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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Who Ya Got? An MVP Primer

The MVP goes to the best player on the best team — except when it doesn’t.
Players from bad teams never win the MVP — except when they do.
MVPs are players who show up for work every day — except when they’re not.
MVP voters hate second basemen like an underemployed son-in-law…

gehrig97 Posted: July 14, 2018 at 08:57 AM | 28 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mike trout, mookie betts, mvp, red sox

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: July 14, 2018 at 05:04 PM (#5709921)
Except when they don't -- Altuve, Pedroia, Kent, Sandberg, Alomar, Carew, Morgan X 2, Robinson, Gordon, Frisch, Hornsby X 2, Evers
   2. Michael Paulionis Posted: July 14, 2018 at 06:05 PM (#5709942)
They should really love catchers a lot more than they do.


1. Who are these deserving catchers?

dependable, drama-free defense often goes ignored.


2. Who are these defensive-specialists?

National League voters hate pitchers (unless that pitcher is Clayton Kershaw).


3. Who are these NL-pitchers sans Kershaw?

They hate second basemen like an underemployed son-in-law


4. Who are these 2nd basemen?

I don't mind this piece by Jeremy Lehrman, but I agree that it is intentionally vague. gehrig97 does a good job pointing out this method of generalized Ad populum critique as rather hollow without providing more of the specific contrarian arguments.

Also, I'd like to personally admit my phallus is also the best...except when it's not. In addition, my phallus shows up to work every day...except when it doesn't. And finally, I think that my future-father-in-law would be very upset with the perpetually unemployed-ness of said phallus' attached body...but I will not be slandered into associating my phallus with such a wretched hive of scum and villainy as 2nd baseman.

As for my personal assumptions to 1-4, 1. Catcher = 1982 Gary Carter - 8.6 WAR , 2. Defensive = 1984 Cal Ripken - 10.0 WAR, 3. NL Pitcher = 1985 Doc Gooden - 13.3 WAR, and 4. NL 2nd Baseman - 2006 Chase Utley - 7.3 WAR or 2007 Chase Utley - 7.8 WAR & AL 2nd Baseman - 1999 Roberto Alomar - 7.4 WAR (even though Pedro was the real MVP)
   3. Michael Paulionis Posted: July 14, 2018 at 06:24 PM (#5709946)
Except when they don't -- Altuve, Pedroia, Kent, Sandberg, Alomar, Carew, Morgan X 2, Robinson, Gordon, Frisch, Hornsby X 2, Evers


What MVP did Roberto Alomar win? What position did Rod Carew play in 1977?

That leaves Rogers Hornsby (2), Joe Morgan (2), Altuve (1), Pedroia (1), Kent (1), Sandberg (1), Jackie Robinson (1), Joe Gordon (1), Frankie Frisch (1), and Johnny Evers (1). Going back what...120 years? I don't know if this list is complete, but 12 doesn't seem like great representation.
   4. Cowboy Popup Posted: July 14, 2018 at 07:46 PM (#5709966)
but 12 doesn't seem like great representation

I suppose that depends on whether more 2b deserve recognition. In recent memory, I think Cano and Utley had claims to receiving more votes than they did during various elections but I don't know that either got snubbed. Alomar in 99 has a case but so do like 5-10 other players.

I don't recall Biggio being ripped off but I could be wrong. I'm trying to think who else at 2b might have gotten a raw deal. Bret Boone that one year?
   5. Sweatpants Posted: July 14, 2018 at 07:54 PM (#5709968)
From the article:
In fact, there really hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster of a vote since the Juan Gonzalez debacle of 1998.
Justin Morneau was a pretty indefensible pick in 2006. Other than that one I agree, but that was a notoriously bad selection.
That leaves Rogers Hornsby (2), Joe Morgan (2), Altuve (1), Pedroia (1), Kent (1), Sandberg (1), Jackie Robinson (1), Joe Gordon (1), Frankie Frisch (1), and Johnny Evers (1). Going back what...120 years? I don't know if this list is complete, but 12 doesn't seem like great representation.
How many MVP-caliber seasons have there been from 2B, though? Only Morgan, Hornsby, and Sandberg were obvious winners. Robinson was neck-and-neck with Musial and maybe Robin Roberts for best in the league during his prime seasons (to be fair, neither of the other two ever took an MVP award from him). Altuve could have lost to Judge. Gehringer and Kent could have lost to any of several guys who were great those years. Pedroia and Evers weren't strong MVPs. Gordon, Frisch, and Nellie Fox probably shouldn't have won.

In trying to think of a notable snub of a second baseman, I could think of only Steve Garvey over Joe Morgan, but it's not like Morgan was the obvious best player in the league that year. Grich was probably better than Baylor in 1979, with Fred Lynn probably better than both. 2B might get lucky in MVP voting infrequently compared to guys at other positions, but I'm not sure they've actually deserved a whole bunch of awards that they didn't win.

