Andrew McCutchen because you don't write in the Pittsburgh market. Just like you don't appreciate the energy Yasiel Puig brought to the Dodgers team because you don't write in the Dodgers market.

Let's take a look at a few of the interesting ballots in the NL MVP vote:

Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had Carpenter eighth and Molina ninth on his ballot. Brink put the two Cardinals behind two Reds, placing Joey Votto 4th and Shin-Soo Choo 7th. And Brink put the two Cardinals behind Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez. The Cardinals won the NL Central, but Brink had four other NL Central players ahead of Carpenter and Molina on his ballot. That'll teach those damned Cardinals to win the division.

So while I may argue with Brink's ballot, my bigger issue would be that Bernie believes because the Cardinals won their division this means individual players on that team should be more seriously considered for an individual award. That makes not of sense. The MVP is an individual award, so the reasoning that Carpenter and Molina should be above Votto and Choo solely because the Cardinals won the division isn't very persuasive to me.

Also, Carlos Gomez had a very good year if you want to consider defense. And clearly Bernie is considering defense when it comes to evaluating Yadier Molina's MVP candidacy, so I don't know why he wouldn't do the same for Carlos Gomez. If Gomez's defense is factored in, minus points for not playing the game the right way (the Brian McCann rule), then he is a pretty good NL MVP candidate.

Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald voted Molina 10th. If that wasn't odd enough, consider that Spencer had Votto 3rd, Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez 6th, Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig 7th, and Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons 9th. Simmons is an exceptional fielder, the best shortstop (defensively) in the majors. I respect Spencer for putting Simmons on there. Too many voters fail to acknowledge defense. But if a voter puts a premium on defense, then why wouldn't he have Molina ranked better than 10th?

This is a good point by Bernie. Simmons isn't a great hitter so the 9th place spot on the ballot is for his defense, but then wouldn't a good hitting catcher who plays excellent defense be rated higher on the ballot? I don't see how Hanley Ramirez can be 6th on anyone's ballot. Don't get me wrong, he would have had an outstanding year if he had played 162 games. But he didn't play 162 games. He played 86 games. I just don't see how a player how a position player who has played less than 100 games in a season could be the MVP. Maybe that's just me.

Molina was on the DL, but he still caught more innings (1,115) than any NL catcher. And Puig was terrific, but he played in only 104 games. He was in the minors for the first two months. Sorry, but a player that wasn't in the majors for two months this season wasn't more valuable than Molina.

Of course after saying a player needs to play at least 100 games I will point that even though Puig didn't play in the majors for two months of the season, his presence in the Dodgers lineup had a positive effect on the team. Maybe it was a coincidence, but since Puig was called up on June 3 the Dodgers were 69-38. That's winning at a 64.5% clip. Of course this can't be attributed solely to Puig, but there does seem to be some evidence of how valuable he was to the Dodgers.

Juan Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel put Molina 9th ... behind Votto, Choo and Hanley Ramirez. Goodness, imagine if Ramirez had actually suited up for, say, 100 games.

Ramirez did hit .345/.402/.638 with 20 home runs and 190 OPS+ in the games he did play in, so it's fair to wonder if Ramirez had played the entire season what kind of numbers he could have put up. I don't know if it makes him a serious MVP candidate, but if he played a full season I think he would have been the MVP if he kept those numbers up.

I'm not going to go off on guys that put Carpenter ahead of Molina on their ballots. And most voters had Carpenter and Molina listed close together on their ballots. But it was a little strange to see Bill Center (San Diego Union Tribune) have such a wide gap, putting Carpenter 2nd and Molina the 7th.

This guy clearly should have asked the Cardinals players who the MVP was and then he could have switched Carpenter and Molina's spots. I still think it is interesting that Bernie wondered if Yadier Molina didn't win the MVP this past year when he would win it, but then admits Andrew McCutchen deserves the award. So Molina deserved it this year, but he didn't deserve it too.

Oh, well. I've also made some peculiar ballot choices through the years, so I guess I should hush up.

If Bernie has ever based an MVP vote entirely on whether that player was on a winning team or not, which I feel like he has done, then "peculiar" is a nice word for this kind of ballot.


Anonymous said...

two quick points

1. the red sox scored 27 runs over 6 games in the world series. by no means was it an offensive onslaught, but allowing 4 and a half runs a game isnt really pitching coach wizadry.

2. obviously, the whole idea of, "you need to see him play every day to truly appreciate him" is nonsense. but even taking it at face value, isnt that really an argument AGAINST the player? i dont need to watch mike trout every day to appreciate how great he is (one day we'll get you that mvp, bro!) -- if i need to watch yadier molina play every day to get how great a player he is, then, maybe he's not that great?

Bengoodfella said...

Anon, I am sure Bernie would say that the Cardinals didn't let Molina be the pitching coach during the World Series.

That's a really good point. There is an argument to be made that if you see a player play everyday and that's the only way you can appreciate him, then he may be great, but a truly great player you don't need to see play everyday to appreciate how great he is.

Of course there things like intangibles and other things that Molina brings to the Cardinals team, but other players have a greatness that jumps out at you.

Murray said...

It's like the writer that left John Farrel off her ballot because "The Sox were expected to win"

Bengoodfella said...

Murray, the Manager of the Year voting is just a total sham. It should be called "The Manager that Exceeded the Media's Expectations for the Year" Award, because that's all it is. Like you said, if a manager is expected to win games then he certainly couldn't have done a good job managing.

HH said...

If you have to see a player every day to appreciate him, there can be no voting. How can the STL guys know anything about the other 14 teams? They can't. They don't see them every day. Everything is pointless and nothing means anything.

Bengoodfella said...

HH, yep. These awards are given out every year without the voters have absolutely complete information. It's a part of the process, so to say one player needs to be seen everyday means this could go for every player who is a serious MVP candidate.