Posts Tagged ‘MVP’

2012 Awards: MVP

November 1, 2012

Lefty Grove, 1st AL winner of the modern MVP Award holding the 1931 MVP trophy

Part three of this series looks at the MVP award.

NL–There seems to be a building consensus that this is Buster Posey’s award. OK, fine by me. Posey led the NL in average (and tied for first in sacrifice flies), was second in OBP, fourth in slugging, and sixth in RBIs. That’s a good enough season, but it’s not overwhelming. Ryan Braun, in particular, had an equally fine season. I know he will be punished for the steroid allegations. But remember he beat those and without reference to how he did  so, he is to be considered innocent. That won’t matter, he’ll still be stiffed. Melky Cabrera has the same problem, although there’s no question of his guilt. So I have no real problem with Posey winning, but if that’s the most valuable season in the Nl, then it wasn’t a great year for individual play in the NL (as opposed to great team play). Having said that, if I had a vote, it would go to Posey.

AL–Nearly everyone agrees this is a two-man race: Miguel Cabrera vs Mike Trout. I have no idea which will actually win, but my guess is there are enough traditionalists voting that the Triple Crown will push Cabrera over the top. I would vote that way myself.

There seem to be two arguments for Trout. One revolves around the stat WAR. In researching this post I read everything I could find on WAR that explained how it worked, what it showed. I found two problems with it. First, there seem to be two versions of the stat and I’m supposed to bow down before the baseball god that WAR has become when I don’t know which version to bow before? Gimme a break. Second, most of those articles included a sentence that went about like this, “WAR is flawed, but…”. And it’s the word “flawed” that bothers me. In the last half-dozen or so years WAR has become the queen of stats. Lead in WAR and you’re somehow a baseball god. But if experts admit it’s flawed why use it more than any other stat (all of which are flawed) as the be-all, end-all of statistics? This is not an indictment of WAR as a statistic, but an indictment of the idea that because someone leads his league in WAR, or average, or OBP, or OPS+ or God knows what else, that it automatically qualifies him for MVP. 

Another part of the WAR argument is that a 10.7 WAR is so rare that it merits an MVP. Any feat that is particularly difficult to accomplish must be worth more than one that’s at least a bit more common. If you buy that argument, then you vote for Cabrera. Trout is tied for 20th (with Willie Mays and Ted Williams) on the yearly WAR list (according to Baseball Reference). Know how many times someone won the Triple Crown in the entire 20th Century? Try 13 (and two more in the 19th Century). Apparently it’s harder to win the Triple Crown than it is to post 10.7 WAR.

The other argument for Trout deals with his impact on his team.The argument goes like this.  His team was floundering. They were supposed to be good, but they were having a rough time. So they brought up a player to fill in a key defensive position and the team went nuts, putting up winning numbers. That’s a good story, but it’s also the story of Pete Kozma at St. Louis, of Marco Scutaro at San Francisco and to some extent Brandon Inge at Oakland. No one (including me) has any of the latter three in the debate over the MVP. At least Kozma, Scutaro, and Inge helped their particular team to the playoffs. My point is that Trout did indeed provide a  spark to his team but so did other players. If your premise is that Trout showed up and helped a floundering team and that’s the sole reason you want Trout as MVP, it’s just not enough in my eyes. Trout may have been a better player than either Kozma or Scutaro, but I’m not sure he was more valuable. I understand that both Kozma and Scutaro were in the other league, but I  want to make the point that just revitalizing your team may not be enough to make you the MVP, especially if someone has great numbers and a winning team.

I know others will tell me I’m wrong (they’re entitled to make a mistake 🙂 ). But that’s my position. I’d vote for Cabrera and I hope the MVP voters do also.

One question about WAR about which I couldn’t find an answer. Is the replacement level player pool recalculated yearly? For instance in 1924 that level would include a guy named Gehrig. Today it wouldn’t. Does that make a difference?

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Impact

February 16, 2011

1949 MVP Trophy

I received two very thoughtful and well thought out comments on my post “The Dynamic Duo”. I suggest you read both. Neither comment attempts to diminish the skills of the players in the Negro Leagues, but both comments raise a major issue about the Negro Leagues that is always going to be a problem: how do these players relate to the white players of their era in terms of baseball skills? Unfortunately, we do not know, nor can we make more than educated guesses. Even the statistics I quoted in the article are fragmentary and complete statistical information is probably impossible to find.

Anyway, the comments got me to thinking about the issue (which is not necessarily a good thing).  I asked myself “Is there a way to get something of a handle on how good these players may have been (and I stress May Have Been)?” I decided that there was no way to get a real answer to the question, but at least there was one way to get something of a feel for the answer. We can look at how well black players did in the first twenty or so years after integration (1947) of the Major Leagues. Although the players that make it to the Major Leagues are different from the Negro League stars like Josh Gibson, Judy Johnson, and John Henry Lloyd, they possess skills that can be quantified because we have the stats. Did the big leagues get lucky and the greatest set of black ball players ever all show up in the 1950s? Maybe, but the odds are against that being true. Surely some of the prior players were the equal, or at least almost equal, of the black stars of the 1950s. If that’s the case, then the Major Leagues missed out on some truly fine talent.

