This year’s MVP contests reminded me a bit of the 2004 Presidential Election because I was not all that excited about the candidates. Don’t get me wrong, quite a few players put up great numbers, but all of the candidates had some sort of statistical deficiencies. It is important, however, to remember that each of the Most Valuable Player awards is given to the player that is the most valuable to his team and not to the best player in the American and National leagues, respectively. Given that criteria, the selection of Pedroia and Pujols seems fair. To go along with his Gold Glove performance at second base, Pedroia stepped up offensively for the Sox after Manny’s unceremonious departure from Bean Town. The month immediately following the Manny trade, Pedroia hit .375, had an on-base percentage of .425 and slugged .635. For the season, he led the AL in runs, tied for league lead in hits with Ichiro and was successful in 20 out of 21 stolen base attempts (his success rate of 95%+ was best in the AL for anyone with over 10 steals (Werth had the same ratio in the NL)). Pedroia was also only one of three players this season to win a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger award (Mauer and David Wright being the other two). While I always pull for the Twinkies, I have to admit that Morneau’s September (.243/.298/.398) doomed his chances.
In the National League, Pujols could, and probably should, win the MVP every year (in fact, he has finished in the top 10 each of his eight years in the league and in the top four seven times!). His offensive percentages were great—he led the NL in OPS (he was second in on base percentage and first in slugging) by a wide margin (1.114 to Chipper’s 1.044 and no other player in the NL was over 1.000). Plus, it would be difficult to reward Howard for his 199 strikeouts, .251 batting average and .331 OBP, especially in light of how poorly he played the first three months of the season (thanks to a superb September, Howard raised his season batting average by 17 points, on-base percentage by 15 points and slugging by 53 points).
The fact that K-Rod received a first place vote for AL MVP is shocking (he finished sixth in the AL MVP race and third in the AL Cy Young poll), although not nearly as galling as Jethro Tull’s “Crest of a Knave” besting Metallica’s “And Justice for All” for the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Grammy in 1989 (how a band that is known for incorporating a flute into their music beats out the quartet that has been giving concertgoers whiplash for years for best rock/metal performance is one of the greatest mysteries of our time). Obviously the voter who chose K-Rod was enamored by his record-breaking save numbers. But much like wins, save opportunities are wholly outside of a pitcher’s control. K-Rod was the beneficiary of solid starting pitching and a manager who virtually only uses his closer in save opportunities (K-Rod never went over an inning in any of his 76 appearances and only entered a game without a lead six times). Statistically speaking, Mariano was the best AL closer this year hands-down and KC’s Soria proved to be as good as touted. In fact an argument can be made that K-Rod was not even a top three closer in the American League:
Player Name / WHIP / ERA / Wins (not due to BS) / Save %
Mariano: 0.67 / 1.40 / 6 / 97.5%
Soria: 0.86 / 1.60 / 2 / 93.3%
Nathan: 0.90 / 1.33 / 1 / 86.9%
Papelbon: 0.95 / 2.34 / 5 / 89.1%
K-Rod: 1.29 / 2.24 / 2 / 89.8%