Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A-Rod v. Papi: MVP Race is On

Here's an interesting post on the AL MVP race from's Tom Verducci and our friends over at Bronx Banter:

BB's Alex writes, "Tom Verducci thinks that the AL MVP award is Alex Rodriguez's to lose. While he appreciates the fact that David Ortiz is the most dangerous late-inning hitter in the league--and possibly the game--he notes that Rodriguez hasn't exactly been chopped liver in the clutch either. But the telling difference between the two players comes down to this":

Ortiz doesn't play defense. There is no way to understate this. The guy is half a player. He is a specialist. He can devote his entire energies to his at-bats. There is a good reason why no position player ever has won the MVP with fewer than 97 games played in the field (Don Baylor, 1979). A DH would have to be miles better than the next best player who actually contributes to his team in both halves of the game. Is Ortiz having that kind of a season over Rodriguez? No. Meanwhile, Rodriguez, after a shaky start, has provided Gold Glove quality defense at third base, once running off the longest errorless streak among all AL third basemen over the past seven years.
If you have a couple minutes, read Verducci's entire argument, it makes a ton of sense. I fear Ortiz more than anybody, but the final vote ain't based on fear.

So, who do you think is leading the MVP race -- is it Alex, is it Papi, is it Vlad, is it Rance Mullinks or Gary Roenicke or Dion James, or is it someone else entirely?


At 1:57 PM, Blogger PaulNoonan said...

It's clearly A-Rod. Slugging like .600. I think the only guy with a higher OBP is...
Jason Giambi. And I know that no one is voting for him and his muscle-bound stomach parasite.

He plays adequate defense (overrated by most, underrated byeveryone else).

In the NL it's gotta be Pujols or one of the pitchers. You can also make a strong case for Andrew Jones based on his both literal and figurative well-roundedness, but, as always, pujols is killing the ball, and he makes the best team what it is.

At 2:10 PM, Blogger MDS said...

It's amazing how ignorant so many people who write about baseball for a living are. Anyone who honestly thinks David Ortiz has had a better year than Alex Rodriguez has no business having a vote. Even if you disregard defense, A-Rod has had the better year. Their slugging percentage is identical and Rodriguez has the better OBP, even though Ortiz plays in a better park for hitters. Once you add in that one is a shortstop and the other is a DH, there's no decision at all.

At 2:18 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Allright, I'm glad to see non-Yankee fans share this view. Ortiz is a monster, but A-Rod is so clearly the better all-around player.

Noonan, I'd take you task over the "adequate" qualifier. If you watch the Yanks on a regular basis, you'd see he's much better than adequate. I'm not calling him Brooks Robinson (or even Graig Nettles), but the guy has played some stellar hot corner for much of the year.

At 2:42 PM, Blogger ethan said...

obviously the comparison b/n arod and papi is laughable (no one mentioned baserunning yet either).

love the dion james ref. my (imaginary) friends and i used to call him pumpernickel growing up. i have no idea why, but the nickname stuck.

At 2:55 PM, Blogger PaulNoonan said...

Alright, he's bettter than average, and to his credit, has improved every year he's been in the league. When a ball is hit his way, he always, always, always fields it cleanly. His range factor is even above the league average. Instead of adequate I should have said above average.

He is, in my opinion, the best of the "power hitting shortstop crew" of Nomar, Tejada, Jeter, and A-Rod, defensively, and was even before Nomar's "issues."

They should have put Jeter at third though. His range factor sucks.

He's had a very good year defensively, but what's remarkable about A-Rod isn't his defense. It's his defense considering the fact that he's so good on offense.

So yes, A-rod is good on d.

Jeter still blows goats on d though.

At 3:20 PM, Blogger Jacob Eli said...

Even as a Red Sox fan, I can admit that ARod is having a better overall year than Papi and probably deserves the MVP.

Nonetheless, in my opinion, the most important thing for an MVP is clutch hitting. That's where the "valuable" comes in. This is kind of a corollary to Verducci's point that MVPs are made in September more often than not.

I know this isn't the criteria for most, but to me, the Most Valuable Player is the guy you would want up with your season on the line. That guy is David Ortiz, no question about it.

