It's Awards Time...

Tuesday, September 27 2011 @ 02:50 PM EDT

Contributed by: Anders

... and unfortunately that brings out the worst in some writers.

It's usually not polite to fisk people, but in this case I literally could not help myself. This Griffin-esque awards column by Tom Verducci is just too much. You should read that article, or this won't make sense.


"Yes, there is an asterisk next to Ellsbury. This vote is not final. If Boston does not make the postseason, there is no sense in handing the MVP to a someone on the team that just staged the greatest September choke in the history of the sport."

I suppose reasonable folks can disagree about whether making the playoffs should be a requisite for winning the MVP award. I don't think it should be - it's not like games the Orioles play don't count, and there is no mention in the awards criteria of the winner having to be on a playoff team. Moreover, until some 50 years ago, no one cared about this. Still, I won't hammer on this too much, despite its wrongness, other than when the logic is internally inconsistent. But the idea that Jacoby Ellsbury, who has hit .373/.423/.695 during the Red Sox collapse, should be punished because his teammates sucked for a month seems ludicrous to me.

"That said, Ellsbury has been so phenomenal that Bautista could hit 10 more home runs and Ellsbury still would have more total bases than the Toronto outfielder. (All stats entering this week.)"

Yes, by this one particular arbitrary measure that you chose, Ellsbury has been waaaaay better than Jose Bautista. By 10 home runs! Wow! If only there was some other way to measure total bases, that was rated per plate appearance, that might account for Ellsbury being leadoff hitter, hrm. Like, slugging percentage say? What, Bautista is leading by 60 points? And Bautista has walked 80 times more than Ellsbury. So if you add walks to total bases, Bautista beats Ellsbury by 8 home runs now! So Bautista wins in my arbitrary stat! Game over.

Look, this is a Blue Jays site, and of course there is going to be some bias here. At this point I honestly don't know if I would vote for Ellsbury or Bautista, but the vote doesn't come down to hitting prowess, which Bautista wins in a landslide. It comes down to whether you think Ellsbury's positional, defensive and baserunning advantages outweigh Bautista's hitting advantage. I'm not entirely sure.

I'm okay with either Verlander or Cabrera taking the MVP if Boston completes its all-time collapse. Cabrera has reached base more times than anybody in the league, plays every day, leads all of MLB in batting with runners in scoring position, will win the batting title with an average near .340 and has the best adjusted OPS by anyone other than Bautista.

I'm not sure Verlander is the MVP, and for whatever you want to say about him having a great pitching season, the same is true for Bautista having a great hitting season. But that's apples and oranges. Miguel Cabrera has had a clearly inferior season hitting than Jose Bautista (which Verducci conveniently mentions and ignores), and plays an easier defensive position than Bautista. I'm not sure how much this should matter in awards voting, but you can point out that Cabrera out-BABIP Bautista by 40 points (although Bautista out HR/FB'd Cabrera by 4%.) Anyway, unless you are using stupid playoff logic, there's no rational reason to have Cabrera ahead of Bautista.


"Kemp has put up a monster season with MVP numbers, leading the league in WAR, runs, total bases, home runs and RBIs. But his team, the Dodgers, didn't play a meaningful game for the last two-thirds of the season. Los Angeles was nine games out by the middle of June."

Commence head banging into wall. So, Matt Kemp was really good, but because the Dodgers sucked, he can't be MVP. It's stupid, but at least it's stupid logical. Is it worth pointing out that Matt Kemp has 3 more home runs worth of total bases than Ryan Braun though?

And this business that Kemp had no help in the lineup? Baloney. Kemp batted with 87 more runners on base than did Braun. Kemp had 24 more plate appearances with runners in scoring position -- and Braun was the better hitter in those spots (.347-.327). The seasons of Kemp and Braun are too close not to give it to the guy who delivered the most value in terms of context.

