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PI’s MLB Awards Part I – The MVPs

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on October 2, 2006

Not long ago it was clear to me that New York Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran was the league’s Most Valuable Player. It was then that I specifically cited that for Albert Pujols or Ryan Howard to take home the hardware, they’d need to have monster Septembers.

Well, that is exactly what each hitter did, carrying their teams into the final day of playoff contention. Pujols led the Cards to the NL Central title, while Howard’s upstart Phillies fell just short.

Howard, just 26, hit .381/.561/.763 with nine homers and 20 RBI in September, after a .348/.464/.750 August where he smacked 14 home runs and drove in 41. The second-year phenom had 22 go-ahead RBI in September and Philly won 11 of the 14 games, eight after the sixth inning.

He also hit .339 with runners in scoring position during the final four weeks, including six home runs and 11 doubles.

Howard was the lead force in a pretty good lineup, but he also anchored the middle of the order and forced managers to gameplan their pitching staff around his impact.

His home ballpark helps, but his road splits are even more impressive. Howard’s road OPS of 1.089 squeaks by his home OPS of 1.079.
When Ryan Howard first started to catch the eye of the typical baseball fan, I;m not sure anyone thought he’d post numbers like this.

2006: .313/.425/.659, 58 HR, 149 RBI, 108 BB, 181 K

But Albert Pujols is the league MVP.

Sure, Howard hit more long balls and drove in more runs, but Pujols missed 19 games and still managed to hit 49 homers and drive in 137. I’ve discussed PhatAlbert’s greatness here recently, but think about the difference in lineup protection between the two top candidates, Howard and Pujols.

With whom would you rather lace your lineup?

Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Pat Burrell or Aaron Miles, Preston Wilson and Juan Encarnacion? Jim Edmonds missed a ton of time late in the year and Wilson didn’t join the club until midseason. Pujols and Scott Rolen were on their own, and even when Rolen missed time, Pujols did not miss a beat.

Pujols with Rolen AND Edmonds in the lineup: .328/.417/.662

Pujols without Edmonds: .334/.433/.680

Pujols without Edmonds AND Rolen: .354/.442/.717

St. Louis Cardinals without Pujols: .242/.313/.412

St. Louis Cardinals with the MVP: .277/.341/.440

The Cardinals nearly fell completely apart during the final two weeks of the season, and got into the postseason through the back door when the Houston Astros fell on the final day of the year. But St. Louis would not have been anywhere near that race come this past week, had baseball’s best hitter not been game for the tough times.

National League MVPAlbert Pujols, 1B – St. Louis Cardinals: .331/.431/.671, 49 HR, 137 RBI, 92 BB, 50 K

2. Ryan Howard, 1B – Philadelphia Phillies

3. Carlos Beltran, CF – New York Mets: .275/.388/.594, 41 HR, 116 RBI, 95 BB. 99 K, 18 SB
4. Jose Reyes, SS – New York Mets: .300/.354/.487, 19 HR, 81 RBI, 17-3B, 30-2B, 64 SB, 53 BB, 81 K
5. Miguel Cabrera, 3B – Florida Marlins: .339/.430/.568, 26 HR, 114 RBI, 50-2B, 86 BB, 108 K

In the American League, all this talk about Derek Jeter is sickening. Yes, he’s a good player, and as consistently good as any player in recent memory, but he’s far from the most valuable player in the league.

I’m not high on Jermaine Dye, nor am I all over David Ortiz winning the award when his team fell apart, with and without him, far before the month of September.

Seventy-five innings from an ace reliever isn’t enough to warrant that kind of value to a playoff contending team, and as much as I like Johan Santana and agree that he’s carried the Twins, he had a direct effect on exactly 34 games all season.

For me, this comes down to two left-handed bats in the middle of the Minnesota Twins batting order; Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer.

Morneau’s season was a monster. Hitting .321/.375/.559 with 34 home runs and 130 RBI is enough to warrant MVP consideration, but after adding in the fact that Morneau hit .368 in Minnesota’s 96 wins and .411 in the club’s 49 wins after the all-star break.

Where, oh where, would the Twins be without Morneau’s production this season? Not at home awaiting the Oakland A’s for October baseball, that’s for sure.

But the AL MVP is Joe Mauer.

He’s the steady presence in the Twins’ lineup and his numbers are just as impressive as his teammate’s, save for the big differential in home runs.

Mauer slugged .507 while hitting just 13 home runs. How does one do that? Start with 34 doubles and four triples and then add in the fact that he drew 79 walks against 54 strikeouts and hit .347, this year’s batting champion – the first catcher in the junior circuit to win it.

At just 24 years of age, Mauer should become among the youngest MVPs ever, but voters (the idiot beat writers) will likely hand the award to Jeter, or someone who popped 30+ homers, just because it looks good on the stat sheet.

Mauer’s defensive value gets lost, too, since he’s so good at the plate. He threw out 38% of would-be base stealers, third best in the league – despite the fact that even the club’s two southpaws aren’t very good at holding runners and have deliveries that aren’t condusive to holding runners close or getting the ball to the plate quickly.

Mauer ranked second in the league in CERA at 3.92, behind only Ivan Rodriguez, who has the advantage of doing his thing in the pitcher-friendly confines of Comerica Park.