If Ortiz can keep up the September he is having (specifically the past week), it's going to end up being a very very close race in my book.

At 3:34 PM, Blogger PaulNoonan said...

Good old "clutch hitting."

Over the long term, clutch hitting basically doesn't exist. Over the long term, only two guys (recently) have met the criteria for a good clutch hitter. Tony Fernandez, and my favorite player, Paul Molitor.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger ethan said...

noonan - right on the money.

jacob - your definition of "value" is poor, as it only pertains to the late innings. by this logic a theoreticaly player who always gets a hit in his last at bat (and thus always succeeds in the "clutch") but never in any of his first 3 or 4 ab's would be a shoe-in for mvp while hitting between .200 and .250.

also, last time i checked a run created in the top of the 2nd has as much value as much as one in the bottom of the 9th.

At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Rashid Muhammad said...

I'm with everyone, ARod no doubt.

But what's up with Verducci just handing the NL the MVP to Pujols? Because of RISP average? If defense means that A-Rod can be the MVP over Ortiz then why are we sleeping on one of the greatest defensive centerfielders of our generation against a freaking first baseman? Put his defense with his league-leading game-winning RBI and late homer totals and I'm not so sure that it's as easy as Mr. V thinks.

Not to mention the fact that he has put up a monster year carrying his team with a bunch of AA hitters as protection in the toughest division in the NL if not all of MLB.

Pujols might be the MVP right now, but it isn't by that much if at all. He has 10 fewer homers and almost 20 fewer RBI in a weaker division pitching and defensively. RISP? Andruw has a higher RISP average than Pujols in more at-bats since the All-Star break.

Ok I'm done... sorry...

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Jacob Eli said...

I agree when you look at large sample sizes over a long period of time there is no such thing as "clutch hitting." BUT, you can't tell me that David Ortiz isn't a clutch hitter, or more specifically, that he hasn't been a clutch hitter over the sample size that is the past two years.

Of course clutch hitting isn't the only thing that defines value. What I mean to say is that clutch hitting, to me, is the most important distinguishing factor among candidates who are otherwise pretty comparable.

At 5:32 PM, Blogger PaulNoonan said...

Even if he has been "clutch" this year, doesn't that just mean that he's been lucky? If so, aren't you saying that you consider luck to be the distinguishing factor between close candidates?

At 5:40 PM, Blogger ahren said...

rashid, neyer had a good piece yesterday on about pujols vs. jones.

i'll chime in with my mostly meaningless opinion that a-rod and pujols are pretty obvious mvp choices for the reason that they are clearly the most productive player in each league.

At 5:43 PM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

I agree Rashid...I'm not saying I would definitely vote for Andruw, but it's as tight a race as the AL at the very least. It's all about September in both leagues, methinks.

Noonan, you're dead to me. Anyone who claims Jeter still sucks in the field is just plain wrong. The guy had a great season last year and is having another great one this year. Saying Jeter should have moved to third is blasphemy -- you don't ask the Captain to move for the sake of a few errors a season. That's inexcusable. And it's silly. It's indicative of this numbers-is-everything current culture around baseball. You can take your range factor and shove it up your crack.

At 6:06 PM, Anonymous Rashid Muhammad said...

I'm guessing that the Neyer column is the insider one about value and creating wins. Since I'm not an insider I don't have the pleasure of access. I did see Eric Neel's poor bastard story while I was looking for it though - which was an interesting read. I won't comment any further until I get a chance to read the first one though.

If I had to vote now I would probably give it to Pujols, but there is a lot more that can go down in the East and the last I checked, the Hank Aaron award was for pure offensive prowess. ;)

Oh... that was a comment.

At 6:08 PM, Blogger PaulNoonan said...

You see, this is why Red Sox fans always come back to Jeter in compromising sexual positions when they cut on Yankee fans. It's like ripping on Elvis in Memphis, or Robert E. Lee at a Waffle House.

I'm all for playing Jeter at short, unless you have a better shortstop, like, for instance, A-Rod.

