Toronto Baseball Guys
Sunday, November 23, 2008
  Pedroia Wins MVP by 2 Injuries, 2 RBIs
For a second-year player, Dustin Pedroia is already assembling a pretty good Hall of Fame resume. Rookie of the Year, World Series Champ, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and now American League MVP.

He can thank a fine freshman season for the Rookie of the Year trophy.

He can thank a whole lot of serendipity for the MVP.

Baseball MVP results are often strange just because of the name of the award. If it were simply called the Most Outstanding Player award, then life would be easy: just give it to the guy who had the best season. Since it's the MVP award - and in fairness, MVP is a far cooler title than MOP - this gives baseball writers the license to get all philosophical and try to determine which player was "most valuable to his team."

*Spoiler Alert: it's still the guy who had the best season!* Let's say you win the Triple Crown with .380/60/150. Even if your team only wins 65 games, you've still had the league's best season and thus provided more "value" than any other player.

But that logic doesn't click with most sportswriters, and so, all sorts of idiosyncractic little unwritten rules have cropped up when it comes to MVP voting. Let's write some of them down.

1. You can't be the MVP, your team wasn't good enough.
Other than Alex Rodriguez in 2003, you have to go back to Cal Ripken in 1991 to find an American League MVP whose team didn't qualify for the post-season. Seasons that were ignored include ARod's 2001 and 2002 seasons, in which all he did was set the record for most home runs in a season by a shortstop. Mark McGwire's 1.222 OPS was almost 200 points better than Sammy Sosa's in 1998, but since his team didn't make the post-season, he received 2 first place votes to Sosa's 30.

2. You can't be the MVP, your team was TOO good.
This is a relatively new phenomenon, dating back to about 1995, when Albert Belle's 100 extra base hits led Cleveland to a 100-44 record, but Mo Vaughn won the MVP award. Belle was unpopular with the media, but the prevailing logic was that Cleveland was so good, they could have won without Belle, while Boston could not have done so without Vaughn. The 114-win Yankees of 1998 didn't get a sniff at the MVP for like reasons.

3. Um, that dude hits like Rogers Hornsby.
If your season is SO good that it far outstrips everyone else, you will most likely win the MVP award. Barry Bonds did it with some also-ran Giants teams by hitting like Babe Ruth. Albert Pujols did it in 2008 with the 4th place Cardinals. That said, he only beat Ryan Howard of the Phillies by 61 points, despite a far superior performance. Compare their seasons:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
Howard 162 610 105 153 26 4 48 146 1 1 81 199 .251 .339 .543
Pujols 148 524 100 187 44 0 37 116 7 3 104 54 .357 .462 .653


Reverse their team's records and there's no way Howard makes the top ten. Isn't that a little strange when we're dealing with an individual award?

There were no Pujolsian seasons in the AL in 2008, so the writers were free to scour the playoff teams for the most outstanding performer. And so, we got the following vote:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG
Pedroia 157 653 118 213 54 2 17 83 20 1 50 52 .326 .376 .493
Morneau 163 623 97 187 47 4 23 129 0 1 76 85 .300 .374 .499
Youkilis 145 538 91 168 43 4 29 115 3 5 62 108 .312 .390 .569
Mauer 146 536 98 176 31 4 9 85 1 1 84 50 .328 .413 .451


Incidentally, this vote violates the Thelma and Louise Rule, under which two players from the same team often cancel each other out in the MVP voting.

These four players split all but one of the available first place votes. That went to Francisco Rodriguez, proof that at least one voter should have their priviledges revoked, or that Francisco Rodriguez's mom is a beat writer.

Pedroia did a lot of nice things in 2008, leading the league in runs scored and doubles - but his adjusted OPS of 122 is unimpressive for an MVP and he owes his MVP to three events:

1. The White Sox/Twins playoff game. The Twins lost 1-0. Had they won, Morneau likely cops his second MVP. Had he driven in a run or two in that game, to clinch the RBI title, he almost certainly wins it.

2. Ian Kinsler. The Rangers second baseman missed the final month and a half of the season due to a sports hernia.



G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS+
Pedroia 157 653 118 213 54 2 17 83 20 1 50 52 .326 .376 .493 122
Kinsler 121 518 102 165 41 4 18 71 26 2 45 67 .319 .375 .517 134




Not that Kinsler would have been named the MVP, since Texas wasn't within shouting
distance of the playoffs, but it's hard to imagine the voters backing Pedroia over another second baseman with superior numbers.

3. Carlos Quentin - League idiot. Before breaking his own hand and ending his season, Quentin was leading the league in homers and his team to the playoffs.



G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS+
Pedroia 157 653 118 213 54 2 17 83 20 1 50 52 .326 .376 .493 122
Quentin 130 480 96 138 26 1 36 100 7 3 66 80 .288 .394 .571 148

His temper tantrum cost him a home run crown, an MVP award and a shot at the World Series. It was just the break that Dustin Pedroia needed.
 
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