OpinionOctober 4, 2008

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Cleat Marks #12

By Madison Jones

This time of year is always interesting because not only are the playoffs going, but since the “official” season is over, the MVP and CY Young debates happen. As always, both topics are being hotly and heavily discussed as people argue their point as to why “so-and-so” should win the award in question.

When considering an MVP candidate, remember that the award isn’t for the most valuable player to his respective team, it’s an award for the most valuable player in the entire league. In other words, think of the entire National League as one team going heads up with the American League. Which player had the best season and deserves to be the one and only player to represent their respective league?

For the National League’s MVP, Ryan Howard seems to be the “sexy” choice this year since he led the league in two of the three triple-crown categories. Those being home runs and runs driven in. Even with that, one simply cannot overlook his embarrassing .251 batting average in the third of the triple-crown categories. And once you dive into the deeper stats that show true value, Howard doesn’t even beat his own teammate Chase Utley in many categories (Win Shares for example). Granted, some of the voters won’t look deep enough or spend enough time on their vote, and they’ll toss theirs to Howard.

Ah, but the Phillies made the playoffs. That counts, right? Well, not really. Value is value. Team wins don’t really come into play since hitters cannot control how their team pitches, and vice versa. And players on non-playoff teams have won the MVP in the past, so it should be clear and obvious that playoffs are irrelevant to who was the most valuable player in the league. If the award was for the most valuable player to get their team to the playoffs, the award would have been named accordingly instead of being named “National League’s Most Valuable Player”. Of course, some voters will still vote for Howard simply because the Phillies made the playoffs, which of course isn’t what the award is for.

Personally I’m a fan of Ryan Howard. I was able to snag him in the fifth round of a fantasy draft a couple of years ago, and he helped lead my team to a fantasy championship. So I enjoy watching him smash baseballs a very long way and I also hope he does well in the playoffs. I’ve got nothing against the guy, quite the opposite. But this season, Howard is not the most valuable player in the National League. Pretty clear-cut to me that the winner should be Albert Pujols.

American League’s Most Valuable Player? That’s a much, much closer debate than the National League’s Most Valuable Player. No one had what I’d call a “spectacular” season as far as hitters go, but I do wonder if Carlos Quentin would have wound up with one had he not missed quite a bit of time due to his temper. My guess is yes, but there’s no way I can give him my vote (fictional vote of course, I don’t have an “official” vote) since he caused the injury to himself. And due to no one having a spectacular season, this is/was the perfect year for a pitcher to snag the award, and I admit I have a hard time giving the MVP to a pitcher since they have their own award. So with such a difficult decision ahead, I wouldn’t really be all that surprised to see Cliff Lee and/or Roy Halladay snag some of the votes this year and quite possibly win it seeing as how the voting is going to be spread over tons of different names (Josh Hamilton, Justin Morneau, Carlos Quentin, and Dustin Pedroia to name a few – and I even wouldn’t be surprised to see Francisco Rodriguez snag a few votes as well).

So it’s a big mess with tons of deserving candidates. I honestly don’t have a favorite in this one, just way too tough of a choice. I guess if you put a gun to my head, I’d go with Roy Halladay. A 2.78 earned run average along with a 1.05 WHIP and 206 strikeouts in 246 innings is very nice. What barely edges him over Cliff Lee for me is Halladay’s 9 complete games versus Lee’s 4, and Halladay being in a tougher division facing tougher opponents. The complete games are incredibly valuable to a team’s bullpen, and very uncommon in today’s world of babying pitchers. As I said before, I don’t generally like giving the MVP to a pitcher, but there just wasn’t a hitter that really stood out to me this season. I could also be jaded and over-valuing good starting pitching after watching my Texas Rangers lead the majors in runs scored, yet still manage to finish below .500 ball. It’s not the perfect pick and ridicule me if you like, but there just isn’t a clear-cut favorite for the American League’s Most Valuable Player in my eyes.

Madison Jones is always lurking in the shadows of the Cafe. When he does venture into the forums, you can find him posting as Madison.
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