My 2007 MVP Ballot

For some reason, my 2007 Awards ballot has not yet arrived from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.  I write about baseball associated things and I’m an American.  So, since the Chicago postal system seems to be running slow, I guess I’ll have to submit my ballot the old-fashioned way, by posting it on the Internet.  This year, I offer you a study in two contrasting races.  The AL trophy might as well be engraved now.  The NL trophy isn’t so clear.  In true StatSpeak style, I prefer to use some of the more advanced metrics available to us.
Most Valuable (Offensive) Player Who Isn’t a Pitcher
American League
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees. 
Well, that one was easy.  As much as it pains me to say anything positive about a Yankee, A-Rod deserves it.  Most Valuable Player awards often come down to the usual arguments.  Most is an adverb modifying the adjective and means “the highest level of.”  Player means someone who participates in the game of baseball (although we occasionally get the argument of whether a pitcher is eligible for this award, what with the Cy Young Award available… I’m a fan of keeping pitchers out of the MVP and it’s my ballot!).  Valuable… now that’s one that eludes definition.  Thankfully, A-Rod is the consensus choice on just about all of the usual criteria used for MVP voting, including “The guy who had the most home runs, or perhaps the most RBI,”  “The guy on a playoff team who was the sine qua non (if not for him, the team would not have been in the playoffs),” “The best player on the East Coast,” and “The guy who’s having a good year and has won it in the past few years.”  A-Rod taking home the AL MVP in a few weeks is a better bet than some third world countries still being around bt then.
But, for what it’s worth, A-Rod as an MVP makes sense from a statistical point of view too.  He leads the AL in VORP, win probability added, context neutral WPA, and Batting Runs Above Average.  He’s been that good this year, and for $30 million per this off-season, he could be yours.
But, what about the rest of the ballot?  They don’t give out “Second Most Valuable Player” (but they should…), although the ballot that the BBWAA sends out asks for a first through a tenth place vote.  Given the last four statistically based criteria I used above, the following players make the top ten list on those stats more than once: Magglio Ordonez, David Ortiz, Jorge Posada, Curtis Granderson, Vlad Guererro, Carlos Pena, Victor Martinez, B.J. Upton, and Jim Thome.   Other players who will get a look because of one of the “other” criteria I listed include Justin Morneau (won it last year, having a decent although not earth-shattering year… plus he’s Canadian!), Derek Jeter (a true Yankee), and Placido Polanco (BBWAA members love opera). 
See a surprising name or two in there?  Carlos Pena ranks 8th league-wide in VORP, and B.J. Upton is 11th.  Pena is fifth in context neutral WPA, Upton is 7th.  They both play for the Devil Rays.  Neither one will get many votes and will be left off some ballots altogether because ESPN is only aware of two of the five teams in the AL East, but both players deserve a second look.  In fact, both will finish behind David Ortiz, who will get votes based on the fact that he lives in Boston, the “intangibles” he brings to the club, and on his clutch reputation, even though this year he’s been the fourth most anti-clutch hitter in the AL!  (For the record: Ortiz has had a better year and belongs ahead of them… I’m just saying it’ll be for all the wrong reasons)  Ordonez and Granderson will take a hit due to the Tigers’ late season collapse, as will any ideas that Gary Sheffield had of winning the award.
Ordonez deserves second place.  He’s 2nd in VORP, 2nd in WPA, 3rd in context neutral WPA, and 2nd in BRAA.  Ortiz places third in VORP, 4th in WPA, 2nd in context neutrap WPA, 3rd in BRAA and 3rd on my ballot.  The rest of the top ten, in order: Vlad, Pena, Posada, Martinez, Granderson, Upton, Thome.
National League
This one isn’t as clear cut.  VORP says it’s Hanley Ramirez, BRAA says Chase Utley, WPA and context neutral WPA say Prince Fielder.  Using my “appear more than once in the top ten” test, we get Ramirez, David Wright, Chipper Jones, Miguel Cabrera (all 16 tons of him), Albert Pujols, Fielder, Utley, Matt Holliday, Barry Bonds, and Adam Dunn.  Others who will get consideration for all the wrong reasons include Ken “nice comeback, we still like him better than Bonds” Griffey, Ryan “won it last year, good-but-not-great year this year” Howard, Ryan “I’m sooooo going to win Rookie of the Year” Braun, and Jose “wait a minute, how is he not in this discussion, especially given that he plays for the Mets” Reyes.  (Reyes is 11th in VORP, but in the 30s-40s on the other stats.  Yeah, I know he’ll steal 80+ before it’s all over.) 

