Who were the REAL MVPs?
The Major League Baseball writers voted for Alex Rodriguez and Albert Pujols as the AL and NL MVPs recently, and statheads around the country lauded them for “getting it right”. But did they?
Every discussion I have read on the American League Award focused largely on whether or not David Ortiz game state performances should outweigh A-Rod’s overall performance compared to players at his position. The lack of defense played by Big Papi played a large role in the number of votes he would get, and very large in the discussions here and around the baseball world.
Even in the National League, there was a good deal of clamor over whether or not a good defensive centerfielder hitting 51 home runs, leading the league in RBIs and lifting his team to their zillionth straight division crown was more deserving over a good fielding, great hitting first baseman – after all, he was still “just” a first baseman.
What I haven’t seen to date is a nice list of what every player contributed on both sides of the ball. Defensive runs saved and offensive runs generated.
There is a big problem – designated hitters, that scourge of baseball everywhere, don’t play defense. So how do you quantify what they contribute to the defense? Some want to say they are the worst fielder on their team, because that is the player a team chooses to put in the field instead of the DH. One of the problems with that is that the DH may not have the ability to play that position – which I’m not sure mitigates the original question.
Perhaps they should only be “penalized” as the worst player in the league at the position they *would* play, were they to play.
But that doesn’t really cover it either, because all that is really required is that they be a worse fielder than the player that is playing the position for the team. I mean, being a DH when Jon Olerud is your defensive first baseman isn’t really damning.
However, if you aren’t very capable of playing defense, you are sucking up a roster spot and hurting your team overall defensively. In addition, your team is stuck in interleague play on the road. Okay, that’s just 8 games, but it is 5% of the time.
I’m not sure what the answer is, but I am certain a designated hitter that cannot play in the field adequately damages his team more than a player that plays defense poorly. This we can be sure of because teams do choose to play a “Manny Ramirez” over a “David Ortiz”.
That is effectively saying that Ortiz at first base with Manny DHing and Jay Payton in LF is a *worse* lineup than Ortiz at DH, Manny in LF and Kevin Millar/Olerud at first base.
We know the Red Sox will make decisions on defensive value, and they stick with this lineup. People argue that the Red Sox don’t do that for defensive reasons, but for health reasons. Ortiz probably couldn’t take the grind. That’s another reason to de-value Ortiz’ abilities, but does it de-value his performance?
For me, I’ll provide you with the two categories, and let you add your own weighting for the DH. I personally discount the DH performance to a bad fielding first baseman – around -15 runs – think Mike Piazza or Frank Thomas. In all honesty, that overstates the DH value, because if Frank Thomas can manage only a -15 and I can get another bat like Ortiz in the lineup, that’s very important. Okay, that was a bit rant-like.
My ratings for defense can be found here.
My offensive ratings are Jim Furtado’s Extrapolated Runs above average at position, park-adjusted. Why? Because I already have all the spreadsheets set up, and it does a very good job, even compared to BaseRuns.
For these purposes, there is nothing wrong with using “average” as the baseline – it doesn’t undervalue an average performance for this usage. Plus, you don’t put your eye out trying to guess at a defensive “replacement level”.
Player Team pos Offense Defense Total
rodriguez,alex NYY 3B 81.0 -13.5 67.5
roberts,brian BAL 2B 47.8 3.8 51.6
ortiz,david BOS DH 51.6 -1.6 50.0
hafner,travis CLE DH 49.0 Dnp 49.0
guerrero,vladim LAA RF 41.8 1.3 43.1
peralta,jhonny CLE SS 28.3 8.9 37.2
martinez,victor CLE C 39.4 -6.0 33.4
ellis,mark OAK 2B 21.2 11.3 32.5
mora,melvin BAL 3B 25.8 6.1 31.9
mauer,joe MIN C 23.3 8.0 31.3
chavez,eric OAK 3B 17.8 13.2 31.0
crisp,coco CLE LF 19.9 10.2 30.1
teixeira,mark TEX 1B 23.2 6.3 29.5
giambi,jason NYY 1B 38.6 -10.3 28.3
crawford,carl TB LF 17.2 10.5 27.7
jeter,derek NYY SS 26.1 1.5 27.6
varitek,jason BOS C 29.1 -4.3 24.8
sizemore,grady CLE CF 22.6 1.4 24.0
gomes,jonny TB DH 18.7 3.5 22.2
polanco,placido DET 2B 18.6 2.3 20.9
lugo,julio TB SS 15.3 5.6 20.9
young,michael TEX SS 28.0 -7.1 20.9
posada,jorge NYY C 21.1 -0.3 20.8
matsui,hideki NYY LF 26.8 -6.7 20.1
Offense is XR runs above average, park-adjusted for a player’s playing time.
