Friday, September 30, 2011

One Last Plea for Bautista as MVP (and not Verlander, Ellsbury or Granderson)


By
Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
Most Valuable Player; what exactly does it mean?

Should the emphasis be on most, should it be on valuable? It's a subject that's gotten murkier and murkier as the year progressed, and now that the regular season is in the books, it's time to try to make some sense of it all.

I think where folks are getting confused about the MVP award is that they're trying to judge which players have been most valuable to their team, when in fact they should be judging which player has been the most valuable, period.

It's nearly impossible to quantify which player has been most valuable to their own team, because every situation is completely different. Judging how valuable Jose Bautista has been to the Blue Jays and how valuable Jacoby Ellsbury has been to the Red Sox are like comparing apples and oranges.

Just to reiterate how silly the rationale is that the MVP candidate must come from a playoff team, let's eliminate all the candidates who won't be playing October baseball: Jose Bautista, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez.

When we test that theory, it just goes to show how outrageous this school of thought is. So it's not fair to hold Jose Bautista's team against him when he has no control over what the other 24 men on the roster do around him.

And just in case you weren't sick and tired of the MVP debate already, here's one last plea for Jose Bautista to win the AL MVP. It actually turns out to be a plea not to vote for Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, or Justin Verlander.

Not Curtis Granderson

One of the biggest arguments against Jose Bautista's MVP chances last year was that while he was far and away the most impressive slugger in the league, his .260 batting average was not that of your typical MVP.

Now one year later, Bautista finished with a .302 batting average and yet his chances don't seem any better. Aside from home runs, doubles and RBI's, Jose Bautista improved in all offensive categories compared to 2010.

What frustrates me is that although Jose Bautista's AVG was .260 last year and people wrote him off for that, they are miraculously able to ignore Curtis Granderson's .262 AVG and yet still put him ahead of Jose Bautista on their ballot.

The big advantage Curtis Granderson has over all the other candidates is he plays on the biggest stage on earth for the New York Yankees. His rise to the top has been well documented around all corners of the baseball world in 2011.

That's the only explanation I can find why Tracy Ringolsby picked Curtis Granderson as his #2 MVP candidate, behind Justin Verlander at #1 and Michael Young at #3. Shockingly, no mention of Jacoby Ellsbury or Jose Bautista anywhere.

On paper, Jose Bautista clearly had the better offensive season, but what about the other side of the equation, defense?

With Curtis Granderson, I feel like there's this perceived notion that he's a really good fielder, when in fact he isn't. Since Granderson has a reputation as being a "fast" player, I believe people just automatically associate that with being a great centre fielder.

The best centre fielders are the fastest ones, right? I think that's where Curtis Granderson is getting the benefit of the doubt because his reputation as a base stealer lends to him being a good fielder.

I'll be the first to admit that Jose Bautista isn't a spectacular fielder, either. Much like Granderson, I think Bautista's reputation proceeds him; it's Jose's strong throwing arm that allows him to have the eminence of being a good fielder.

Not that fielding should be determined on statistics alone, but at the end of the day, that's the only body of work people can really work from. It's not based off a visual memory bank of great catches in the outfield.

Curtis Granderson's UZR was -6.2 compared to Jose Bautista's -8.3. And when it comes to Total Zone Fielding Runs, Granderson comes in at -2 compared to Bautista's 0.

Just as a frame of reference, Brett Gardner had 35 Total Zone Fielding Runs Above Average this season.

Not Jacoby Ellsbury

Once again, the thing Jacoby Ellsbury has over Jose Bautista is he plays a premium defensive position, with a difficult outfield configuration at his home ballpark. Unlike Curtis Granderson though, Ellsbury handles centre field very well.

Whether you prefer Baseball Reference's interpretation of WAR or FanGraphs WAR, both Jacoby Ellsbury and Jose Bautista are ranked in the top two of both versions respectively.