Jeter is only a "special" shortstop as long as he keeps hitting. Once he stops, he's Carlos Baerga.

And lest I be accused of Jeter hating, he is a good and productive shortstop given his offensive prowess. It's just stupid to play your second best shortstop at shortstop.

And to show that I'm not a hypocrite, if the Packers suddenly signed Peyton Manning I would be the first person to call for Favre's benching.

At 6:21 PM, Blogger PaulNoonan said...

And besides that, it's not like "range factor" is some big complicated amalgam of space-age statistical analysis. All it says is that Jeter, compared to an average SS, doesn't get to as many balls.

Next time a BoSox fan calls him gay you can take that stat out and throw it right in his face.

At 6:37 PM, Blogger ethan said...

[whispered]jeter would make a great centerfielder.

At 8:17 PM, Blogger MDS said...

I'm with Noonan all the way on A-Rod and Jeter. Re-reading my previous post, obviously I realize A-Rod is no longer a shortstop, what I was thinking as I wrote that was that A-Rod should still be a shortstop. I fail to see what Jeter being a captain has to do with anything. In fact, as the captain, shouldn't he be the kind of team player who's willing to change positions because it's what's best for the team?

At 6:05 AM, Anonymous SpanishMiguel said...

Am I the only one who thinks that MVP´s and All-Star voting should take into account other factors then just a player´s performance over the past season (or half-season, for all-stars)?

What I mean is, if you find yourself troubled, choosing between Pujols, Andruw and D. Lee, who´ve all had great seasons, isn´t it a valid argument that Pujols, the best NB (non-Bonds) player in baseball over the past few years (really, it´s a joke how people always say A-rod´s the best overall player - while this year he´s been awesome, he wasn´t even in the DISCUSSION last year), has never won an MVP and is having another MVP season, just deserves it more than two guys who´ve spent the last 4 years hitting .250 or .275??? It´s not as if Pujols hasn´t earned the MVP - he is the best hitter in baseball, having arguably the best season and he just happens to be leading a team of nobody´s (eckstein, nunez, taguchi, sanders, grudzialnek, molina...great lineup) to the best record in baseball. I know Andruw and Derrek have been great, but Adrian Beltre was just as good or better last year, and now he sucks doody-flavored lollipops in Seattle.

At 9:20 AM, Blogger Matty Mac said...

I bleed Red Sox blue and red, no doubt about it. But I will give A-Rod the MVP hands down, simply for his performance on the field and at the bat. There were stretches this year that he just threw the team onto his back and carried them. While I also subscribe to the theory that Ortiz should run a very close second, the fact that A-Rod plays at a gold glove level on the field and Ortiz doesn't play in the field at all makes a huge difference. It's not a laughable comparison, as Ethan said, but it also shouldn't come down to a few votes. At the plate, I think Ortiz has had a better year and the stats say so, but not by much. A-Rod has more at-bats than Ortiz (3 more, actually), more hits than Ortiz (13 more), 10 less doubles than Ortiz, 1 less triple (Ortiz has 1), 1 less home run, 18 less RBI (both batting in the same spot in the order), 2 less total bases, 11 less walks, 11 more strikeouts, 12 more steals (obviously), and a lower Slugging %. But, as has been pointed out by a number of people, the MVP is decided in September and we are only halfway through the month.

So, to me, the voting will come out like this:

Vlad (If he has a good month)
Damon (MVP-like season, until recent injury)

Now, to another point that someone made, clutch-hitting is far from luck. By saying that, it is implying that anyone can be a clutch hitter, consistently, which is not true. Everyone has their day in the sun one time or another. But Ortiz has been a clutch hitter time and time again since the playoffs began last season. Clutch hitters know when to hit it, where to hit and how to hit it depending the situation. Not everyone can do that. I agree with Ethan who I believe said that a run-scoring hit is just as valuable in the 2nd inning as it is the last. But that's not to say that the hit itself wasn't clutch. Clutch doesn't have to mean that it happens in the last inning, it means that it was a hit that happened when it was really needed, regardless of the inning. Take last night. Ortix hit a 2-run bomb (his fourth in three games) in the 8th to put the Sox up for good. That was a clutch hit and he's done that countless times this season.