American League MVP – Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins: .347/.429/.507, 13 HR, 84 RBI, 79 BB, 54 K

2. Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins: .321/.375/.559, 34 HR, 130 RBI, 53 BB, 93 K

3. David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox: .287/.413/.636, 54 HR, 137 RBI, 119 BB, 117 K

4. Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees: .344/.417/.483, 14 HR, 97 RBI, 69 BB, 102 K, 34 SB

5. Mariano Rivera, RHP, New York Yankees: 63 G, 75 IP, 61 H, 3 HR, 11 BB, 55 K, 1.80 ERA

Tomorrow: Cy Young

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8 Responses to “PI’s MLB Awards Part I – The MVPs”

  1. Great post. I agree with most of your points, but I think Ryan Howard is the NL MVP and Justin Morneau is the AL MVP.

    One guy I think you left out in the NL is Nomar Garciaparra — I think he deserves more consideration than Jose Reyes, although they are very different players.

    Reyes is “exciting”, but he isn’t the cornerstone of the Mets lineup, whereas Nomar is exactly that to the Dodgers. Would Reyes make that much of a difference if Delgado, Beltran, and Wright weren’t in the Mets lineup?

    Other than that, great picks!

    BTW…very early prediction, who wins the WS…I’m going with Twins vs. Padres with the Twins winning in 5.

  2. Goose said

    Personally I’m going with Twins and Dodgers, with Twins in 6.

  3. Yes, Reyes would. If he didnt hit for any power, I’d agree. But couple his speed, power and defense at short, his value is very high. Nomar had some clutch hits, but overall, Reyes had a better year for a better team in an equally or tougher park in which to hit.

    Nomar also sucks playing first. He doesnt make a ton of mistakes, but it’s like he’s got a blondfold out there.

    I love to watch him hit, though.

  4. Aaron said

    I’ve been thinking Mauer should get it for about 3 weeks. All this Jeter talk is a bunch of garbage. Aside from the SB, Mauer has him beat or (nearly) matched in every offensive catagory, while playing the toughest position on the diamond.

    All the same writers who won’t vote for a player from a losing team “because he didn’t make the difference in getting them to the playoffs” won’t see anything wrong with voting for a player on a team who runs away with the division, even though that player almost certainly wasn’t the deciding factor in winning it. I’m not saying that should be a criteria, but if it is for some, it should be applied consistantly.

    The Twins/Tigers/White Sox fighting for two spots was one of the better races in September and October, and that the Twins pulled it out after having been all but written off earlier says a lot about thier players. Morneau and Mauer both deserve any award they get, but I set the bar a bit higher for 1B, so Mauer gets my nod.

  5. Goose said

    Speaking of MVP, Pujols just took Peavy deep for a 2 run bomb.

    Seriously, the guy is Jesus with a bat.

  6. wishhiker said

    Thomas was the only AL player to have 35+ HR w less than 100 SO (39/81.) Only Pujols 49/50 was significantly better. Also including Ortiz (54/117/119), Pujols (49/50/92), Giambi (37/106/110), Garrett Atkins (29/76/79) and Bonds (26/51/115), Thomas (39/81/81) was one of only 6 MLB players to hit 25+ HR and not have more SO than BB. Thomas just became the oldest player to have a multi-homer postseason game.

  7. wishhiker said

    I like your thinking and I think you’re right about Pujols. It seems to me that either Mauer or Morneau should win as well. This may be a problem if they split votes. Among AL players with 400 + AB Mauer is 33rd in TB and 22nd in SLG% and 7th in OPS (Morneau and Guerrero tied for 8th). Only among his peers behind the plate does he shine enough to be considered MVP.

    I understand the argument that Jeter’s clutch, but his value over the other hitters on his own team doesn’t seem to be as much as even Raul Ibanez was for Seattle.

    Dye’s offensive numbers are phenomenal, but so are Ortiz’s, Hafner’s and Manny’s.

    When it comes to pitching no one’s coming close to 2006’s AL triple crown (and then some) winner. Santan leads AL pitchers with 150+innings in W(19, tied with Wang), ERA (2.77), SO (245), WHIP(1.00), OBA(2.58) IP (233.2) and other lesser stats. Leading the division in six catergories is rare for any position. There’s no replacement for performances like that in all the league. Not even close. Unless you consider 2 pitchers who may have been if not for late addition/injury (Liriano,Weaver.) Normally I wouldn’t pick a pitcher for MVP but every once in awhile I look at the performances around the league and no one else deserves it more. Here’s another problem, however. If the votes were split between Mauer and Morneau and you add Santana from the same team they’ll be even more split. Triple crown is a guarantee for a hitter to get the most valuable player award and I think that it should be the same for a pitcher. It’s MVP, NOT MVH (hitter) and we all know the precedents.

    For Frank Thomas’ sake I hope Thome isn’t considered for Comeback player of the year. Yes Thome was coming off injury, but Thomas put together his best year since 2000. Thome was coming off missed time(part af a season) and surgery, not down years. Thomas had one other good full year in the last 6. Thomas was the only AL player to have 35+ HR w less than 100 SO (39/81.) Only Pujols 49/50 was significantly better. Also including Ortiz (54/117/119), Pujols (49/50/92), Giambi (37/106/110), Garrett Atkins (29/76/79) and Bonds (26/51/115), Thomas (39/81/81) was one of only 6 MLB players to hit 25+ HR and not have more SO than BB. Thomas just became the oldest player to have a multi-homer postseason game.

  8. I can’t believe the A’s beat the Twins — specifically Johan Santana and at the Metrodome, where they’ve struggled annually.

    Oh, by the way, you can thank my pick for AL Comeback Player of the Year for that one. Frank is putting the HURT on Minnesota!

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