Mauer for MVP?

23 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Do I think that Joe Mauer should win the American League MVP award today when it is announced at 1:00 central time today? Of course I do. I mean, he had one of the most historic seasons in baseball history even if you forget the disclaimer that he did it as a catcher. I also have to admit to being 100% biased in that opinion. It is an opinion that is shared by many people around the baseball community. However, will it be the opinion of enough of the 32 baseball writers that actually get to submit a vote for the award? We shall find out this afternoon.

Again, I am completely biased, so I thought it would be good to put together a smorgasbord of numbers to determine if we, as Twins fans, are completely accurate in our opinion that Mauer should be the easy choice. In writing that, I do fully acknowledge the concept that the definition of “value” is not and should not be 100% about the numbers. I fully believe that the Most Valuable Player is not the same thing as the Most Outstanding Player, although it can. I 100% believe that no one statistic should be used to determine value. I think that there is value in defense and that value should be a factor into the vote. That said, I still have not found a defensive stat that I believe shows that, although UZR (and the UZR family of stats) are probably the closest we have at this point. I believe that it is the League MVP, a measure of how much more value you had over all players, not just players at your position in your league. I believe that an MVP candidate should be from a team that competed most of the year for a playoff spot, but I don’t think that making the playoffs should be mandatory. In other words, if the Twins had lost Game 163 and not made the playoffs, would that have lessened what Joe Mauer did? Or, because Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers lost to the Twins, I don’t believe his case is lessened. That said, I have no problem with a voter dropping Cabrera’s value ranking following his late-season binge drinking and arrest on domestic dispute charges. Finally, I believe that this is an annual award, not a lifetime achievement award. So many in the media want Derek Jeter to win, almost as a Lifetime Achievement Award. No. First, that diminishes just how great a season he had in 2009, and second, that isn’t what this award is. He will get his Lifetime Achievement when he becomes a first-ballot, inner-circle Hall of Fame recognition.

I have become one of those fans/bloggers who finds less and less meaning in these postseason awards. I get more annoyed with people bashing Derek Jeter because he is loved by the media. I get annoyed by everyone who says that there is a certain number that is more important than another. I get annoyed by the stats-crowd that wants to throw a bunch of advanced metrics in your face and tell you how to think. But I also get annoyed by the people who, like I am becoming, find almost no meaning in the awards. The reality is that when a player is considered for the Hall of Fame, things like MVPs and Cy Youngs seem to matter. Ask Bert Blyleven. So, we can’t really say it means nothing.

So, what I want to do today is just throw a bunch of things out there for your own consideration. I want to look at the basic statistics, the raw numbers, because I do think that they matter. But it would be silly to simply overlook any of the advanced statistics when they can tell us something. So, let’s start with the basic statistics:

Player BA OBP SLG OPS G 2B HR RBI
Joe Mauer 0.365 0.444 0.587 1.031 138 30 28 96
Mark Teixeira 0.292 0.383 0.565 0.948 156 43 39 122
Derek Jeter 0.334 0.406 0.465 0.871 153 27 18 66
Miguel Cabrera 0.324 0.396 0.547 0.943 160 34 34 103
Kendry Morales 0.306 0.355 0.569 0.924 152 43 34 108
Ben Zobrist 0.297 0.405 0.543 0.948 152 28 27 91

Joe Mauer became the first player in a long time to win the True Triple Crown (BA, OBP, SLG). His rate numbers make him the leading candidate. But if you look at the raw numbers, you can see why many believe that Mark Teixeira is a very strong candidate. The others have been mentioned and have put up great numbers in their own right. Derek Jeter and Ben Zobrist don’t necessarily look like candidates by these numbers, but when you consider they are middle infielders, those numbers are much more impressive, as you will see below.

Player RC RC27 WPA WAR Dollars VORP WARP
Joe Mauer 128.0 9.85 3.64 8.2 $36.8 91.0 9.00
Mark Teixeira 128.6 7.73 3.58 5.1 $23.2 54.7 5.80
Derek Jeter 120.0 7.20 1.41 7.4 $33.4 72.8 5.70
Miguel Cabrera 122.5 7.55 1.59 5.4 $24.3 57.1 5.10
Kendry Morales 106.0 6.77 2.42 4.2 $18.8 39.8 4.00
Ben Zobrist 111.2 8.12 4.10 8.6 $38.5 61.0 7.60

Runs Created and Runs Created per 27 again are numbers attempting to show value, and the RC27 does so by looking at it as a rate. Ben Zobrist shows up quite prevalently when looking at these stats. First, he led the way in Win Probability Added, which measures each situation in a ball game and each player’s plate appearances has an effect on the game, depending upon the situation (Score, base runners, outs, etc.). Also, since he spent a lot of time at 2B, his value compared to other second basemen (WAR = Wins Above Replacement from FanGraphs.com, VORP, WARP, etc.). Of course, Derek Jeter’s value increases because he is a SS and Joe Mauer ranks highly as a catcher. My intent in showing these more advanced metrics isn’t to convince you to buy into them. I don’t necessarily buy into them. And, as you can see from FanGraphs.com’s WAR and Baseball Prospectus’s WARP, you can take different numbers with the same goal in mind and come out with different results.

Hey, if you only look at the basic stat lines, you will find a ton of players who are deserving of consideration. Guys like Kevin Youklis, Jason Bay, Jason Bartlett and even Michael Cuddyer put up stat lines that are very impressive. But in order to separate and distinguish, it can be quite helpful to look a little deeper.