(Cowboy Popup made this same point as I was typing this.)
   6. TomH Posted: July 14, 2018 at 08:16 PM (#5709972)
Morgan coulda shoulda won more than his 2 MVPs, but voters didn[t snub him, they just didn't understand his walks and other skills were more valuable then his famous husting teammate LFers sweet .338 batting average.
   7. Mefisto Posted: July 14, 2018 at 08:22 PM (#5709974)
12 awards in 110 years seems just what we'd expect for 9 positions.
   8. Jacob Posted: July 14, 2018 at 09:03 PM (#5709992)
From the article:
They hate second basemen like an underemployed son-in-law (only 10 MVP selections out of the 174 awarded since 1931).
   9. cardsfanboy Posted: July 14, 2018 at 09:05 PM (#5709994)
The problem with this type of article (which for the record I enjoyed) is that you are looking at final results and not degrees of votes.

We have all made assumptions about how the mvp voters rate players and why, which this article tries to approach, but to be honest you need to look at the entire picture. I think the writers generalizations are generally accurate, but the data he's using is a bit too rigid to make any real argument... which I fully admit, is not what the article is about, this isn't a peer review type of study, but just an article dealing with generally held assumptions of the vote, and points to a few quick points... for a short article it's perfectly fine. It's not a hard core study on these assumptions at all.
   10. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: July 14, 2018 at 10:38 PM (#5710027)
12 awards in 110 years seems just what we'd expect for 9 positions.


First of all, it's more like 200 years, as you need to count both leagues. Second, there's also Larry Dole, Eddie Collins, and Charlie Gehringer.
   11. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 14, 2018 at 10:53 PM (#5710031)
TFA also confuses Juan Gonzales' 1998 award with the truly ludicrous 1996 award (well, they were both ludicrous..)
   12. cardsfanboy Posted: July 14, 2018 at 11:24 PM (#5710048)
First of all, it's more like 200 years, as you need to count both leagues. Second, there's also Larry Dole, Eddie Collins, and Charlie Gehringer.



I'm at a loss on all of that math, the article starts by stating that

Since the modern incarnation of the Most Valuable Player award was introduced in 1931, we’ve learned a few things along the way:


this indicates 86 seasons, meaning 172 seasons... even though the article then occasionally goes back and talks about years before it's original premise, but ultimately it's about the current system in place.

In theory if all positions are equal you would expect about 19 mvp awards per position... in reality of course that isn't true, and of course a part of that is that teams got exceptional performance from some positions more often than others and that there was a flatline at other positions.

   13. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: July 14, 2018 at 11:43 PM (#5710061)
I'm at a loss on all of that math,


I was responding to this:

12 awards in 110 years seems just what we'd expect for 9 positions.


which was responding to this:

That leaves Rogers Hornsby (2), Joe Morgan (2), Altuve (1), Pedroia (1), Kent (1), Sandberg (1), Jackie Robinson (1), Joe Gordon (1), Frankie Frisch (1), and Johnny Evers (1). Going back what...120 years? I don't know if this list is complete, but 12 doesn't seem like great representation.
   14. QLE Posted: July 15, 2018 at 01:04 AM (#5710101)
#6- In terms of Joe Morgan, it helps to remember that 47.5% of his WAR and 59.7% of his WAA were accumulated in a five-year period, 1972-1976- he never made the top-ten leaderboard in WAR for any other year, and only three times made the top-ten list for position players otherwise (with his finishes being fifth, eighth, and tenth). Additionally, in all three years Morgan made the top-ten WAR list for position players outside his peak, the MVP had merit- Willie Mays was far and away the best position player in the 1965 National League, Ferguson Jenkins far superior to all position players in the 1971 National League (and with Seaver as his only rival among pitchers), and George Foster, at a 8.4 WAR, is reasonably in the discussion for the 1977 National League if you have questions about the precision of WAR, especially for pitchers (only Schmidt, at 8.9 WAR, was better among position players, with Reuschel leading the league at 9.6 WAR).

Looking at those five years:

1972: Finishes fourth, losing to Johnny Bench- who had 8.6 WAR of his own to Morgan's 9.3, which, given his status as a catcher, is probably the more impressive feat.

1973: Finishes fourth again, this time to Pete Rose, who had 8.3 WAR to Morgan's 9.3- looking at WAR by components, it seems that the thing that puts Morgan over the top is his baserunning compared to Rose.

