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 MVP – Albert 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