And The Award Goes to .... MVP Edition
If you have been to a baseball game in the last five years, there is a very good chance you've heard an "M-V-P" chant. It's a crowd favorite. The earliest known MVP chant was heard in Game 7 of the 1984 NBA Easter Semifinals between the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks. New York’s Bernard King and the Celtic’s Larry Bird both had remarkable years and went toe to toe for the Season MVP Award. Bird won and when the Celtics and Knicks faced off in a deciding Game 7, Bird was relentless. Bird dropped 39 points on the Knicks, and Celtics fans were quick to remind King who won the MVP award. And that is how the MVP chant came to be.
BACK TO BASEBALL. The MVP chant has no become less of an intimidation tactic and more of a people’s choice vote. Bartolo Colon received it multiple times this year; mainly because he’s a goddamn MVP the people can count on. In the case of Mookie Betts, who we’ll take a look at below, the MVP chants heard at Fenway Park were more of attention seeking than anything. Those crowds were saying “Hey! Check this guy out! He deserves it!” Doe he or is there someone else who deserves the mantle of Most Valuable Player?
Before we go any further, let’s get one thing straight; I’m not looking at which player has the highest WAR, or Wins Against Replacement Player. WAR is used as a one-stop shop to determine a players worth to his team in one statistic. This player is worth THIS MANY MORE WINS for his team than AN AVERAGE DUDE IN THE LEAGUE. I also agree with FanGraphs “WAR is not meant to be a perfectly precise indicator of a player’s contribution, but rather an estimate of their value to date. Given the imperfections of some of the available data and the assumptions made to calculate other components, WAR works best as an approximation.” LET’S ALL SAY THAT TOGETHER. ON THREE! ONE, TWO, THREE! WAR WORKS BEST AS AN APPROXIMATION. There’s a variance here y’all and it’s not half a point or a tenth of a point variance it’s a 2 point full wing variance. I bring this up because I’ve seen way too many people looking at the MVP race and saying, “it’s easy, just look at their WAR. BOOM! Simple. If we don’t do that what’s it there for?” One, you’re better than that. Two, you’re better than that. Three, if that’s the case then what’s the fucking point? What makes Baseball so great is the amount of intangible things swirling around a stadium. A lot of us believed that a Fan killed the 2003 Chicago Cubs because of a foul ball, or a Chicago batting glove tainted the Red Sox 1986 World Series hopes. COME ON. Baseball isn’t that hard and fast. You have to look at the whole picture. So let’s take a look!
1) DANIEL MURPHY - 2B, Washington Nationals
DEAR METS FRONT OFFICE,
FUCK OFF. YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST PAID THE MAN. HE DESERVED IT. AND NOW WE WILL HAVE TO SIT THROUGH YEARS OF DANIEL MURPHY KICKING OUR ASS IN WASHINGTON.
THIS ONE METS FAN, BUT PROBABLY A LOT OF OTHER ONES TOO.
Daniel Murphy put together one hell of a year in 2016. He had Career Highs in RBIs with 104, 2Bs with 47, Home Runs with 25, and he was hit by more pitches than another year in his career! HOORAY! In all seriousness, Daniel Murphy was the signing of the year. Washington took a gamble on a guy who got hot in October and it paid off. Murphy hit an incredible .347 in 2016 and had a Slugging % of .595 and an OPS of .989. At the end of 2016 Daniel Murphy’s WAR was 4.6.
He’s not the MVP, but fuck if he wasn’t close. Daniel Murphy is the reason, besides Max Scherzer, the Nationals got to playoffs. HE MURDERED THE NL EAST. In 2015 the Nationals were a not great against the NL East posting a 44-32 record, however, in 2016 the Nats were 51-25 against their division, one of the main reasons they took the division as easily as they did. Murphy is the reason they did. Murph hit .370 against the NL East and 50 of his 104 RBIs came within the division. Daniel Murphy was a lightning rod for the Nationals this year and down south, they hope it continues.
2) COREY SEAGER - SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
Corey Seager did not play like a Rookie in 2016; he played like a seasoned veteran. Watching Seager on the diamond was like watching Kris Bryant last year, you start to wonder, ”Where the fuck did this kid come from?” Seager had a great year, but this nomination feels more like a celebration of how good his rookie season was, rather than a legitimate choice for MVP. Seager hit .308 this year, knocking in 72 RBIs, hitting 26 balls over the outfield fences, hitting 40 2Bs and racking up a 6.1 WAR. It was one hell of a Rookie season! That’s why he won Rookie of the Year. This feels like a hat tip to the kid. I don’t think he’s got a logistical chance.