Defense is runs prevented above average for a player’s playing time.
Thanks to Doug’s Stats for the offensive stats.
The decimal places are not meant to indicate a level of accuracy, but there so you can see where the math comes out.
Well, Ortiz’ clutch-hitting notwithstanding, ARod was definitely the correct MVP. He had the best bat by a wide margin. If you note, despite my rant, I did not dock the DHs for defense. That’s wrong in the overall analysis, but I’ll let you make your own adjustment.
Look at that – Brian Roberts was the second most valuable player in the American League. What a great season for him. He has to be the bargain of the year. Not a great bet to repeat, but a great season for him.
Ortiz played first base for 78 innings. In that time, he cost the Sox two runs. You don’t want that out there for 780 innings, much less 1400. Playing Manny is probably the right move (Manny isn’t on the list, but ended up at +14 runs).
Travis Hafner, one of the top five AL players last year, didn’t play in the field. He is a great secret. Sure the Indians are becoming popular, but Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta are getting the press. Hafner is going to be a top candidate for the MVP for a few more years.
Above are the players that were twenty runs above average at their position. It’s a nice list, with a good variety of teams and positions.
There are five Yankees on the list, and Sheffield was just off of it. That’s a good team.
There are also five Indians on the list, and they are all twenty nine or younger. That’s a good team.
Player Team pos Offense Defense Total
lee,derrek CHN 1B 59.7 0.0 59.7
utley,chase PHI 2B 34.3 19.4 53.7
giles,brian SDP RF 48.5 4.3 52.8
pujols,albert STL 1B 52.6 -1.3 51.3
ensberg,morgan HOU 3B 38.4 4.3 42.7
bay,jason PIT LF 40.9 -2.2 38.7
kent,jeff LAD 2B 35.4 1.4 36.8
jones,chipper ATL 3B 31.8 4.9 36.7
edmonds,jim STL CF 32.5 3.7 36.2
wright,david NYM 3B 36.4 -5.0 31.4
lopez,felipe CIN SS 31.7 -2.2 29.5
winn,randy SFG CF 23.7 5.7 29.4
cabrera,miguel FLA LF 36.2 -7.2 29.0
furcal,rafael ATL SS 23.2 5.5 28.7
drew,j.d. LAD RF 21.8 6.5 28.3
helton,todd COL 1B 19.1 8.6 27.7
hall,bill MIL SS 23.9 2.0 25.9
floyd,cliff NYM LF 16.1 9.7 25.8
abreu,bobby PHI RF 31.5 -5.8 25.7
jones,andruw ATL CF 25.3 -0.2 25.1
jenkins,geoff MIL RF 17.2 7.1 24.3
dunn,adam CIN LF 26.4 -2.5 23.9
delgado,carlos FLA 1B 31.2 -8.2 23.0
burrell,pat PHI LF 17.9 4.7 22.6
rollins,jimmy PHI SS 18.4 1.6 20.1
valentin,javier CIN C 17.8 0.3 18.1
Chart key as above.
I added Javier Valentin because he was the highest rated NL catcher. He’ll be the sleeper in next year’s fantasy leagues.
So it looks like the voters got this one wrong – sort of. Sure it’s close enough to not really be a travesty, but it looks like Lee was the better performer. In addition, we can see Chase Utley and Brian Giles being top performers as well. Utley, like Roberts in the AL, was a great bargain for maximum production. The problem will be, in Philly, that Utley doesn’t “look like” a second baseman. He’ll be an all-star there if he’s allowed to play it.
Brian Giles wasn’t much of a secret before and now he has re-signed with San Diego. That’s a great deal for the Padres. Teams would have really benefited from Giles signing with them. I would bet he has four more top-notch seasons in him.
It is interesting to note that JD Drew is in the top twenty considering he missed most of the season. The combination of his injuries, his holdout and being platooned has probably sidetracked what could have been a stellar career.
All in all, the MVP awards were given to very deserving candidates. What we did not see was deserving candidates being considered, like Giles and Utley and Roberts. It isn’t likely that Utley and Roberts will be in this lofty position very often, so finishing high in the MVP voting is a good reward when you do deserve it.
No, I didn’t list any pitchers here. We can discuss them, but that’s a different ranking system.
I may have missed someone else that performed at 20 runs above average, but I don’t think so.
Complete player rankings will be available (all players) when I combine the defense and offense. That’s a bit of work.
Posted: January 04, 2006 at 05:45 AM | 197 comment(s)
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