Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Zen Dayley: Baseball writers have thing for short, stocky second basemen

Dustin Pedroia winning American League MVP honours is kind of like Marisa Tomei winning an Oscar 15 years ago -- the academy was divided.

Pedroia was actually left off one writers' ballot. The Red Sox second baseman was a reasonable enough choice. Five players, including Canada's own Justin Morneau, who was the runner-up after he once again was not even the best Minnesota Twin with the initals JM, got at least one first-place vote. That's the most in the AL since the Great A-Rod/Delgado Schmozzle of 2003.

Pedroia's park-adjusted OPS+ of 122 is no great shakes, but remember, he played a key defensive position, second base and won the Gold Glove. It is pretty tough for a second baseman to win MVP. It has not happened in the AL since Nellie Fox 49 years ago, so until the baseball-followin' world clues in to how rarely a talent such as Joe Mauer comes along, Pedroia is an OK pick.

Craig Biggio and Roberto Alomar were across-the-board brilliant second basemen in the 1990s, and neither of them ever got much support from MVP voting. Biggio's best finish was fourth in 1997; Robbie Alomar finished third in 1999 (when the award should have gone to Derek Jeter, who ended up coming sixth) and fourth in '01, along with coming sixth three seasons in a row during his Jays days.

The larger point is, for lack of a more profound way to see it, it is good to see that the MVP can go to a player who doesn't have ginormous home run and RBI totals, because it takes all kinds to have a winning baseball team. One would think that would be appreciated by the anti-Moneyball flat-earthers, but a certain traditionally minded Toronto baseball writer got it wrong, calling Morneau, the RBI machine, to win.

His theory was that the Boston vote would be split between Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis, which would have allowed Morneau to sneak in.

He obviously could have used the help of some president-elect Obama's delegate counters. Pedroia won 317-257. The way it works is that a first-place vote is worth 14 points, a second-place vote is worth nine, a third-place vote worth eight, and so on all the way down to 10th place.

If you split the votes for Pedroia and Youkilis down the middle, you get a player who got nine first-place votes, five seconds, four thirds, five fourth, one fifth and two sixth-place votes. Do the math. One hundred and twenty-six (nine times 14) + 45 + 32 + 35 + 6 + 10 = 254 points.

Youkilis also got a seventh-place vote, which is worth four points. Two writers put Youk eighth, good for six points. That would have put "Youkroia" or "Pedkilis" over the top, just by a smidge.

The larger point is that whatever you think of the selection, it is gratifying to see someone other than a slugger win -- just like it's nice to see an Oscar go to someone who was in a movie that was made for moviegoers, not critics.

Update: Jeremy Sandler from the National Post lets us in on the rationale for his vote — his ballot went Pedroia-Mauer-Youkilis-Morneau.

(And what's with Francisco Rodriguez finishing higher in the MVP voting than he did for the Cy Young Award?)

1 comment:

andy grabia said...

I love Pedy, but it's kinda crazy that Mauer didn't win. It's even crazier that he keeps getting less votes than Morneau.