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Friday, March 21, 2008
The 2007 National League MVP
I read lots of articles about who should be the MVP. Albert Pujols, David Wright, Carlos Beltran, Ryan Howard, Matt Holliday – and Jimmy Rollins won. What I don’t see is an itemized offense plus defense (OPD) analysis to say “this guy should have won the MVP”. Naturally, if the OPD is terrifically close between some players, we’ll tweak it toward something like better Win Probability Added (WPA), a tougher defensive position, or a player on my favorite team. Whatever seems fairest.
Jimmy Rollins won the MVP, and as a Mets fan, I was naturally irritated. Last year Ryan Howard won the award when Carlos Beltran deserved it, and I wasn’t too keen on a second straight year of a Phil taking a Mets player’s rightful award. So did a Met player rightfully deserve the 2007 NL MVP? There are a bunch of articles declaring that David Wright should have won the award. Perhaps a couple of Mets would steal votes from one another to keep either from winning.
Let’s take a look at what Jimmy Rollins did. Rollins played a tough defensive position and he hit a bunch of home runs (in a park with little league fences). He had a good season, posting a 118 OPS+. Hanley Ramirez, however, flat out smoked Rollins offensively. It was pretty well covered though that Ramirez is playing shortstop as if he wanted to be a third baseman. Was Rollins OPD better than Ramirez OPD? Where would Met shortstop Jose Reyes fall in this race? Reyes’ September slump was utterly putrid and his collapse led to Rollins MVP as much as Rollins numbers – if the Mets win the division, Rollins probably doesn’t win the MVP. There is little doubt Rollins bravado getting “backed up” by the Phils slipping past the Mets on the last day of the season provided him an extra kick of votes.
OPD is a combination of XR (extrapolated runs) above average at position and park adjusted for Offense Plus Defensive runs saved above average at position, adjusted for playing time. Yes, XR isn’t used by anyone else much these days, but it is almost the exact same value as RCAA or whatever your favorite runs formula is. Really, it doesn’t matter. In my opinion, VORP is the best construct, but it is a “replacement player” baseline, and that’s just not a practical baseline for defense, and I want the same baseline for the two figures. The OPD units are runs, so 10 runs is a full win in production difference.
So, OPD is perfect for looking at the MVP race. It combines players offensive and defensive contributions. It will certainly give you the people you should be considering – even if you want to season your selection with WPA, or playoff teams, or clutch, or who looks best in his uniform.
Rollins won the MVP – no matter what I say here, that’s not going to change. But who really deserved it?
Shortstop OPD leaders
First Last Team XRA+ DRS OPD Hanley Ramirez FLA 53.7 -16.4 37.3 Jose Reyes NYM 18.1 14.4 32.4 Jimmy Rollins PHI 27.1 -2.1 25.0 Troy Tulowtzki COL 5.6 14.8 20.4
Well, it’s pretty clear Rollins wasn’t the best shortstop, so it isn’t likely he was the best player. He’s 12 runs behind Ramirez. Maybe Rollins inspirational attitude makes up for that, or at least makes it close enough to vote for him for MVP. So, as long as other players don’t really push higher than about 40, maybe, maybe Rollins is a decent MVP choice. It don’t look good though. Ramirez is clearly the best hitter and Reyes and Tulo are obviously better defenders.
As a methodology note, the accuracy of these run methods isn’t to a tenth of a run. That’s just how the math works out, and this gives you the reader how far from the next integer a player is. Players within a handful of runs of one another can be considered about equal.
So, what about last year’s MVP? Should Ryan Howard have been a repeat MVP? What about Albert Pujols? Prince Fielder hit 50 home runs – surely he deserves some consideration.
First base OPD leaders
First Last Team XRA+ DRS OPD Albert Pujols STL 32.4 12.1 44.6 Prince Fielder MIL 38.3 -7.7 30.6 Todd Helton COL 17.2 10.4 27.6 Adrian Gonzalez SDP 15.4 1.3 16.7 Mark Teixeira ATL 16.6 -0.7 15.9 Ryan Howard PHI 23.5 -9.1 14.4
Howard missed some time, and as you can see, he struggles with the glove. Mark Teixeira’s numbers are his NL stats only. He was that good – he could challenge for the MVP in 2008. Prince Fielder was the best hitter, but he was dragged down by his weak glove. Todd Helton and Albert Pujols have been recognized as good fielders their entire careers, and Pujols is easily the best first baseman. And he outpaces Rollins in OPD by nearly 20 runs. At this point, Pujols looks to be the MVP.
Does anyone play right field anymore? There were approximately zero MVP candidates from right field, and when you see who the best was, well, you will be surprised.
Right field OPD leaders
First Last Team XRA+ DRS OPD Corey Hart MIL 19.2 3.6 22.8 Jeremy Hermida FLA 13.4 5.4 18.8 Jayson Werth PHI 10.8 3.3 14.1 Brad Hawpe COL 15.8 -2.4 13.5 Ken Griffey CIN 15.9 -2.5 13.4
That’s a pretty weak lot. Jayson Werth did that much damage in half a season. Right Field was not played well in the NL this past year. Corey Hart, my friends. Corey Hart. Jeremy Hermida. Wow.