Finally, as a Red Sox fan, I have never, ever believed or supported the Yankees/A-Rod/Jeter are gay or in compromising sexual positions, the "Yankees Suck" chants and shirts, blah blah blah. It's garbage, it's untrue and it's disrespectful to a team that has been consistently good for the last 10+ years. It takes away from what is happening on the field and doesn't allow the play to do the talking. There are a lot of d-bags out there, on both sides of the fence, that stir up and love that shit. I, personally, do not.

That's this guy's take.

At 9:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although 'clutch' is hard to ignore:
17 HR's to tie or put his team ahead
8 in the 7th or later
(according to today)

The DH role is going to hurt him.

Something to consider, who do you give it to if the Yankees miss the playoffs?


At 9:58 AM, Blogger offpeak34 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 10:54 AM, Blogger ethan said...

a few things about matty's comments:

the comparison IS laughable, based on defense alone. it's like if i only went to work 4 hours a day and still got employee of the month. next, papi has more doubles because he can hit a pop up to left and it's a double. i'm not taking anything away from this - it's smart and great that he does it, but arod plays in yankee stadium where those same balls are outs.

as to the clutch-luck thing: "By saying that, it is implying that anyone can be a clutch hitter, consistently, which is not true."

no. the point is that in the long run, good overall hitters will be good "clutch" hitters because they are likely to perform as they would on average in any at bat. jeter is considered a great "clutch" hitter, but it's just because he's a good hitter all of the time. like noonan pointed out, there are a ridiculously small amount of players who over their career have numbers significantly different with the game on the line than in the rest of the ab's in their careers. papi has 70 at bats in close and late situations this year and he he's hitting ~.330, which is not that much different to his .300 season average. he's slugging higher in those situations, but that's because with only 70 ab's every home run has more effect on the statistics.

over the last three years, in close and late situations papi is .308-.383-.647 in 201 ab's. in the last three years overall he is .288-.365-.570 in over 1400 ab's. these numbers are not at all dis-similar.

none of this is to detract from ortiz. the guy is unreal and terrifying. my point is simply that he is that type of hitter all the time, not just with the game on the line.

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Matty Mac said...

With the fielding thing involved, I guess it is laughable. I thought you were comparing batting stats is all.

I see your point though. As for the clutch hitter thing, I wasn't really talking about guys who are consistently good hitters like Ortiz, Manny, Jeter, A-Rod. I was talking about career .230 hitters who happen to hit a game winning homerun or pinch hit RBI single. A clutch situation? Yes. But are they in that situation often, or rather, would they produce in that situation often? No.

Good arguments all around though. I like it.

At 11:07 AM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Sorry Elliot, I had to remove your comment because it was fuckin up the template! But I put that link in the above post to make up for it. Thanks.

Anon, I think A-Rod wins it either way, even if the Yanks don't make it. He's still playing important games and putting the team on his back. If the Yanks don't make it, do you personally think Ortiz should get it then? I don't think I do, but that's a subjective decision.

Noonan & Co...I think what most people in this argument either forget or choose to ignore is that A-Rod is probably the Yankees best overall third baseman of all time right now. So they're getting very good production and fielding and great production and fielding from third base -- isn't that better than A-Rod at short and a wild card (maybe Jeter, but maybe he's in CF) at third?

Also, Jeter is tied for the league-league with 108 runs scored, and he's batting .308 with a .387 OBP. So let's not get carried away with the Carlos Baerga calls. The guy's scored more than 100 runs every year in the league except 03 (when he missed a long stretch), and aren't runs what count in this game? How many times you cross the plate, doesn't that determine who wins? So before we write Jeter off, let's just recognize he's still a special little guy.

Also, I just looked it up, and Jeter's range factor this year is higher than any of A-Rod's years at SS with Texas or Seattle except 99. And his fielding percentage the last two years (when pushed by his new teammate) is only negigibly worse than A-Rod's at SS with Texas.

Leave this man alone!

At 11:14 AM, Anonymous BPP said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 11:15 AM, Anonymous BPP said...