1974: Finishes eighth- this was a year when the NL MVP votes really look terrible in retrospective, as, in addition to Garvey winning basically for having a .312 batting average (and a vastly overrated defensive reputation) for the pennant winners (in spite of mediocre power, an inability to walk at a green light, and being one of the most evil men in the history of Western civilization), second place went to Lou Brock for 118 stolen bases (and a 110 OPS+ and fielding left field poorly), and third place to Mike Marshall for pitching in 106 games (in which, comparing his innings pitched totals to his WAR, he produced the value of a third starter). All this said, it should be noted that Joe Morgan wasn't the best position player in the National League in 1974- Mike Schmidt, at 9.7 WAR, was, and he finished sixth in the voting (at least #4 and #5 in the vote, Johnny Bench and Jim Wynn, had great years, if below Schmidt and Morgan).

1975: Morgan wins the MVP.

1976: Morgan wins the MVP.

Essentially, Morgan won the MVP 40% of the time when he was feasibly the best player in his league- had Willie Mays done this well, he would have ended up with four or five MVPs instead of the two he won in the real world. Also notable is that two of the times Morgan lost, it was to people who were within a WAR of his total- there's really only one truly lousy pick in these five.
   15. Walt Davis Posted: July 15, 2018 at 08:15 AM (#5710140)
Sorry, sloppy of me, I coulda sworn Alomar won one ... and incorrectly remembered Carew not moving to 1B until he got to the Angels. I should have double-checked. Oh well.

It's still hardly dramatic under-representation. And of course 2B are not generally known for lots of HRs, lots of RBIs, etc.
   16. Chris Fluit Posted: July 15, 2018 at 08:54 AM (#5710146)
We've been running an MMP project over in the Hall of Merit blog. Here's how second baseman have fared so far:

MMP:
Napoleon Lajoie, 1904
Jackie Robinson, 1951, 1952
Joe Morgan, 1973, 1975, 1976
Jose Altuve, 2017

Plus, these guys won league specific awards (AL/NL) which is more analogous to the BBWAA's MVP:
Napoleon Lajoie, 1903
Eddie Stanky, 1950
Ryne Sandberg, 1984

In addition, a few 2B have been the top position player for their league (meaning they lost an MMP to a pitcher, which rarely happens with the BBWAA):
Napoleon Lajoie, 1901, 1902, 1908
Snuffy Stirnweiss, 1944
Rod Carew, 1974, 1975

(we haven't covered 1912-39, 45-49 so there's still a chance for Collins, Hornsby and Gehringer to add to these totals)
   17. Mefisto Posted: July 15, 2018 at 09:10 AM (#5710152)
First of all, it's more like 200 years, as you need to count both leagues.


Yep, I screwed that up.
   18. Hank Gillette Posted: July 15, 2018 at 05:51 PM (#5710327)
I think second basemen start at a disadvantage, because the presupposition is that a second baseman is someone who couldn’t handle the shortstop position. If he was a better fielder and had a stronger arm, he’d be at shortstop. If he was a better hitter and had a stronger arm, he’d probably be at third base.

It pays to be a first baseman when it comes to the MVP. First basemen have won the award 29 times.

Corner outfielders and pitchers are slightly over-represented. That is a surprising result (at least to me) for pitchers, since a pitcher usually has to have a really dominant season with no outstanding position players to win, at least recently.

All the infield positions and center field are under-represented, with second base having the fewest MVPs*.

As imperfect as the vote has been sometimes, I think overall, it reflects the reality that except for pitchers, a player’s offensive value is much more important than defensive value.

Note: I used this site for the information about MVPs, since it was the first site I found that broke the MVP awards out by position. Thank you, Kenneth Matinale.

*Breakout by position. Matinale wrote his article in 2013, and I added the past four years.

1B 29
RF 23
LF 22
P 22
3B 18
CF 17
C 16
SS 15
2B 11
   19. Ziggy's screen name Posted: July 15, 2018 at 06:39 PM (#5710343)
Pitchers aren't over-represented, they're horribly horribly under-represented, considering that there are five times more pitchers than, say, first basemen.

(And way more than that if you want to count relievers. But relief pitchers really shouldn't be in the MVP discussion, so we'll stick with 5x 1B instead of 13x.)
   20. TomH Posted: July 15, 2018 at 06:55 PM (#5710349)
QLE 14, I completely agree. Morgan deserved 3 MVPs, not 2, but that is by far not the worst injustice. The fact that Pete Rose garnered some vtoes in 75 and Foster some votes in 76 when it should have been unanimous is another very small injustice.
The fact that Reggie J and Bench and Rose were thought of as better players in the 70s than Joe....
   21. cardsfanboy Posted: July 15, 2018 at 07:00 PM (#5710351)
Pitchers aren't over-represented, they're horribly horribly under-represented


Not in the modern vote, I'm in the camp that war under values three positions, starting pitchers, catchers and possibly first baseman, but ultimately the value of a starting pitcher has been greatly reduced relative to their value 40 years ago.

MVP is about how much better than your peers you are, and an ace pitcher is ultimately compared to other staff aces, not to the average starter, whether it's fair or not, it's whether or not they can separate themselves from other aces.