Matt Holliday led the Colorado Rockies charge down the stretch and got lots of late season praise for being the MVP. The best hitting left fielder from 2007 is *still* an unsigned free agent. That’s smart baseball decision-making. However, that’s offense, and there is defense to be considered. There aren’t really other left fielders close to these two guys.
Left Field OPD Leaders
First Last Team XRA+ DRS OPD Matt Holliday COL 24.6 13.2 37.8 Barry Bonds SFG 38.3 -9.2 29.2 Milton Bradley SDP 13.6 3.4 17.0 Adam Dunn CIN 20.5 -4.9 15.6
Holliday was the most valuable left fielder, but he wasn’t as valuable as Pujols, and about the same as Ramirez. He was pretty clearly more valuable than Rollins, and he had all the clutchiness one could want. Barry Bonds was handily the next best left fielder and had a better season than Rollins in OPD, whether he was weak in the outfield or not.
Carlos Beltran had a terrific argument for MVP in 2006, and followed that season up with another outstanding year. He won a Gold Glove and hit the ball really well. There’s little doubt his MVP chances were hurt by the Mets slide.
Center Field OPD Leaders
First Last Team XRA+ DRS OPD Carlos Beltran NYM 33.0 11.1 44.1 Aaron Rowand PHI 20.4 5.1 25.5 Josh Hamilton CIN 15.7 1.8 17.5 Hunter Pence HOU 19.6 -2.2 17.4
It isn’t common when a player is the best hitter *and* the fielder at a position, but that is the type of player Carlos Beltran is. Yes, Albert Pujols is too. As you can see, Beltran climbs to the top of the MVP race, in a dead heat with Albert. Just like 2006. And neither won the award then either. They’ll each likely contend in 2008.
There isn’t a catcher in the NL likely to be considered for the MVP as readily as Joe Mauer or Victor Martinez in the AL. There is a catcher that is much better than his peers, and probably better enough that he should get some MVP consideration. He’s also the catcher that logs as much playing time as anyone at the position.
Catcher OPD Leaders
First Last Team XRA+ DRS OPD Russell Martin LAD 31.7 6.2 37.9 Chris Snyder ARI 7.3 6.2 13.6 Yadier Molina STL -0.7 10.1 9.4
Russell Martin is as valuable as Ramirez and Holliday. He’s more valuable than Rollins. He has set himself apart from the rest of the NL catchers, and evidently done so quietly. I knew he was good, but I didn’t realize how much of an advantage the Dodgers had with Martin. Martin, after reviewing six fielding positions, is the third most valuable player. I don’t think he is generally recognized as a top ten player in the NL.
Most of the articles I saw were that David Wright should have been MVP. I know that is who I would have selected. He hit great and he won a Gold Glove – he isn’t the best fielding third baseman, because Pedro Feliz and Scott Rolen were in the league. Nonetheless he outhits those guys, and with a decent glove, should be considered an MVP candidate for the next, oh, ten years.
Third Base OPD leaders
First Last Team XRA+ DRS OPD David Wright NYM 52.1 0.9 53.1 Chipper Jones ATL 45.1 7.1 52.3 Miguel Cabrera FLA 44.2 -18.7 25.4 Aramis Ramirez CHC 17.8 1.5 19.3 Ryan Braun MIL 30.5 -14.9 15.6
Rub your eyes and look again. There is Chipper Jones right on Wright’s heels, and both are way out in front of Pujols/Beltran. Wright is the best hitting third baseman, and his Gold Glove looks a little shaky, but I can tell you, he had much better numbers defensively before the last two weeks of the season. Miguel Cabrera is a good hitter, but that defense was atrocious. Ryan Braun was almost as bad, but was spared that embarrassment by not playing the entire season.
So there you have it – David Wright..what’s that? What about second basemen?
First Last Team XRA+ DRS OPD Chase Utley PHI 43.1 21.4 64.4 Jeff Kent LAD 19.6 -2.3 17.3 Kelly Johnson ATL 20.1 -5.0 15.1 Kazuo Matsui COL 0.4 13.0 13.4
Goodness. Chase Utley is the best hitting second baseman by twenty runs and the best fielding second baseman by about eight runs. He’s the best second baseman by a staggering 47 runs. Utley is better than the next best at his position than all but two other players are above *average* at their given positions. Utley is just a great player, and nearly everyone is missing it. He was also a MVP candidate in 2006, but no one knew it then either. I expect him to be one in 2008. Utley also outpaced the two third basemen by more than ten runs.
The top ten OPD leaders for 2007
First Last Team XRA+ DRS OPD Chase Utley PHI 43.1 21.4 64.4 David Wright NYM 52.1 0.9 53.1 Chipper Jones ATL 45.1 7.1 52.3 Albert Pujols STL 32.4 12.1 44.6 Carlos Beltran NYM 33.0 11.1 44.1 Russell Martin LAD 31.7 6.2 37.9 Matt Holliday COL 24.6 13.2 37.8 Hanley Ramirez FLA 53.7 -16.4 37.3 Jose Reyes NYM 18.1 14.4 32.4 Prince Fielder MIL 38.3 -7.7 30.6
The real MVP of the 2007 season was a Phillie – Chase Utley. Can Utley chase down the MVP in 2008?
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