The difference between the WAR's for Bautista are slightly different; an 8.6 WAR according to Baseball Reference, and a 8.4 WAR on FanGraphs. Apparently FanGraphs WAR is more weighted on defense, which would explain why Jacoby Ellsbury is up there with 9.6 WAR as opposed to 7.2 on BBREF.

It pains me to say this, but Jacoby Ellsbury is definitely and admirable foe for Jose Bautista as American League MVP. I can definitely see him getting the lion's share of the votes, and they would all be warranted.

I alluded to it off the top, but I think a positive side affect of the Red Sox not making the playoffs is that it should help voters look at Jose Bautista and Jacoby Ellsbury equally, and not lean more towards the Red Sox because they would have made it into the postseason.

Ellsbury would have been hailed for "saving the season" with his 3-run home run on Sunday against the Yankees, perhaps swaying some indecisive voters. But thanks to the Red Sox collapse, we don't have to worry about that scenario.

Not Justin Verlander

Not everyone holds Jose Bautista in as high a regard as the legions in Toronto, and I'm cool with that. A first place MVP vote for Jacoby Ellsbury or even Curtis Granderson is understandable. But what really frustrates me is an AL MVP vote for Justin Verlander.

You're telling me that a man who played in only 34 games is more valuable than a man who plays upwards of 162 games? Given, Verlander faced 882 batters this season and Jose Bautista only went to the plate 655 times, but position players always play both sides of the game.

Jose Bautista was there day-in and day-out, whether it was at third base, right field, or at the plate. Justin Verlander had the luxury of watching every half inning from the dugout, while Jose Bautista was accumulating 3-4 at bats per game.

And despite the story that's been spun by the media the entire season, Justin Verlander was not the head and shoulders best pitcher in the American League this season. Another solid season from CC Sabathia was overshadowed by all the Verlander hype.

For the people trying to justify voting Verlander as MVP, the crutch to their argument is "where would the Tigers be without him?" Yes, Verlander won 23 games, but only 5 of them came against teams with a winning record.

And again, Justin Verlander did not single-handedly win 23 games all by himself for the Detroit Tigers. They would not have 72 wins without him as opposed to the 95 they have with him now. It's another discussion for another day about the pitcher's win statistic, but suffice it to say those wins don't mean very much in my book.

I'm not against the idea of voting for a pitcher as MVP entirely, but not when there was such strong field of position player candidates, and not when that pitcher wasn't far and away the best in the league.

Overall

While I would love for Bautista to win the MVP, I don't expect him to garner the votes necessary to take the award. More than likely, it's going to go Jacoby Ellsbury or heaven forbid, Justin Verlander. However, Jose should hopefully have a strong showing and land in at least the top three.

Don't get me wrong, Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury and Justin Verlander all had fantastic seasons. I'm not discounting anything they did in 2011. All I'm asking is that the writers with AL MVP ballots disregard player reputations, narratives, or any other intangibles that might sway their vote.

Whether or not their team made the playoffs, select whom you believe had the best overall season, and don't consider any outside factors. Don't look at the names ... look at the numbers, and it should be clear who was the best in 2011.

15 comments:

  1. I find it surprising the lack of love that Miguel Cabrera gets in MVP discussions, I would probably rank him ahead of all of Verlander, Elsbury and Granderson.

    As for Bautista, it all depends on whether or not you feel the MVP must go to a contending team.

    An by the way, where can I complain about the Word Verification choices for this blog? I feel dirty because it is making me type "vagyna"

    ReplyDelete
  2. Peter, I can see Cabrera finishing in the top five, but his season was overshadowed by the likes of Ellsbury, Granderson, etc. Next to Longoria, Cabrera has a very underrated season.

    And not sure where the word verification words come from, but I've had a few odd ones come up as well. I'm sure there's a computer programmer giggling about it somewhere.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I've never understood why an MVP can't come from a team ouside the playoffs because "they still wouldn't have made the playoffs" but you can't say that a player on a team with a 9-game lead wouldn't "have made the playoffs without him." I've often said that a player on a bad team is even more valuable than one on a good team. How can A-Gone, Pedroia, and Ellsbury all be MVP candidates? How valuable can either of them be if you have the other two?