The interesting thing that i think no one mentioned is the fact that Arod is only the second right handed player in Yankee history to hit more than 40 homers in a season. The only other person who has done that is Joe D and he only did it once.
Arod has lost a good 8-10 homers would have put him well out in front in the homer and RBI race and further improved his slugging. Arod's numbers are the best by any right handed yank in history.
Having said that and yes I am a Yankee fan, there is no-one in baseball i would rather have hitting with the game on the line than Papi.
He can end it with one swing, help baserunners and take a BB if need be and be subbed out.
No-one really knows how to define MVP, has anyone read the rules? I did once and it mentioned integrity, something I know doesnt count in today's voting.
So while Arod has the best stats and a good glove at first base, Papi's influence on the game is more than any other hitter in baseball. and thats who the MVP is

At 11:22 AM, Blogger Ace Cowboy said...

Wow, we;ve got Yankees fans arguing for Papi andSawx fans voting for A-Rod...I like the spirit of bi-partisanship we got goin here on Slack.

Also, my comment was riddled with typos. Riddled! Hope you understood what I meant, I was typing as fast as I could because me got some worky to do.

At 11:43 AM, Blogger offpeak34 said...

Don't worry about it Ace, not a problem. I like the debate going on in here, it's amazing to see, as you said, Sox fans advocating for A-rod and Yankees fans for Ortiz. This is happening a day after Bush took "responsibility" for the federal failures. Did something happen in the world the last week or so? It's turned upside down.

At 12:20 PM, Blogger PaulNoonan said...

First of all, I never ripped Jeter for his offense. He is a good offensive player.

Interesting question. Has Jeter improved defensively? Indeed his range factor since A-Rod joined the crew is over 4 (4.79 this year, quite good, and 4.46 last year.) Before that he's god-awful. So why did he improve? No idea. But I still maintain that A-Rod's a better SS, as he was consistently above 4.5 (note that Jeter's second best year, last year, was still worse than each of A-Rod's final 3 years at the SS postition.

One thing I did notice is that there seems to be some RF grade inflation this year, with SS's playing better across the board.

At 12:31 PM, Blogger Matty Mac said...

Could jeter's range factor have improved because he doesn't have to get to as many balls hit that way? Meaning, in the past, with whoever was playing third, Jeter would have had to make long-ranging plays because the third baseman would never get to them. Now that A-Rod is playing a stellar third, Jeter doesn't have to get to as many balls, therefore for the ones he does get to are able to be made into plays. Am i making sense?

Shit, I don't even know how the range is calculated, so I may be WAY off.

At 1:10 PM, Blogger PaulNoonan said...

No, range factor is about getting to more balls, not less. Check this out for a possible explanation:

In the 1990's, I wrote a piece in one of the STATS Baseball Scoreboards
about Griffey's defense in center. He always ranked low in our zone
ratings. So I did a really detailed study of Griffey's zone ratings, and
the main thing I learned from it was that (this from memory, I should really
dig out the article) was that Griffey was basically letting his left and
right fielders make a lot of plays that other centerfielders normally make.
Griffey was being lazy, and not calling for every ball he could get (which
is a CF's job, after all). Griffey's zone ratings started going up after

I like to speculate that we in the sabermetric community have an effect on
the game. It takes a long time, but every once in a while I see something
that says to me, "they're listening to us." I wonder if someone talked to
Griffey and told him to start going after more balls? And certainly Cashman
is smart enough to know that Jeter was a bad shortstop. Did he or Torre
find a way to confront Jeter with the numbers? Did all the talk of A-Rod
being a better shortstop get to him? I don't know, but between you and me,
I like to think these numbers had an effect.

Perhaps Jeter simply let his third basemen take more balls beforehand even though he had the ability to get to some of them.

But I don't really know. It's strange.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger ethan said...

the big knock on jeter is that he can't go to his left. he's always been great at balls in the hole (and i think he's very good at charging), but honestly i've never seen him make a diving play up the middle or a spectacular play behind/near the bag.

i guess all i'm saying is that arod physically playing third wouldn't have changed how he gets to balls in the hole. mentally, who can say.


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