  • Ramirez is 1st in VORP, but 20th in WPA, 7th in context neutral WPA, and 15th in BRAA.  Not bad, but not something that screams “I’m a walkaway winner!”
  • Fielder is 3rd in BRAA and 6th in VORP (quite nice)
  • Utley is 7th in VORP, 9th in WPA and 4th context neutral WPA. 
  • But wait, David Wright is 2nd in VORP, 2nd in context neutral, 5th in WPA, and 6th in BRAA…
  • …and Chipper Jones is 3rd in VORP, 6th in context neutal, 4th in WPA, and 2nd in BRAA.

VORP is generally the more complete stat, although Fielder suffers from the fact that replacement level for a first baseman is higher than for any of the other infielder positions (which the other folks play).  Ramirez leads VORP, but the two guys behind him generally outdo him in the three other categories, despite not being the leaders in any of them.  Fielder will win, if only for the fact that he’s leading the league in the one stat that writers are guaranteed to look at: home runs.  But, when you look at a few more advanced stats, it becomes a little more cloudy.
Dunn is having another one of his 40 HR, 100 BB, 170 K’s, which means that, once again, about half of his PA this season will end in one of those three outcomes.  That’s consistency!  Bonds will get some votes because he’s Barry Bonds and will be left off some ballots because he’s Barry Bonds.  Until such time as there’s evidence that he… ummm… seeing that O.J.’s back on trial, using the word “Juiced” just doesn’t seem right… anyway, he’s staying on my ballot.  Pujols, Holliday, and Cabrera are doing what they normally do on teams that will not make the playoffs.  (I know, the Rockies are still kinda in it.)
My ballot reads: Fielder, Wright, Jones, Ramirez, Utley, Cabrera, Pujols, Holliday, Bonds, Dunn.  The thing is that I could make a case to re-arrange that ballot in any number of ways.  If I were a betting man (I’m not), I’d lay money on Fielder.  It’ll be close when the actual balloting is held, and several guys will get first-place votes, and it’s not out-of-bounds that they do.  Fielder gets the nod as “most” valuable player, slightly above the rest of the pack.  Remember, someone’s gotta win.
But feel free to argue that I’m wrong.  I’ve been wrong before; just ask my wife.  But do come back later in the week when we’ll discuss an award named after the all-time most losingest pitcher in all of baseball history.

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6 Responses to My 2007 MVP Ballot

  1. Pizza Cutter says:

    Yeah… defense. Hence my re-naming of the award as the “Most Valuable (Offensive) Player Who Isn’t a Pitcher” The (real) voters ignore defense too. I probably should have just called it “Offensive Player of the Year.” So should BBWAA.
    The biggest problem in this case is that it’s hard to make those comparisons across positions. I feel fine with saying X is the best 2B in the game defensively, but is X at 2B better than Y who plays RF? To get there, we need to have some sort of good translation for “What would happen if X played in RF… or if Y played 2B?” What would happen if Fielder played second and Utley played first?

  2. Cary says:

    Eric Byrnes doesn’t even warrant a mention in your NL MVP assessment? He’s not on par statistically with the others but his team is 1st place in the NL west and he’s the sparkplug driving it. near 50 steals and 20 HRs and a .360 OBA gets you a little shine at least….

  3. Pizza Cutter says:

    Byrnes is 20th-30th or so in all four categories that I’ve been using. He does lead the league in “dogs thrown into McCovey Cove”
    I’m not a big fan of the “sine qua non” argument for MVP, especially in this case. Byrnes is the best hitter on the Diamondbacks, who are not guaranteed a playoff spot by any stretch. It’s just that there are 30 “best hitters on the team” out there and everyone thinks the one on their favorite team is special. Nothing bad about Eric. He’s Top 40, just not Top 10 material.

  4. Doug says:

    I mean i know this is a little belated, but i do find it strange that your assessment and top ten didn’t even mention the eventual winner. I feel that may be indicative of your system of beginning with people in multiple top tens, which while good for looking at the very top perhaps, might overlook some other balanced players at the backend of the ballot.

  5. Pizza Cutter says:

    What’s odd is that I don’t even think Rollins was the most valuable Phillie. Utley out VORPed Rollins, and beat him in SLG, OBP (and thus OPS), BRAA, WPA, and context neutral wins. Utley lost 30 games to that hand injury. Rollins put up a lot of really gaudy raw numbers due in large part to that fact that he never sat down and racked up more than 750 PA. Not to say he had a bad year… he just wasn’t the best player in the National League last year, or Philadelphia.

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