*Breakout by position. Matinale wrote his article in 2013, and I added the past four years.

1B 29
RF 23
LF 22
P 22
3B 18
CF 17
C 16
SS 15
2B 11


I just don't think there have been enough good overall second baseman in this time period to warrant the MVP. Not relative to the discussion of other positions.
It's more common for corner players to put up good year after good year.
   22. Hysterical & Useless Posted: July 15, 2018 at 07:29 PM (#5710364)
My guess is that, since the introduction of the Cy Young award (and more particularly, the switch in 1967 to awarding a Cy for each league) many voters have viewed the MVP as a "position player" award, so that only an historically great season by a pitcher can put him in the running for their MVP vote. [Which makes the votes for relief pitchers rate an extra dose of "Huh??"]

As imperfect as the vote has been sometimes, I think overall, it reflects the reality that except for pitchers, a player’s offensive value is much more important than defensive value.


Hank G nails it.
   23. TomH Posted: July 15, 2018 at 09:13 PM (#5710385)
"a player’s offensive value is much more important than defensive value"

Well, sure, but how about the value of being able to play a position where the average guy is worth 20 fewer runs than some other position?

MVP voters historically have awarded shortstops (and catchers) having mediocre offensive years WHEN THE TEAM WINS. But SS and C do NOT get bonuses in voters eyes when a team loses; it's like we grant them mystical team-helping points to the defense-first spots only based on team success. Numerous examples exist, but check out Trammell and Larkin and Ripken and you will see what I mean.

2B, on the other hand, despite at times being a position that hits worse than catchers, have not historically been granted this kind of bonus. See Utley comma Chase, whose teammates played SS or won RBI titles and thus won prizes.
   24. Hank Gillette Posted: July 15, 2018 at 11:24 PM (#5710397)
Well, sure, but how about the value of being able to play a position where the average guy is worth 20 fewer runs than some other position?


Well, of course that has value, but WAR makes an adjustment for that. It’s just easier to find a first baseman or outfielder who can put 60-70 runs over the average player, and that’s not even counting Mike Trout. That dwarfs the 20 run handicap of the defensive positions.

When Robinson Cano had 8 WAR seasons, he was in the top five in MVP voting, but it’s hard to see where he should have won. He was better than the winner in 2012, but was still not as good as Trout.

Pedroia probably should have done better in the voting in 2011, but you can’t really say he was more valuable than Verlander, and he won the award in 2008, in a lackluster year for position players.

You can find years when some of the defense-first position players arguably should have won, but you can say that about outfielders. Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle were the best players in their league five or six times. Ted Williams should have won more than two MVP awards.
   25. Hank Gillette Posted: July 15, 2018 at 11:31 PM (#5710400)
Pitchers aren't over-represented, they're horribly horribly under-represented, considering that there are five times more pitchers than, say, first basemen.


You can look at it that way, or you can look at it as there are nine positions, of which pitcher is one.

To put it another way, at all the other positions (except catcher), the manager puts his best option out there nearly every day. He only puts his best pitcher out there every fifth day. Almost every other starter is a compromise, or a “substitute” for the player the manager would like to start.
   26. Michael J. Binkley's anxiety closet Posted: July 16, 2018 at 07:04 AM (#5710422)
In addition, a few 2B have been the top position player for their league (meaning they lost an MMP to a pitcher, which rarely happens with the BBWAA):
Napoleon Lajoie, 1901, 1902, 1908


Chris-

One minor correction on your excellent work keeping tabs on the MMP project that I noticed while I was back-filling my yearly MMPs. You have Nap Lajoie as AL MMPosition Player for 1902. However, Ed Delahanty finished ahead of him in the voting. In 1902 and 1903 before his death he was no longer with the Phillies, he played for the Washington Senators.
   27. TomH Posted: July 16, 2018 at 08:44 AM (#5710441)
Hank, I am not sure what you stated is true: "It’s just easier to find a first baseman or outfielder who can put 60-70 runs over the average player". Are you familiar with Lee Sinin's BB Encyclopedia which has "Runs Created Above Position" (RCAP) for every MLB season? If your statement were correct, the highest RCAP in most years would be a 1B/OF rather than a C/IF. I will look that up when I get time on my home computer.

And Williams/Mays/Mantle/Trout did not typically lose their "deserved" MVPs to infielders; often it was to other OFers who had greater RBI totals and fewer walks. Or teams who won.
   28. Brian Posted: July 16, 2018 at 11:43 AM (#5710536)
Morgan coulda shoulda won more than his 2 MVPs, but voters didn[t snub him, they just didn't understand his walks and other skills were more valuable then his famous husting teammate LFers sweet .338 batting average.


Hell, listening to Morgan's work in the broadcast booth HE didn't even understand or appreciate his own skill set.

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