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Thursday, October 10, 2002

Baseball Primer’s 2002 NL MVP Award

Our picks.

Barry Bonds did it again.

All it took to win Baseball Primer’s 2002 National League MVP was one of the greatest offensive seasons of all time.  Bonds delivered just that, and as a result, was selected as our only unanimous award winner.  All 16 ballots named Bonds as NL MVP, and here are just a few of the reasons why:

His .370 batting average led the major leagues.  His 198 walks surpassed his own record of 177 set last year.  His .799 slugging percentage was the fourth best ever, behind only his own 2001 mark and Babe Ruth’s 1920 and 1921 seasons.  His .582 on-base percentage obliterated the previous single-season record of .553, set by Ted Williams in 1941.  And his OPS of 1.381 was the best ever.

No one else came close to Bonds.  In fact, only one other player, Vladimir Guerrero, appeared on every ballot.  But that doesn’t mean there weren’t any other outstanding performances in the National League; there were plenty.  In addition to Guerrero’s showing, four players appeared on every ballot but one.  Those five players all had excellent MVP credentials.

Vladimir Guerrero

Guerrero had another fantastic season in 2002, and while he is no longer as anonymous as he once was, the recognition he receives still doesn’t match his contributions.  This year, his 40-40 campaign, which got just as far as Alfonso Soriano’s—one home run away—received just a fraction of the publicity of the New York second baseman’s.  Meanwhile, Vlad posted a career best on-base percentage of .417, which, combined with a .593 slugging percentage, gave him the fourth best OPS in the league (1.010), barely behind Larry Walker’s Coors Field-aided mark of 1.023.  For the first time in his career, Guerrero also walked more than he struck out (84 to 70).  And he did all of this while leading the National League in plate appearances with 709.  That combination of quantity and quality was more than enough for second place in our voting.

Brian Giles

Brian Giles very quietly had the best year of his career in 2002.  His .450 on-base percentage, .622 slugging percentage, 1.072 OPS, and 135 walks were all second in the league behind Barry Bonds.  Only starting in 151 games is probably all that kept him from the number two spot, but when he played, he was outstanding enough for third place.

Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson was, as usual, the most dominant pitcher in the National League, leading the league’s starters in ERA (2.31), strikeouts (334), innings pitched (260), and wins (24).  That, combined with a low walk rate, was enough to earn Johnson our NL Cy Young Award in addition to fourth place in our MVP balloting.

Jeff Kent

When Jeff Kent wasn’t busy injuring himself on motorcycles and getting into shoving matches with the game’s best hitter, he spent his time compiling some pretty incredible numbers for a second baseman.  His .933 OPS was the best in the majors among second basemen.  His 81 extra-base hits led the National League for any position.  Those numbers, plus his .313 batting average, .368 OBP, .565 slugging, and 37 home runs were plenty to put Kent in fifth place.

Lance Berkman

Lance Berkman continued his evolution into one of the game’s best hitters this year.  With 42 home runs and a slugging percentage of .578, he has become a premiere power hitter.  With 107 walks and a .405 on-base percentage, he showed plenty of ability to get on base, too.  And he did most of it as a centerfielder.  Berkman’s sixth-place finish in our voting this year is likely a prelude of better things to come.

Here’s the rest of our voting:

Name                  1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10    Blts   Pts
Barry Bonds          16    0    0    0    0    0    0    0    0     0     16    224
Vladimir Guerrero     0    5    3    3    3    1    1    0    0     0     16    124
Brian Giles           0    4    5    3    1    2    0    0    0     0     15    113
Randy Johnson         0    4    1    2    1    3    0    3    1     0     15     90
Jeff Kent             0    2    3    6    1    0    0    1    1     1     15     86
Lance Berkman         0    1    0    0    4    5    0    2    2     1     15     69
Sammy Sosa            0    0    2    1    1    2    3    1    2     0     12     58
Jim Edmonds           0    0    0    0    1    2    3    2    1     1     10     37
Curt Schilling        0    0    2    0    0    0    3    1    1     3     10     37
Chipper Jones         0    0    0    0    2    0    2    3    2     0      9     35
Albert Pujols         0    0    0    1    2    0    1    0    2     1      7     28
Shawn Green           0    0    0    0    0    1    1    0    3     0      5     15
Bobby Abreu           0    0    0    0    0    0    0    1    1     1      3      6
Todd Helton           0    0    0    0    0    0    0    1    0     2      3      5
Jos? Vidro            0    0    0    0    0    0    1    0    0     1      2      5
Larry Walker          0    0    0    0    0    0    1    0    0     0      1      4
Mike Piazza           0    0    0    0    0    0    0    0    0     3      3      3
Eric Gagne            0    0    0    0    0    0    0    1    0     0      1      3
Roy Oswalt            0    0    0    0    0    0    0    0    0     2      2      2
Dan 'The Boy' Werr Posted: October 10, 2002 at 06:00 AM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Marc Posted: October 11, 2002 at 12:54 AM (#606684)
Even more than Shaun Green, how can Albert Pujols not make the top 10? Without Pujols the Cardinals do not win the division, in fact how do they score runs, especially when their obviously-not-MVP Jim Edmonds is taking the night off as he so frequently does. Edmonds' rating is not as silly as Manny Ramirez' but it is close. The team MVP doesn't remove himself from the lineup against tough opposing pitchers.
   2. Dan 'The Boy' Werr Posted: October 11, 2002 at 12:54 AM (#606686)
Well, first of all, I'd love to know the source regarding Edmonds taking himself out of the lineup versus tough pitchers.