I'm not sure what this is referring to specifically, but it seems awfully straw-mannish. But Braun was the superior hitter with runners in scoring position? It's decided then that he's more valuable, on account of a different arbitrary measure now used to choose the MVP because it's convenient! Wait a second, hitting is more than batting average, right? I'm pretty sure that people are aware of that now - OPS has been on TV broadcasts for, like, at least five years. Hrm, let's see. Ryan Braun is hitting .351/.421/.628 with RISP. That's pretty good! Matt Kemp sucks though, he's only hitting .331/.448./.636. Wait a second... that's actually better. Should we adjust for the fact that the other five NL Central teams are in the bottom half of the NL in ERA, while three of the other four NL West teams are in the top half in ERA (I'll let you guess which one isn't), and that Kemp plays half of his games in a massive pitchers park?

Also, "most value in terms of context" is nonsensical. Value is absolute. Kemp was slightly worse as a hitter than Braun, but made up for it by playing a more difficult defensive position while likely being the better defender (who really knows with UZR, but Kemp has been a little better over the last couple of years in both that and DRS; both seem to agree that Kemp had an awful season last year but that Braun is generally not very good.)

Prince Fielder also comes in third, and Albert Pujols 4th. Not to beat this dead horse into the ground, but for example Troy Tulowitzki and Justin Upton were plus defenders at premium defensive positions who hit slightly worse than both of those guys, making them much more valuable. And Upton was even on a playoff team!

So, two main objections in the MVP'ing. If you just want to give it to guys on playoff teams, do that. I don't agree, but at least it's stupidly consistent. But don't make up post-facto explanations to give it to your guy, especially ones that aren't consistent. If you want to give it to Jacoby Ellsbury over Jose Bautista that's fine. The center fielder beats the right fielder on defensive and positional value, that's perfectly reasonable. BUT DON'T TURN AROUND AND DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE THING IN THE OTHER LEAGUE. Seriously, there's no rational explanation other than playoffs to give it to Ellsbury over Bautista in one league and Braun over Kemp in the other. The situations are almost perfectly analogous, except Bautista was better than Braun and Kemp was better than Ellsbury (I know fWAR doesn't necessarily agree here, but given the park difference and sample size problems with UZR I'm reasonably confident in this.)

AL Cy Young

"No intrigue here, folks. Verlander will win unanimously."

Well, he might not, but he probably does deserve it. The ordering here is pretty lame though, with Weaver second, James Shields third and CC Sabathia 4th. There's a pretty decent stats case for Sabathia at least being in the same ballpark as Verlander, and certainly ahead of those other two guys. Sabathia has the best GB% of the four, and is a notch behind Verlander in K/BB but ahead of the other two guys. He also gives up the fewest home runs, pitches in division with the best hitting by far (though he doesn't face the Yankees) and pitches in the best hitters park by far (though Comerica played a slight tick above neutral this year, the Trop and Angel Stadium were severe pitchers parks.) The inclusion of Shields is a bit of a joke, as Shields was fine but not superlative, even without account for the Rays phenomenal defense and hitters park.

NL Cy Young

"This one is so difficult. Halladay and Kershaw both deserve to win. The margin between the two of them in virtually every area is too small to be meaningful -- with one exception. Halladay threw with much better control. He led the league with the best walk rate (1.3 per nine innings; Kershaw was not even in the top 10 at 2.1) and the best strikeout to walk rate (6.29; Kershaw ranked a distant third at 4.59). It's the only area with a significant difference between the two, so the edge goes to Halladay."

Well, I don't especially disagree. I'm not sure why you wouldn't mention Cliff Lee, who basically has identical stats to Halladay and Kershaw, by name (he does have him 3rd). Citizen's Bank park is a better hitter's park than Dodger Stadium, though it seems like the two Divisions were roughly comparable in terms of hitting.


"Hellickson put up a 2.90 ERA in almost 200 innings in the AL East. Now that's impressive. Hosmer is going to be a huge star and deserves many first-place votes himself. Nova tied a modern record with 12 straight wins as a rookie, leaving Mark Trumbo, Jordan Walden, Jemile Weeks, Michael Pineda, Dustin Ackley and others with no room on the ballot."

This is pretty reasonable. I don't know how much one should weight peripherals in this kind of thing, and Hellickson massively outperformed his, plus the aforementioned defense and park. But it is the AL East.


He goes with Kimbrel here, Kimbrel had an all-time season, even as a reliever. Eh.

So, that's that. My outrage is over, at least until Jon Heyman publishes an awards ballot.