Wednesday, October 01, 2008

National League MVP

Despite a bit of a slump during the season's stretch run, I'm sticking with my choice of Justin Morneau for AL MVP. Quoting something said to me by a friend of mine, who's a Red Sox fan, in an email conversation after having read "Making the Case for Morneau":

"...remember Ortiz, Youkilis, Lowell, and Drew have (all) been hurt at some point this year."

I contend that the fact that's even an issue backs up my point. That's how loaded this team is that they could afford to lose any one of those guys at any given time with minimal effect. This includes Pedroia. If he went down, the rest of those guys, and Jason Bay/Manny Ramirez (29 HR, 105 RBI, 105 R combined), would pick up the slack. Every one of those guys is better than anyone in the Twins' lineup, except Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Well, maybe Jason Kubel is about as good as Mike Lowell, but you get my point.

Enough said about that. It's time to move on to the other awards, starting with the National League MVP. This is a difficult one to pick, but the way I see it, it comes down to Ryan Howard or Albert Pujols. CC Sabathia's candidacy makes for an interesting debate, but I wouldn't give the MVP to a player who missed a half season due to injury, and for the same reason, I won't give the award to someone traded to his team at mid-season.

Ryan Howard had a great second-half, with 28 HR and 78 RBI in the season's final three months, and one could certainly argue that he carried his team in their run to catch the Mets in the NL East. So, I'm not going to worry about his low batting average (.251) and relatively low OPS (.882).

Albert Pujols' Cardinals ended the season four games out of the wild card spot, but they really didn't come quite that close, as there were two other teams between them and the Brewers. But, they remained a contender for much longer than anyone expected, and in my opinion, that leaves him in the mix of potential candidates. Pujols led the league in slugging, OPS, total bases, and the SABRmetric categories Adjusted OPS+, Runs Created, Adjusted Batting Runs, and Batting Wins, leading the last three categories by wide margins. I explained Adjusted OPS+ and Adjusted Batting Runs in the Morneau article, so I'll try to briefly describe the other two statistics here.

Runs Created is a runs estimator, similar to Adjusted Batting Runs, that assigns a positive value to outcomes like hits, walks, steals, home runs, etc. and negative values for outs, caught stealing and GIDP. Batting Wins attempts to measure the number of wins a player added relative to the league average hitter.

I'm going to go with Pujols here, based on his sheer statistical dominance and consistency, and the fact that he carried a team that most prognosticators didn't give a chance, especially after their staff ace, Chris Carpenter, went down with an injury that limited him to 15 1/3 IP for the year. They remained in contention for most of the season, and although they did slip a little near the end, they were a contender, and Pujols was inarguably the biggest reason for that. Based on these factors, he is my National League Most Valuable Player.

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