To determine just how good the first set of black players were, I decided to look at one simple set of information, awards. It may not be the best set to look at, but it has the advantage of being simple to find, reasonably simple to interpret, and is supposed to be a  measure of greatness. Having said all that, I acknowledge that the voting can be down right goofy to say the least so that everything said above about a measure of greatness and simple to interpret can be utter nonsense in specific years (For instance I still think Duke Snider should have beaten Roy Campanella at least once for an MVP.). I also decided to concentrate on the National League because it was first to integrate, got deeper into it quicker than the American League, and had no superior team like the Yankees who won consistently from 1947 through 1954 without a black player (and, yes, I know they lost in 1948 and 1954). Finally I stopped the research in 1966, twenty years after the initial appearance of Jackie Robinson. All that means this is fairly arbitrary in both what I’m looking at and when I end it, but I have neither the time nor inclination to carry this on to 2010 or look at every possible bit of statistical information.

Rookie of the Year: The initial RoY was in 1947. In both that season and the next there was only one award. Both years a NL player won the award, so we have a full 20 seasons of RoY’s in the NL. Of the 20 winners 11 were black (Jackie Robinson, Don Newcombe, Sam Jethroe, Willie Mays, Joe Black, Jim Gilliam, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, Willie McCovey, Billy Williams, and Dick Allen). That’s more than half. But also if you look at the dates, an inordinate number of them appear early in the period. By the 1956 choice ( Frank Robinson), seven had already won the award. By the last half of the twenty years (1957-66) the ratio reverses and there are more white winners (6) than black (4).

MVP: The MVP award had been going since 1931, so it was already established with a supposedly known criteria (Yeah, right). Between 1947 and 1966 black players won 12 National League MVPs (J. Robinson, Roy Campanella-three, Mays-two, Don Newcombe, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks-two, F. Robinson, and Cepeda). That’s almost exactly the same number as RoY wins (12 to 11). This time the awards are more well spread across the twenty years, but because you can only be a rookie once and an MVP lots of times, there is duplication in the MVP vote meaning that only eight black men won the MVP award.

For the same period in the American League it wasn’t until 1964 (Tony Oliva) that a black player won the RoY and the first black MVP in the AL was Elston Howard in 1963. Obviously black players made less impact in the AL in this period. Also I did not do the Cy Young award because it did not begin until 1956 and only went to two awards in 1967. (FYI Don Newcombe is the only black pitcher to win the award through 1966.)

So it’s certain that black players made an almost immediate impact on the Major Leagues, especially the NL. One other stat of interest is that 1947, the first year of integration, gave us the first black player in a World Series. In 1948 saw the first team (Cleveland) win the Series with a black player. The last all white Series was 1950 (New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies) and the first Series where both teams had black players was 1954 (Cleveland and New York Giants).

 Does all this prove that the Negro League players who were denied entry into the Major Leagues were Hall of Fame quality or even big league quality? Of course it doesn’t. But to argue they weren’t becomes a least a little more difficult when you see just how good their immediate followers were when they reached the Majors.

Roy Campanella freely credited Biz Mackey (Baltimore Elite Giants catcher and Hall of Fame class of 2007) as both a mentor and the man who made him a better catcher. Was Campy better than Mackey? Don’t know. But I do know that if Campy learned to be as great as he was by watching and listening to Mackey, then Mackey was one heck of a ballplayer. I’m afraid that’s the best we’re ever going to be able to say about the Negro League players who never got to the big leagues.

Picking the Winners, 2010 Style

November 24, 2010

Now all the postseason awards are handed out and there’s cheering in some circles and weeping in others. In some previous posts, I stated my position on the various individual awards. How did I do?

I looked at the awards in two ways. The managers I told you who I thought should win. With the other three awards (Rookie, Cy Young, MVP) I told you who I thought would win. Here are the results, managers first.

I said I would vote for Bud Black and for Terry Francona. I also stated that Francona had no shot at winning, but that I felt he’d done the best job trying to win with what was essentially an ER ward. I did note that Ron Gardenhire was a legitimate candidate to win, but that I personally chose Francona. So I went one for two, getting Black right. That’s better than I normally do. Usually I get the managers all wrong unless someone comes out of left field to win a pennant or something. So I can pat myself on the back, at least a little.

On the player awards I went 5 of 6, which is a lot better than I usually do. Maybe this trying to figure out what the writer’s are going to do is easier than picking the people myself. I got both MVPs, both Rookies, and the NL Cy Young winners. I missed, as I stated in my last post, the AL Cy Young winner. I underestimated the amount of credence the writers would give to the new sabrmetric stats that favored Felix Hernandez for the award. So I guess I had a reasonably successful time picking postseason awards in 2010.

