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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

NL MVP, by the numbers

I have a different philosophy about MVP Awards than I do for what I think of as more performance-oriented awards (Cy Young Award, Hank Aaron Award, Rookie of the Year, Golden Glove, etc), in that I think things like being on a winning team, having outstanding clutch ratings, and differences between a player's performance and that of his teammates, etc, can legitimately factor into one's votes. Nevertheless, basic performance has to be the baseline. And, unfortunately, most performance assessments that I've seen thus far focus strictly on offense.

So I thought it was worth getting total value (offense + fielding, approach initially justified here) estimates of player performance as a starting point. To hone down a list of players, I looked at posts by Andy at Baseball Reference's Stat 'o the Day blog, and by Pizza Cutter at StatSpeak. I also threw in a few folks that I thought were deserving of consideration who hadn't otherwise come up. Here they are:

Name POS VORP +-THTFieldingRuns TotalValue
David_Wright 3B 78.6 26.2 104.8
Albert_Pujols 1B 65.8 30.2 96.0
Chase_Utley 2B 67.8 21.5 89.3
Chipper_Jones 3B 73.9 13.3 87.2
Matt_Holliday LF 70.4 9.1 79.5
Hanley_Ramirez SS 86.7 -20.4 66.3
Todd_Helton 1B 48.1 16.6 64.7
Jose_Reyes SS 46.6 16.8 63.4
Troy_Tulowitzki SS 35.1 27.5 62.6
Carlos_Beltran CF 48.9 13.4 62.3
Eric_Byrnes LF 37.1 23.1 60.2
Miguel_Cabrera 3B 69.0 -9.4 59.6
Jimmy_Rollins SS 60.5 -2.8 57.7
Prince_Fielder 1B 64.9 -7.6 57.3
Barry_Bonds LF 56.2 -2.3 53.9
Brandon_Phillips 2B 37.9 15.5 53.4
Aaron_Rowand CF 52.5 -0.1 52.4
Ryan_Howard 1B 47.0 -7.9 39.1
Adam_Dunn LF 45.2 -17.3 27.9
Dan_Uggla 2B 31.1 -3.5 27.6
Ryan_Braun 3B 52.6 -27.2 25.4

Based on these data, I think it's probably safest to conclude that we should restrict ourselves to talking about a 5-man race between Wright, Pujols, Utley, Jones, and Holliday, as there's a 13-run dropoff between Holliday and the next closest player.

Pujols and Jones are on teams that are out of contention now, even though both teams were "in it" in early September. But since neither is clearly head and shoulders above the rest, this puts these two individuals at a slight disadvantage in my book.

So at this point, I'd put it as a battle between Wright, Holliday, and Utley. Holliday's fielding numbers are good, but Wright and Utley are the top defensive players at their respective positions according to THT's fielding data. Utley missed a substantial amount of playing time this season, and I think durability should be a factor with this award...though his numbers when present have been spectacular enough to rank him among these three despite the missed time. Wright leads all three in Win Probability Added, indicating that he's had a greater impact on ballgames this season than the other two (not that this is completely his doing). And, of course, Wright also led all of these players in my total player value estimate.

It's a tough call, but with a week left in the season, I'd probably give the award to David Wright.