Scond, it comes down to the idea that a hitter can do more in less playing time if he's a better hitter. That's obviously true, or Bonds wouldn't be anywhere near MVP and Rollins would. Edmonds is a better hitter than Pujols, and as a CF, he has a lot of positional value as well. So it comes down to a judgment call whether Edmonds's extra quality superceded Pujols's extra quantity. Some voters said yes, some said no (as can be seen from the chart). Prospectus stats aren't the end-all, but they have Edmonds leading the team in not just EQA, but also RARP and RAP, which is playing-time dependent. I add that because it frames that there are arguments where the superiority of Edmonds makes up for his lack of playing time.

As for Giles, he had an utterly fantastic year. He made very few outs and he had a great deal of power. He was always reaching base. His power and walks more than made up for his small batting average deficiency.

I'm not sure what to add about Shawn Green except that he just wasn't quite as good as the other guys.
   3. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: October 11, 2002 at 12:55 AM (#606695)
Regarding Edmonds...

First of all, it's not silly to think Edmonds could be more valuable than Pujols. Edmonds by both RF and ZR (flawed metrics, yes, but still somewhat indicative) is one of the best centerfielders in baseball. Pujols is an indifferent leftfielder. That's a large gap in defensive value. Mind you, I just don't think Edmonds played enough for me to vote for him.

Second, with regards to Edmonds taking himself out of the lineup against tough pitchers, Edmonds missed six games all year other than when he was on the DL with a sprained wrist (June 1 to June 15). (He was certainly hurt for those games, the first time with a groin injury and the second with some sort of undisclosed injury, but we'll let that slide). He also was initially held out of some games in which he came in later to pinch hit.

The opposing starters in those games:

Randy Johnson Apr 16
Ruben Quevedo Apr 19
Glendon Rusch Apr 20
Nick Neugebauer Apr 21
Bruce Chen Apr 27
Damian Moss May 3
Scott Schoenweis Jun 20
Omar Daal Jul 7
Al Leiter August 9
Brett Myers August 25
Garret Stephenson Aug 28
Shawn Estes Sept 2
Wayne Franklin Sept 10
Wade Miller Sept 21
John Patterson Sept 24
Curt Schilling Sept 25
Wayne Franklin Sept 29 (that little Edmonds bastard keeps ducking Wayne Franklin...)

Some very good pitchers there, a lot of lefties, a bunch of games after the Cardinals had clinched. I see no pattern. It *is* a lot of games not started, mind you... but I don't think Edmonds was ducking anyone. Edmonds was hurt a lot this year.

Johnson, Leiter, Miller, and Schilling are among the best pitchers around, no question. But most of that list is mediocre or worse.
   4. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: October 11, 2002 at 12:55 AM (#606696)
One more on Edmonds : as for offense, according to EqA (a pretty good metric) he created 104 runs to Pujols' 116. By runs above replacement, he did do slightly better. It's not a slam dunk for Pujols by any stretch.

As for a walk being as good as a hit, Pujols had three points more batting average... can I be the first to say "big deal"? Their slugging was both .561.
   5. John Posted: October 11, 2002 at 12:55 AM (#606698)
Interesting that the Braves only had one representative on any of the Primer ballots. No thought given to Glavine or Smoltz or even one of the other bullpen guys as at least the tenth most-valuable player in the league, given that *someone* had to contribute to the team's successful year? Just interesting...