3) KRIS BRYANT - 3B, Chicago Cubs
BOLD GENERALIZATION WARNING: KRIST BRYANT IS VERY GOOD AT BASEBALL. We knew that last year, when they Cubs held him in the minors for the first few weeks and then he exploded onto the scene, eventually winning the 2015 Rookie of the Year. Bryant’s second year in the lead has been far and away better than his first. Bryant scored 34 more runs in 2016, as well as hitting 13 more Homers, 22 more hits, and striking out 154 times, 45 fewer than his 2015 total. Bryant was on fire in Chicago. The offensive production alone is something that will carry him to this award. On the other side of the ball, Bryant was better. He had 14 total errors in 2016, which is down from his last year total of 17, so that’s better. For comparison, Nolan Arenado the Gold Glove Standard at third, 13 errors. So Bryant is right on par with those numbers
Will Win: Kris Bryant
Should Win: Kris Bryant
REALLY FUCKING CLOSE: Daniel Murphy
This is Bryant’s award to lose tonight. He’s the centerpiece of a stacked Chicago roster, and you don’t get passed up for MVP honors when you’re the big piece of a World Series bound team. When asked about Kris Bryant, Former Rookie of the Year and Multiple MVP Award winner Cal Ripken, Jr, said, "We don't know how good Kris Bryant can be. It's happened really fast and we marvel at his accomplishments. And in the back of our minds we think, can he be even better? That's the fun part moving forward. It's exciting to think ahead to what he can do." That’s Kris Bryant. He’s so good in his first two seasons, it’s unreal to think about where his ceiling of talent is, but regardless of if or when we find it, this kid is going to incredible things.
1) JOSE ALTUVE - 2B, Houston Astros
Jose Altuve is the shortest player in the league, aside from Alexi Amarista who is the same height, standing in at 5’ 6”. The only other player to come close to matching Altuve’s height and skill is Wee Willy Keeler who played from 1892 to 1910. So yeah… Jose Altuve is doing some incredible stuff. What makes Altuve even more fascinating is that he’s not just playing well, he’s dominating. ABSOLUTELY DOMINATING. Jose posted a .338 average, a .531 Slugging Percentage and a .928 Ops, which helped him get his second American League Batting title (ALBT for short). In 2014 when Jose won his first ALBT, Jose was more like your average leadoff or #2 hitter, finding holes, making contact, stealing bases and the like. In 2016 Jose went for more of a long ball rout, but still managed to get on base more often than before. Altuve’s slugging percentage jumped up by a full .100, which makes sense when you compare his 9 dingers in 2014 to his 24 in 2016. A full look at his 2016 stats, Altuve racked up 108 runs, 42 Doubles, 216 total hits, 96 RBIs, 24 Home Runs and 30 Stolen Bases. Not too bad. All those numbers taken into consideration, Altuve’s WAR ends up at 7.7.
We’re gonna look at a few clutch stats, because I think those are important in a Most Valuable player. With Runners in Scoring Position or RISP, Jose Altuve hit .372, with an OPS of 1.072. Jose Altuve was better with RISP than he was without them. Jose came to chew gum and get hits with ducks on the pond and I think they ran out of gun in the Astros bench. Jose was also a better hitter on the road. Houston has a very interesting stadium, in that it’s outfield makes no fucking sense. However, with the renovations this offseason, the improved dimensions might help Jose in his quest to repeat in 2017. Away from Ballpark at Union…. No… Enron…. Ten-Run…No…Astrodome…. No…. MINUTE MAID! IT’S MINUTE MAID NOW! Away from Minute Maid Park, Altuve hit .376. Dude can hit. Altuve is proof that no matter what your circumstances in life you can achieve your dreams if you set your mind to it. For a guy who is so small, he’s got power to spare, plays the field like a demon and is just flat out relentless. Altuve only missed 1 game this entire season. This is a guy who shows up everyday ready to kick some ass and take some names. That’s a valuable guy to have on my team.
2) MOOKIE BETTS - OF, Boston Red Sox
I am going to admit my bias right out of the gate. I love Mookie Betts. I rarely get player t-shirts, just because like… I’m at the point where I would rather get a knock off jersey from China than get a player tee for the same amount of money. HOWEVER, I almost bought a Mookie Betts shirt, because he’s an exciting player to watch. Boston has not had an outfielder like this since Manny Ramirez, except Betts is a way better fielder. The move from Center to Right to make room for Jackie Bradley, Jr. was also a very smart call in that Right Field at Fenway is still difficult, and you need a smart fielder to play those angles. Moving Betts to Right allows the Sox to have incredible fielders in their two most difficult positions.
So how was Betts at the plate? WELL. PRETTY GOOD. Betts hit .318 in 2016, with a.363 On Base Percentage, a .534 Slugging Percentage and an .897 OPS. Betts’s offensive numbers continue to look good with 122 Runs scored, 113 RBIs 42 Doubles, 214 total hits, 24 Stolen Bases and 31 Round-trippers. Not to shabby for a guy’s third year in the league, culminating in a 9.6 WAR for 2016.
