— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Monday, November 24, 2003
The Great Debate
Was A-Rod really the most deserving MVP candidate?
The waiting is over. After weeks (and months for some) of deliberation, the American League?s Most Valuable Player has been announced, and to the surprise of nearly nobody, it was Alex Rodriguez. For the weeks leading up to the award I told everybody who asked, which wasn?t many, that I thought Shannon Stewart should be the MVP.
Perhaps I was wrong about Stewart, and I am willing to admit that.
But should Alex Rodriguez really have gotten the award? In the Baseball Primer vote, Rodriguez tallied up 24% of the total points. In the BBWAA vote he racked up a bit less, at 15%, but still more than the other contenders. Most people happen to agree with the selection.
I?m not one of those people. However, unlike my Shannon Stewart theory, I will use statistics to prove that Rodriguez should not have won the award. Keep in mind that it?s not that I don?t want Rodriguez to be the MVP, it?s just that I don’t think he was the right choice. One of the problems I?ve had in my many encounters with people is that I think the winner of the MVP should come from at least a winning team, preferably a playoff team?otherwise what does the word "valuable" mean? After all, this isn?t the Best Player award, it?s the Most Valuable Player award. But, like everybody else seems to do, I?m going to leave that out and just go with who was the best player.
The players I am going to be looking at are the top ten finishers in the BBWAA vote, with the assumption that those ten were the most worthy of the award. Also, keep in mind that these statistics have nothing to do with anybody playing for a winning team, the MVP will be determined solely by his on-field performance and not by how his team fared, because I know a lot of you don?t agree with me about that.
Let?s use Runs Created and Runs Created per 27 outs as a basis for determining who was better, as I think that makes the most sense. Here?s a chart of the top ten in the official voting:
They aren?t in order (they?re in order of their ranking in the BBWAA vote), but as you can see, Manny Ramirez created more runs per 27 outs than anybody else, but does that make him our MVP? Of course not, we?ll have to do a little park adjusting here.
For the park factors I will use just the 2003 numbers because we are determining just the 2003 MVP, not the 2001-2003 MVP, and the conditions of the 2003 season are what these players had to deal with. For Shannon Stewart this gets a little tricky due to the midseason trade which brought him to the Twin Cities. There might be a better way out there, but I don?t know of it, so what I did was figure out the runs scored and allowed at home and on the road for the Toronto Blue Jays before he was traded. Then I figured the same thing for the Minnesota Twins after the trade and combined the numbers to make one park factor; the Stewart Factor.
What I?ll do with the park factors is this: I?ll take the real RC/27out and divide it by the park factor to get an adjusted RC/27out. By dividing the real number by the factor we get a sense of how much the park the player in helped or hurt his ability to create runs. Here is a chart:
Again, they?re not in order, but as you can see with the adjusted RC/27out Manny Ramirez is still the top man, even though he spent most of his time in Fenway Park. But as far as Alex Rodriguez goes, the Ballpark at Arlington was a lot more friendly, therefore his RC/27out just isn?t as impressive. Same thing for Carlos Beltran, whose RC/27out drop significantly by playing in the most hitter-friendly ballpark of all the candidates.
By adjusting for the park we can see that most players were helped by their ballpark. As a matter of fact, everybody was except for Jorge Posada and Bret Boone?two of the favorites down the stretch to win the MVP.
What we can do now is take the adjusted RC/27out for each player and turn it into an offensive winning percentage. To do this we?ll take the American League?s average ERA, 4.86, and call that the "team?s" runs allowed. We?ll use RC/27out as a means of showing runs scored. Basically, this will show what a team full of Rodriguez? or Manny?s would have done with an average pitching staff.
Here?s a chart:
This chart is in order. It?s interesting to note that, solely based on offense, Rodriguez is sixth on the list. Of course, the BBWAA probably don?t take into consideration the fact that things like playing in a hitters? park helps hitters, which they should and the journalists that are coming in now and in the future probably will take notice of that. Anyway, my number one pick, Shannon Stewart, came in last place, which I suppose is really not a surprise at all even though I would have picked him to win. My other pick, David Ortiz, finished ahead of Rodriguez with this, but I just don?t think that?s right.
Ortiz was a designated hitter, and that has to count for something.
Now what I?ll do is factor in offensive value with defensive position factored in. In all, seven of the nine positions were represented in the Top Ten of the BBWAA vote. To find the average runs created at each position I looked at all of the American League?s starters, but if there were two people that pretty much shared a position then I counted them both as one. Here is a chart of the average AL RC/27outs per position.
Now we?ll figure out everybody?s winning percentage with defense involved by using the AL avg. RC/27outs as runs allowed and adjusted RC/27outs as runs scored. Here is a chart:
So, with defense factored in with the offense Jorge Posada takes the cake.. My pick is the only player to post a losing record, which makes sense statistically speaking. Stewart really didn?t post great offensive numbers and he?s a moderate fielder, so perhaps I was wrong, even if I still don?t think statistics tell the whole story (Ortiz, for instance). For one thing, I think Alex Rodriguez winning was more of a "hey, we screwed you before, here?s to make up for it" type of thing, and he obviously didn?t have his best season this year.
But in the end, a player from a playoff team finished first.
Just the way I like it.