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Saturday, November 25, 2006

MVP Controversies

So the MVPs are in and as usual we've got lots of controversy. For my part, I think the selection of Ryan Howard in the NL is at least a defensible one.

Yes, Jim Baker did a nice job in breaking down the statistical argument and showing that while Howard and Pujols were matched offensively (85.4 to 81.5 in VORP, .346 to .337 in EqA in Pujols' favor), Pujols' defense puts him over the top in WARP 11.9 to 8.6. And yes, the voters picked the top three in reverse order of RBI which Dayn Perry rightly derides. But still, the selection of Howard is less controversial in my eyes since he did in fact lead a second half surge that got the Phillies on the cusp of the post season (Joe Sheehan also disagrees). Clearly he was an extremely valuable player as was Pujols. It's also good for baseball to have a new face capture the award and let's face it (warning: Cubs fan rant) Pujols shouldn't have gotten the award over Derrek Lee last year anyway so he was due for a snub :)

But the selection of Justin Morneau is more problematic, not necessarily because of the outcome but because in that outcome the weakness of the process was on display for all to see. As some have argued, Morneau was perhaps the fourth most valuable player on the Twins when you consider the key defensive positions played by Torri Hunter and Joe Mauer. What's more interesting to see, however, is the actual votes that were cast in the AL race and how Joe Mauer was left off of five ballots altogether. One can argue whether or not Johann Santana should be considered but Mauer, at a tougher defensive position, I would have thought would split the vote thereby allowing Derek Jeter to sneak in. I've also heard discussed the possibility there might be an anti-New York bias but I can't see how that's the case given that Alex Rodriguez won the award last season.

In the final analysis I do like that performance rankings aren't a mandated part of the MVP selection process and that there is room for the voters to consider a whole host of factors that quantitative analysis would miss. But leaving players of the quality of Mauer off the list and instead including A.J. Pierzynski as happened in once case simply boggles the mind. Clearly what needs to happen is to open the voting to a much wider audience in the hopes that the wisdom of crowds will make better reasoned choices. Fourteen people who essentially possess no special qualifications is just too small a group to not lay an occasional egg.


Anonymous said...

Dan, you say that Pujols shouldn't have won over Lee last season - I ask, why not ?

Statistically he had a case - Offensively they were similar, Lee had the slight edge, but Pujols was better defensively ( Dewan rated him above Lee in 2005). Not to mention he played more games. This is just off the top of my head since I don't have any of my resources with me right now, but Pujols, from memory atl east, had a good statistical case ahead of Lee last season, where as this season Howard didn't have a case over Pujols.

Dan Agonistes said...

My comment was a bit tounge in cheek. You're correct that Pujols came out a bit lower last year last year (11.1 WARP to 12.4) and still won just as Howard came out a bit lower this year and won.

In reality, I don't have a problem with either selection since they're pretty close.

Anonymous said...

Pujols was probably closer to Lee last season than Howard is to Pujols this past year. Pujols at least had Lee beat in WS, where as Howard has beat pujols in nothing. Did you read a recent Neyer article? He pretty much sums it up on why Pujols was the better choice.

I'll agree though that Howard winning wasn't a farce. It wasn't a terry Pendleton over Barry Bonds type win.