The other great thing about Mookie Betts is that he can hit pretty much anywhere in your lineup. In 2016 Betts saw 109 Games in the leadoff spot, 12 in the 3-Hole and 36 batting cleanup. Mookie hit above .300 in all of those spots, but topped .400 when hitting in the 4th spot. Mookie gives you options, you can put this dude anywhere in your lineup and he’ll dominate. With David Ortiz retiring, the Red Sox were worried about a lack of power in the lineup, possibly why they signed Panda to the ENORMOUS deal they did. Mookie is that guy who can provide those clutch hits, those doubles to get the table setters in, and can also play the field with the best of them. Without Mookie Betts, the Red Sox don’t make it to the playoffs. He’s next in line to take control of this Red Sox team an usher in a new era at Fenway.
3) MIKE TROUT - OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
AND THEN THERE WAS TROUT. Mike Trout is an incredible baseball player. He is. He’s the most talented baseball player in the entire league. He’s the best, the tops, the gold star standard, the future hall of famer, etc. He’s the best. Plain and simple. But is he the 2016 MVP? Let’s take a look.
Mike Trout had the kind of year we’ve come to expect from Mike Trout, posting a .315 Average, a .441 OBP, .550 Slugging %, and a .991 OPS. Trout scored 123 runs, brought in 100 RBIs, got 173 total hits, 32 doubles, 29 Home Runs and stole 30 bases. They’re good stats, but just for comparison sake, let’s check out trout’s 2014 numbers. In 2014, when Trout won his last MVP award he had 115 runs, 173 hits, 39 doubles, 111 RBIs, 16 Stolen Bases, he hit .287, with a .377 OBP, .561 Slugging % and had an OPS of .939. He also played in 2 less games than he did in 2016. He also struck out more in 2014. His 2014 WAR was 7.9. His 2016 WAR? 10.6.
When I started this post by talking about WAR, it was because of this reason. You cannot base your MVP vote on WAR alone, because it is a speculative statistic. Now look, I LOVE SABERMETRIC Stats. I do. I do. I do. HOWEVER, this is a stat that defines worth, something that isn’t an easy number to find in baseball. Value is another one. MOST VALUABLE PLAYER. We’re looking at intangibles in a tangible manner, but WAR isn’t a hard and fast rule.
While I was researching for this post I stumbled across a couple of articles stating the opposite of what we’re talking about here. That Mookie Betts’ value is based on his other teammates, and he’s being rewarded for being surrounded by guys who put him in a position to produce. FanGraphs, SB Nation. Writers love Trout. He’s our Mickey Mantle. A guy who has incredible ability and we can track that with new stats. But Mickey Mantle played for THE Yankees, and Mike Trout plays for an Angels team that is not very good. Mike Trout doesn’t have a Roger Maris or a Yogi Berra, but still puts up numbers like he’s out of his mind. And who knows.. Maybe Trout will end up playing for the Yankees to…. (NO GOD PLEASE NO). But, that’s what WAR has done to this award. Just for kicks let me throw this idea out there.
In 1975 Fred Lynn won the MVP and the Rookie of the Year, the only other player to do that was Ichiro. His 1975 Red Sox would famously go on to lose the World Series to the Cincinnati Reds in seven games after the dramatic Carlton Fisk Walk off in Game Six. Lynn was very good for the sox that year hitting .331, driving in 105 RBIs and scoring 103 runs. Lynn ended the season with a WAR of 7.4. Great! Except for one thing… Rod Carew. Carew scored 89 runs, drove in 80 RBIs and had an average of .359, a number he would continue to exceed in his career. Carew had a WAR of 7.8. So by the stats, Carew is a more valuable player. Except without Lynn, the Red Sox don’t make the playoffs. The Minnesota Twins, Carew’s team at the time, were 20.5 games back. They never had a chance. This award has been award to the player with the most value to his team that year, regardless of their WAR.
Will Win: Mookie Betts
Should Win: Mookie Betts
REALLLY FUCKING CLOSE: Mike Trout
It’s gonna be Mookie, you guys. And a lot of people are going to lose their fucking minds over it, but it’s the truth. Without Mookie Betts the Sox don’t make it as far as they did. Without Mike Trout, the Angels are still garbage. It’s about value; if it were about stats we wouldn’t have the award at all. It would be handed out to the guy with the highest stats every year. If that’s the case, it’s actually Altuve, cause his stats are better. Regardless, it’s not a loss for Trout, it’s just another reminder that this game isn’t as cut and dry as we sometimes thinks it is, but that’s something I love about this game.