Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sizing Up Jose Bautista's MVP Chances

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Image courtesy of Daylife via Reuters Pictures
I have to admit, I've been very distracted by Friday's new uniform reveal, but for the time being let's take a moment to depart from the jersey talk and focus on another matter; that of the American League MVP voting.

At season's end, I made one last plea for Jose Bautista as MVP, which was essentially just discrediting the rest of the candidates rather than building up Bautista's case. The same stance remains even now, but I'm still not 100% confident that Jose will get the hardware he deserves.

There are a few promising signs, however. The fine folks at SB Nation selected Jose Bautista as their MVP, and so did the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. In both instances, Bautista just narrowly beat out Jacoby Ellsbury for top spot on the ballot.

These results could very well mirror the BBWAA's results for American League MVP, which will finally be revealed on Monday. However, I'm not positive that the Baseball Writers' Association of America will get it right.

The problem is unlike previous years, there is no clear favourite in the American League. Obviously yours truly is a little biased towards Jose Bautista, but cases could easily be made for Jacoby Ellsbury, Justin Verlander, and even Miguel Cabrera and Curtis Granderson.

Had the Red Sox made the playoffs, I believe this year's MVP conversation would hinge on the classic "the MVP needs to come from a winning team" argument. Ellsbury could very well have garnered more first place votes because he "carried his team into the playoffs", but that's one pre-written narrative that had to be crumpled up and thrown in the trash.

I think most voters are probably either writing down Bautista or Ellsbury's name on the top of their ballot. The first place ballots are likely going to be split right down the middle, with perhaps a stray first place ballot for Justin Verlander.

Since there is no obvious front-runner, that's why those those second, third and fourth place votes are going to be as crucial as ever, and could end up deciding the American League MVP.

Here's what makes me a little nervous about Jose Bautista's chances, though; I think this entire award hinges on voter's stances on Justin Verlander's place on the AL MVP ballot. If even one or two voters believe Verlander was the best player in the league this year and Bautista was second best, that will cost Jose four points.

Again, I'm not saying it's completely ludicrous for a pitcher to be considered for the Most Valuable Player Award. The problem is there were a few people that piped up mid-season that Justin Verlander should be considered for AL MVP, and that's when the bandwagoners got wind of it and all hopped on board. Had nobody pined for Verlander, I doubt we'd even be having this conversation.

For those who believe Justin Verlander should place ahead of Jose Bautista, let me give you this food for thought courtesy of the BBWAA website in regards to their instructions for voting for MVP:
There seems to always be a debate about the definition of the MVP. What does the ballot say?

Dear Voter:

There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
Go back and look again at number two on the list, number of games played. Justin Verlander played in 34 games in 2011, Jose Bautista played in 149.

Judging how voters have been hip to sabermetrics these past few years, I'm optimistic that Bautista has a decent shot at MVP. If the same writers that awarded Cy Young Awards to Felix Hernandez and Zack Greinke are voting on MVP, then Jose will be one of the top vote getters.

Ultimately, each of the baseball writers are entitled to their own opinion, but as in any voting circle, some voters might have their preconceived notions, and some might have been prey to the narratives when casting their ballot.

Jose Bautista should win the American League MVP, but will he?
That's up to the BBWAA to decide.

3 comments:

  1. I think the following rule is more telling:

    1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.

    So by the definition above Value is defined "strength of offense and defense"

    To me that eliminates pitchers and there is nothing in regards to playing for a competitive team. As far as I'm concerned these rules are clear and the MVP should be the given to the best position player in the league, essentially a CY Young for hitters.

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  2. Eliminates pitchers in the AL, not NL. I like what peter said at the end, that MVP should be cy youn for hitters, I think the issue, is with the term MVP. If Bautista does not win, then I think voters will not be looking at number three on character and effort i.e. see the All Star Game when analyst stated that he should not have made the play at the wall. Laurie, and Bautista remind of the oldschool play that you would see in Pete Rose, Halladay, Stieb, at the end of the day you Hustle to win.

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  3. Peter, sometimes I fail to see that the most obvious answer is right there in plain sight. I'd agree that should eliminate pitchers from the conversation, but I guess some folks could argue that pitching counts as "defense".

    Psmith, I hope that does weight in on the minds of voters as well. Bautista shifted from right field to third base, and then back to right field. Not all players would be willing to do that, so there are some intangible qualities like that which should play in Jose's favour as well.

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