Monday, November 17, 2008

Zen Dayley: A royal snub to Prince Albert

Someday the Seamhead echo chamber, in the wake of an award announcement in baseball, will not have to do a takedown on the guys who did not vote with the pack.

ShysterBall gets credit for this pickup: A writer in Milwaukee had the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols, who won his second National League MVP award today, seventh on his ballot. Seventh. On some level, what are you going to do? It comes down to opinion, so if a member of the BBWAA in good standing likes to "weight my voting to teams in the playoff hunt because I think that puts more pressure on players and separates the men from the boys," so it goes. Hey, you always need one dentist to cast the dissenting vote when four others recommend something. On another level, it's just plain wrong.

It seems like a pretty simple concept to comprehend. Baseball is about a gift for dailiness. Like Earl Weaver said, "This ain't a football game — we do this every day." The most valuable player is the one who was the most consistent across the six-month grind of a 162-game season. Talk about players being clutch and coming through in big games has some merit in post-season play, but most valuable is the best position player in the league. (Starting pitchers have the Cy Young Award and relief pitchers have their own award.)

Pujols out-OPS'd the league by 70 points (his combined on-base-plus slugging was 1.114, followed by Atlanta's Chipper Jones at 1.044). To put in perspective, the last National Leaguer to lead the circuit in OPS by that much, notwithstanding those who had help from Coors Field or steroids (Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire) was future Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell in 1994. He was MVP. 

If you need a guy whose season wasn't cut short by a strike, well, Kevin Mitchell in 1989 had a 71-point edge over his closest competition. He was voted MVP. Offensive numbers are not everything, but seventh-best in the league when your margin of victory in one of the offensive categories that has the biggest cause-and-effect with team success is better than anyone else's in the past decade?

For the record, the man in question's ballot went Ryan Howard-CC Sabathia-Manny Ramírez-Carlos Delgado-Aramis Ramírez-Prince Fielder-Pujols.

The Nos. 2 and 3 on the ballot, Sabathia and Manny Ramírez, were not even in the National League for the bulk of the season — how valuable were they to the Milwaukee Brewers and L.A. Dodgers, respectively, when they were working for another organization? As far as being in a playoff race goes, Pujols' fourth-place Cardinals won more games (86) than Ramírez's first-place L.A. Dodgers (84, as we've made light of several times).

Fielder supposedly had "a much better September when the Brewers were clawing to get in the playoffs." Funny he should mention that ... here are the slash and counting stats for the Pujols and the five players, in order of OPS:
Howard: .352/.422/.852, 11 HR, 32 RBI, 26 runs
MannyBManny: .370/.465/.753, 8 HR, 28 RBI, 15 runs
Pujols: .321/.427/.702, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 17 runs
Delgado: .340/.400/.649, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 21 runs
Fielder: .316/.398/.600, 6 HR, 21 RBI, 12 runs
A. Ramírez: .342/.386/.566, 3 HR, 11 RBI, 12 runs
Pujols still hit in September when the Cardinals faded from the playoff race. He outhit three of the five players who were involved in playoff races and one's involvement was sketchy. In case you're wondering why someone who covers the Milwaukee Brewers would rate Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramírez so highly, it probably stems from a three-game series the teams had from September 16-18.

The Cubs came in with an eight-game lead with 12 to play when they faced the Brewers. One need not read Baseball Prospectus every day to know that 99 per cent of the time, that's a safe lead. Ramírez had a good series, going 7-for-11 with three doubles and two homers, and the Cubs won 2-of-3 to cinch the National League Central. But there was no pressure at that point — the Brewers were foundering, and the race was all but over.

Is is that hard to look this stuff up, when it's your job? Baseball beat writers probably have 60-, 70-hour weeks and no one should envy their long hours and the flak they catch on all sides. Seriously, though, if you're going to have some personal rule of thumb for your MVP vote, at least apply it consistently. It's no big deal, but Pujols should not be seventh on anyone's MVP ballot.

Other business:
  • Toronto native Joey Votto is in Bill James' Top 25 under 29, but there is nary a Blue Jay to be found. The Jays' young talent which is currently on the roster is ranked 28th of the 30 teams. It will get better, though.

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