  • The Case For Joe Mauer – Lead the AL in Batting Average, On Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage, OPS. Played catcher which is not only the most demanding position to play, it increases his value above replacement players. He played very good defense. He led an (at times) make-shift starting rotation, and he played well down the stretch for a team that came from far back to win the AL Central.
  • The Case for Mark Teixeira – The best player on the best team that money could buy in baseball. He led the American League in home runs and RBI, traditional stats that the baseball writers put much value in. He played 1B, but he was a Gold Glove winner.
  • The Case for Derek Jeter – Put together one of his best seasons, all-around. He won another Gold Glove Award. Fans voted him the Hank Aaron Award winner, which is meant to go to the top hitter in the league (which is a bit silly). All those fun intangibles.
  • The Case for Miguel Cabrera – His numbers are remarkably similar to Teixeira, although his defense improved, it’s nowhere near as good as Teixeira.
  • The Case for Kendry Morales – His numbers were terrific too.
  • The Case for Ben Zobrist – He played a lot of 2B, which means that his terrific offensive numbers were compared against average 2B, so his replacement player statistics are terrific. He also played all three outfield positions, all four infield positions, DH and PH for the Rays.
  • The Case Against Joe Mauer – First and Foremost, Mark Teixeira had a tremendous season. Second, Mauer did miss an entire month of games. Fortunately for him, it was the first month. Remember in 2008, Carlos Quentin was an AL MVP favorite until he missed the final month of the season with injury?
  • The Case Against Mark Teixeira – He was terrific, but the Yankees team as it was comprised in 2009 probably still would have won a ton of games without him. His numbers were great, but how much better were they than those of fellow AL 1B such as Morales, Cabrera, Justin Morneau (had he stayed healthy), Carlos Pena and others?
  • The Case Against Derek Jeter, Kendry Morales, Miguel Cabrera and Ben Zobrist – All had tremendous seasons, and they should not be minimized, but simply put, this should be a two player race.

The winner will be announced at 1:00 central time, and I’m sure Twins fans will be waiting on pins and needles. I know it’s not a big deal, but it is still pretty cool to have an MVP on your roster… In 2010, the Twins will have two, regardless of what is announced! If Teixeira wins, Twins fans and stat heads alike will be outraged, but take a closer look, it may not (and probably shouldn’t be) the blowout that we all hope that it is.

What are your thoughts? If so, Send me an e-mail, or leave your Comments here.

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7 Responses to “Mauer for MVP?”

  1. Michael November 23, 2009 at 8:32 am #

    It comes down to Tex and Mauer. I think Mauer will win and that in the end it will not be all that close. Of course, like Seth and the rest of the Twins Nation, I am highly biased.

  2. AM November 23, 2009 at 8:35 am #

    it’s not that the media loves jeter, it is that they make everything he does seem so amazing and that no other player could ever do it.

  3. Dan November 23, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    Seth,

    I actually think A-rod was the best player on the Yankees this year. I am not sure why he gets so marginalized by the media? His numbers were very similiar to Tex’s and he plays a much more demanding position. .286/.402/.933–ARod .292/.383/.948–Tex. They were very similiar(if not better) than Jeters .334/.406/.871. If you put ARods number at SS which in reality he should be playing there over Jeter, which of course he did not, but at least he is a plus defender at his position. 2 Cents.

    Dan

  4. Joel Thingvall November 23, 2009 at 12:53 pm #

    Awards. One of THOSE things. He did/didn’t win one, so he’s deserving of this or that. Yes, Bert is the perfect example. He didn’t win the Big Award. He played (like brienke) on a lot of average or worse teams (give him 25 wins and take away 25 losses…..zowie!).

    Yet there are rookies-of-the-year, Cy Youngs, MVPS that won’t ever, ever make the Hall of Fame. Yet there’s guys who did stuff in the post-season compared to the actual season that have made the Hall.

    But this is MVP. Mauer, missing a month, came back strong, flirted with .400, missed nary a game, was in the demanding catcher position (is the next most demanding the shortstop, who I once heard was the captain on the field). He batted 2nd and 3rd, got in his licks, took his bases, and had power numbers that could’ve been 20% higher if he hadn’t skipped that month (whew!).

    You take ANY of the Yankees out of the picture…they still win…maybe not total domination…but still win.

    If you take Mauer out of the Twins, they lose. They come in third. Other players take a hit on their stats. The pitching really stumbles. We talk of total rebuilding rather than buying a new face to take the Twins further into the post-season.

    A team doesn’t have to be a winner or competitive to have an award winner, really, Seth, they don’t (Ernie Banks got an MVP, remember). But it helps.

    Yet writers are fickle. Hey, Zoilo got it for the Twins. Was it a STUPENDOUS year? Not really, but in the context, it was one that helped bring the Twins to the post season and on par with the other players under consideration.

    Mauer should win (just because Jeter and Tex will split any Yankee votes…and A-Rod, who also missed some games could’ve been a contender, too).

    Now, the next BIG question! Is an MVP something that a player should get, say, a one-time $5 salary boost, who should it raise his value that $5 million a year over the course of his next contract?

  5. connie November 23, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    I would take Zobrist over Teixeira because of positional difference. He was nearly as good a hitter at much more demanding defensive positions. Would you let Teix play 2nd?

    He’s a nobody and didn’t hit cleanup for the best team in baseball, but he had a better season according to WAR, VORP, and WARP. I would also support Jeter over Teix for the same reason, if he can be considered as a legit SS, that is.

  6. scot November 23, 2009 at 7:41 pm #

    27 out of 28 first place votes says it all……to the one person that didn’t vote for Joe Mauer what were you thinking??

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