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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

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”.

American League

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.

National League

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.

Chris Dial Posted: January 04, 2006 at 04:45 AM | 197 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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