Of course, I'm probably the only yahoo who didn't vote for Bonds in first place in the IBA--and I won't even begin to justify it--so maybe my concept of what a Valuable Player does is way off base. But, really, Jose Vidro got votes?
   6. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 13, 2002 at 12:55 AM (#606713)
A single is worth about forty percent more than a single.
   7. Marc Posted: October 13, 2002 at 12:55 AM (#606715)
I assume a single is worth 40 percent more than a walk.

And Sparkles, re. where Edmonds and Pujols hit in the order, how come Albert, then, scored 118 times and Edmonds just 96. And his edge was 84 to 68 in times he did not drive himself in. I'm not going to do the math right now but with a couple weeks left in the year, Albert had scored or driven in a higher percent. of Cardinal runs than any other player in the league. Substantially higher than Bonds' percent.

I'm not saying Albert was MVP but you remove him from the Cards lineup and that team is in a ML hurtbag.

PS. Tejada scored or drove in by far the highest percent. of his team's runs than any player in the AL, I think the number was 26 percent.
   8. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 14, 2002 at 12:55 AM (#606716)
I assume a single is worth 40 percent more than a walk

You know Marc, that's what I thought I wrote. :-)
   9. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 14, 2002 at 12:55 AM (#606722)
And Sparkles, re. where Edmonds and Pujols hit in the order, how come Albert, then, scored 118 times and Edmonds just 96. And his edge was 84 to 68 in times he did not drive himself in.

Think that might have something to do with Pujols having 100 more PA than Edmonds? His rates were still better, but by a lot less than the absolute totals - over Edmonds's PA Pujols would have scored about 72 times without driving himself in, at similar performance levels.

One other thing to consider - how many times did Edmonds get on base, find himself forced at 2B by Pujols, and then have Pujols score a run? Do you *really* want to give the credit for the scoring of that run to Pujols? Yes, Edmonds might have done this a time or three, but Edmonds does hit the ball on the ground less often than does Pujols, so it's likely that Pujols did it to Edmonds more often than Edmonds did it to someone else.

I could mention that the Cardinals' major hot streaks in July and September correlated very well with those of Edmonds, while Pujols did most of his heavy hitting in August when the Cards were treading water going just 16-14, but I won't do that :)

-- MWE
   10. Stevens Posted: October 14, 2002 at 12:55 AM (#606725)

Wouldn't you rather have a hitter with both an on-base percentage and a batting average of .500 than a hitter with a .333 batting average to go with his .500 OBP? I would.

Hee....and I'd also like rainbow sprinkles on my winning lottery ticket, if you don't mind....since we're dreaming the big dreams and all.
   11. Charles Saeger Posted: October 14, 2002 at 12:55 AM (#606734)
Most outfield errors come on throws.
   12. John (You Can Call Me Grandma) Murphy Posted: October 15, 2002 at 12:55 AM (#606738)
Terry is trolling, so ignore him. If he's not trolling, ignore him anyway. Real attitude problem.
   13. Mike Emeigh Posted: October 15, 2002 at 12:55 AM (#606747)
If you're going to fault Bonds for his defense enough to take him out of consideration for MVP (which is, to be charitable about it, idiotic), who do you move up? There aren't any defensive studs in the mix of potential MVP candidates. For all the talk about Vlad Guerrero's arm, he still gets runners taking liberties against him, and he still routinely posts double-digit error totals as well as double-digit assist totals. You want to put Berkman there? Brian Giles? Sosa? The best defender amojng the MVP candidates is Edmonds, and at this stage of his career he's not much more than an adequate defender in CF.

I think the Primer voters give defense the weight that it deserves (note the relative position of Edmonds and Pujols in our vote, which is due in large part to the difference in defensive value between them). But we don't give it more than we can justify. There is no defensive player - certainly none among the major MVP candidates - who provides anywhere close to the value with his glove as Barry Bonds provides the San Francisco Giants with his bat.

-- MWE
   14. Marc Posted: October 15, 2002 at 12:56 AM (#606761)
Mike, if you're gonna hold it against Pujols that the Cards went 16-14 when he was hot, then you have to be one of the guys saying ARod can't possibly be the MVP because the Rangers finished in last place. In other words, hang the team's performance around the individual player's neck. For consistency, you gotta do that to both AP and AR or neither. Maybe if Albert doesn't get hot they go 6-24 and it's hello second place either way.

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