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think Ellsbury had this wrapped up until the last day of the season. If he didn't have the best season in the league than he at least had the best season of any player on a contender. Now I think the voters will have a hard time rewarding a player on a team that choked so spectacularly. I see him getting a lot of second and third place votes but topping few ballots. This should clear the path for Bautista but it will probably just give Granderson an underserved bump. It's too bad because Granderson doesn't really belong in the conversation with Bautista and Ellsbury.

    Verlander's case has been largely overstated. He is a deserving candidate only in the sense that you could give the award to the top starting pitcher in any given year. Greinke for instance had a much better season two years ago and he didn't get a peep of consideration.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The problem is though the selection committee will look at the fact if the players will have a strong post season. If Granderson gets hot or Verlander (or Cabrera) one of them will be MVP. That's a fact of life. I would love it if Jose gets the recognition he deserves, but I don't think the best player on a team that finished 16 games out 1st place will cut it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Isn't saying that the MVP has to come from a playoff team sort of like saying the most valuable car in the world has to come from Jay Leno's collection? Using the baseball writers logic, I couldn't possibly have the most valuable car in the world because even with it, my collection is nothing close to Leno's.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I agree - this should be about the player alone. But that also means you can't discount players because they play on good team either - i.e. Ellsbury isn't out of the running because of the talent that plays around him anymore than Bautista is out of the running because of the lack of talent around him. If you look at individual stats and avoid RBI, runs, etc - then you can evaluate the individual and give him his due. Anything else is really unfair to a lot of players in the league and will only further contribute to inequality across baseball.
    It should also be about the whole season, though some will look at Bautista's weaker 2nd half -- those same people will overlook the fact that if Boston had even started at .500 over their first 2 weeks of games, the WC would have been locked up in mid-September (April doesn't matter, after all).
    As for Miggy - he barely surpassed JoBau for OBP and deserves a serious look, but being on Verlander's team and the spring DUI will both hurt him.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Section 36, if anything I think that school of thought might actually work against the Red Sox candidates, just because there are so many of them.

    King Cat, now with the Red Sox not going into the postseason, I think that allows everybody to be on an even playing field. There were likely be a multitude of guys getting first place ballots, so it could very well come down to who snags the most second and third place ballots as well.

    Tony, I'm not 100% sure if this, but I think the writers ballots are due before the playoffs. Then they're tabulated afterwards.

    Section 36, I don't agree with that school of thought either. I'm hoping the voters don't take that into consideration, because the past few years they've made the right decision when it came to the Cy Young.

    QJays, it should be about the player - not what the team does around him, that's my opinion. If we go by that method, then it should be a pretty close race between Ellsbury and Bautista.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I really hope Bautista wins the MVP, however not too optimistic. Do you think Miguel Cabrera could garner any attention?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Dave, I'd expect Cabrera to place in the top 5 probably, but not the top 3. He very quietly put together another heck of a season, though.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Well J-Bau tailed off after the all-star break:

    .257/.419/.477 with 12 HR.

    ReplyDelete
  12. You're right, apparently the MVP balloting was a few days ago.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anon, I'll admit Bautista definitely lost his momentum in the second hald, but ultimately he had a great overall season. I think the overall numbers speak for themselves.

    Tony, its a good thing too - because if ballots were due after the playoffs, I'm sure voters would get all romantic about the players who go deep into the playoffs.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Bautista definately lost momentum in the second half. Bautista's poor second half statistics will likely cost him at least several MVP votes, meaning George Bell remains the only Blue Jay to ever win a regular season MVP award.

    By way of comparison, here is King George's second half line in his '87 MVP season:

    .321/.380/.589 with 19 HR.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Anon, if we go by the "it's not how you start, it's how you finish" mantra, then Jose definitely lost a lot of steam in the second half. But in the end, I think this final numbers show just how incredible a season he had. That torrid first half makes up for the slack after the All-Star Break.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...