Does it mean anything? Well, my picking doesn’t, but the writer’s picks might or might not (how’s that for being definite?). If you look down the lists of Rookies of the Year and MVPs and Cy Young Award winners you get a mixed bag. In rookie voting you get Cal Ripken and Ron Kittle in back-to-back years (BTW Ripken is the last ROY winner to make the Hall of Fame). Not all of the ROY winners go on to great careers. Sticking with Ripken, he wins the MVP in 1983 and is followed by Willie Hernandez. Not exactly the same quality player, right? The Cy Young gives us Sandy Koufax and Dean Chance in back-to-back seasons. Again, very different quality players. My point is simply that winning one of these awards is no guarantee of long term greatness. So we need to be careful about how much weight we put on these awards.

Having said that, congratulations to all the winners. I hope they go on to great and illustrious careers. Now if the Dodgers could just pick up one or two of these guys…

What Were They Looking At?

June 2, 2010

Yesterday I did a post about Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak. Kevin from DMB blog pointed out that Ted Williams’ 1941 was at least as good as DiMaggio’s and probably better. I concur. It got me to thinking (which is sometimes not a good thing) about Williams’ lack of respect in the MVP voting, which led me to Duke Snider and a couple of other people who never got the support they needed from MVP voters. I want to point out five cases, four from the 1950s, (there are more and you may have your own favorite) where I can’t help but ask, “What were they looking at?” when the writers voted for MVP.   

Joe Gordon

 1. 1942. Joe Gordon won. Gordon hit .322, slugged 491, had 173 hits, 88 runs, 18 home runs, 103 RBIs, and 264 total bases. He managed to lead the league in one category, strikeouts with 95. Williams the same year hit .356, slugged .648, had 186 hits, 141 runs, 36 home runs, 137 RBIs, and 338 total bases. He led the league in average, slugging, runs, home runs, RBIs, and total bases. In other words, the man won the triple crown. He also led the league in walks. What were they looking at? Unless they simply decided to give it to the best player on the team that won there’s no way Gordon had a better year. And I’m not sure I’d credit him as the best Yankee that year.   

Roy Campanella

  2. 1953. Roy Campanella won. For the season Campy hit .312, slugged .611, had 162 hits, 103 runs, 41 home runs, 142 RBIs, and 317 total bases. Good year, right? Now let me give you another line in the same order: .336, .627, 198, 132, 42, 126, and 370. Those are the numbers for Duke Snider, Campy’s teammate. Snider led the National League in runs, slugging and total bases and they picked Campy. OK, maybe, but Campanella only led the league in RBIs.  

Duke Snider

  3. 1955. Campy won again. For the year Campanella hit .318, slugged .583, had 142 hits, 81 runs, 32 home runs, and 107 RBIs. Snider’s numbers for the same year were .309, .628, 166, 126, 42, and 136. He led te NL in both runs and RBIs. Duke, you got robbed.  

Don Newcombe

4. 1956. Don Newcombe won. Newcombe in 1956 put up the following numbers: 27 wins, 7 losses, a 3.06 ERA, 268 inning pitched, 219 hits, 139 strikeouts, and 46 walks. He led the National League in both wins and winning percentage. Sal Maglie finished second with the following numbers in the same order: 13/5/2.87/191/150/108/52. Now I have no problem with Newcombe beating the Barber here. What I have a problem with is Maglie coming in second when the following two sets of numbers are available. This is the same pitching numbers in the same order: 21/11/2.78/281/249/128/52. Those are Warren Spahn’s numbers and I think I’d rather have his than Maglie’s. Again Duke Snider has good numbers: 158 hits, 112 runs, 43 home runs, a .292 average, a.598 slugging percentage, 101 RBIs, and 324 total bases. He leads the league in homers, slugging, on base percentage, and walks. He also comes in 10th in the MVP voting. Say what? Again my problem isn’t with Newcombe winning, it’s with the disrespect shown to both Spahn and Snider (What? Do they just not like guys whose last name starts with an S?) 

Jackie Jensen

  5. 1958. Jackie Jensen won. Jensen hit .286, slugged .535, had 157 hits, 83 runs, 35 home runs, 122 RBI’s, and 293 total bases. He led the league in RBIs. Mickey Mantle on the other hand hit .304, slugged .592, had 158 hits, 127 runs, 42 home runs, 97 RBIs, and 307 total bases. He managed to lead the league in runs, home runs, total bases, and also walks and strikeouts.   

There they are. You tell me who you’d vote for. I’m not sure what I’m missing when  I look these over. I’m tempted to say that there was too much emphasis on the RBI, but Williams loses in 1942 and Snider loses in 1955 with more RBIs, so it can’t just be RBIs. Campanella and Gordon both played more demanding fielding positions, and I’ll give you that Williams wasn’t the greatest outfielder in the world. But the thing is that Snider was no slouch in center and Gordon wasn’t the greatest second baseman to ever put on a glove (although he wasn’t bad ether). And Mantle with the leather was superb. So it can’t be that either, at least not entirely.   

Frankly, I’ve never been able to figure out MVP voting.  I know I’m dealing with the personal quirks and biases of a bunch of writers, but there is no consistency here at all. There have been a number that I’ve scratched my head over. These are, to me, five of the most obvious examples of “What were they looking at?” Feel free to add your own personal favorites (there are plenty).