Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The 2005 NL MVP Race (Or, Mr. Bonds, Thanks for Not Playing)

It's mid-September and you baseball fans know what that means: talking heads and worthless opinions galore about who is most worthy of the game's major awards! Today's Iron Chef ingredient: NL MVP!

If you listen to baseball's anointed punditry, the NL MVP race is now a two-man proposition: St. Louis Cardinals strongman Albert Pujols and Atlanta Braves superman Andruw Jones. Looking at the key raw data, Pujols has the edge in batting avg/on base/slugging (.338/.434./.630 vs. .275/.358/.608), runs (117 vs. 89), BB (85 vs. 61), and SB (15 vs. 3). Andruw prevails in HR (49 vs. 39), RBI (124 vs. 108), and defense/position (CF vs. 1B).

Seems like a compelling case could be made for either one, huh? Maybe not. The raw numbers are nice but don't tell the whole story, which explains the evolution of new statistics that seek a better understanding of performance. Over the last 20 years or so, the sabermetrics community has devised many sophisticated metrics to objectively measure and analyze ballplayer performance. These metrics consider everything a player contributes: they take the raw data, whirl it around in a blender of complex formulas that normalize for contextual factors such as ballparks, playing time, defense, etc., and distill it all into neat, bite-sized numbers for ease of comparison.

Here are a few of the best:

Runs Created (stats courtesy of The Hardball Times):

• Pujols: 131 (2nd in NL)
• Jones: 91 (14th in NL)

Advantage: Pujols

Baseball Prospectus's VORP (Value Over Replacement Player):

• Pujols: 96.5 (1st in MLB)
• Jones: 65.1 (9th in MLB)

Advantage: Pujols

Bill James's Win Shares (thanks again to The Harball Times):

• Pujols: 34 Win Shares (1st in MLB)
• Jones: 22 Win Shares (30th in MLB)

Advantage: Pujols

As a Braves fan, I hate to say this, but the facts are undeniable: Albert Pujols is your 2005 NL MVP. I'm thrilled that Andruw has finally fulfilled expectations and lived up to his tremendous potential. The Braves would not be once again peering down at their NL East foes without his monster season (he hit his 50th HR as I wrote this but the Braves still got the broom in Philly).

But Andruw's MVP candidacy is unsupported by objective data. It's bad enough his 22 Win Shares place him just 30th in MLB -- what's worse, he ranks 3rd in Win Shares...on his own team (behind Marcus Giles and Rafael Furcal). If Andruw isn't MVP of his own team, how can he be the league MVP?

Andruw's had a magical season -- but not an MVP one. His performance has been great but firmly behind such players as Jeff Kent, Jason Bay, and David Wright -- and nobody is touting their MVP credentials (though in fairness, their teams' performances have doomed their chances).

Andruw will finish 2nd in the MVP voting and that's still a hell of an achievement -- just ask Pujols, who has twice (2002-2003) fallen short against Mr. Bonds. We Braves fans must hope that Andruw's 2nd place finish motivates him to even greater heights in 2006.


w00master said...

AWWW BABY!!! As my favorite baseball commentator once said:

"Go crazy folks! Go crazy!"


Larry said...

The broom Jay? THE BROOM? And I had such high hopes for a baseball post from you, the resident baseball stats guru. Because of this critical mistake (Philly took the first 3, but the Braves won the last of the 4 game series), I will have to outright reject all of your arguments and conclude that Andruw deserves the MVP. And of course my love and devotion to the braves and my desire to destroy the w00master in all things baseball has no impact on this decision. None at all.

J Ballot said...

Larry --

For the love of Joe Simpson, don't you see what's going on here? Details, details! When you play as rotten as the Braves have recently (dropped 3 of 4 against PHI? And 2 of 3 to the Mets including...a complete game by Glavine? (gasp!)), it just doesn't matter! Sad to say, it may as well have been the broom, my friend.

If you want to cast aside all logic, empirical data, and dare I say it, reality itself, you can continue this quixotic crusade to crown Andruw MVP.

But to destroy the w00master in all things baseball, you must first do so on the PS2. Or the Braves could beat the Cards in the playoffs, whichever.

Larry said...

Alas, Jay. When emotion comes into the picture, there is no room for logic. Besides, I feel that this may be my only outlet to beat w00master in anything baseball. The last few months have been nothing but disappointing on the baseball front with the XBOX (he keeps beating me, dammit!), and if the Braves face the Cards in the playoffs, well, I don't think there's any danger of a repeat of '96. Oy!

W00Master said...

Go crazy folks! Go crazy!

Rob said...

Didn't Jason Bay direct The Rock and Armageddon? What pieces of crap. He's not MY MVP.

Anyway, statistics be damned. Andruw! Andruw! Andruw!