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AL MVP: Can Mauer beat the Bronx bullies?

Nov 23, 2009, 2:24 AM EDT

Zack Greinke proved that the little guys from small markets can get it done, correctly earning the AL Cy Young award when voters overlooked his relative lack of wins (16) and focused instead on his sheer dominance over the course of this season, giving him the award over big names like CC Sabathia, Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay.

Now it’s Joe Mauer’s turn to find out if he can beat out the big-market superstars when the AL MVP award is announced Monday at 2 p.m. ET.

The Twins’ star catcher has got to be the favorite to win the award after hitting a career-high .365 this season to earn his third batting title in the last four seasons.

But he could face a stiff challenge from a pair of high-profile and championship-celebrating New York Yankees in Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter. Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers should also get some consideration, but is a long shot to take home the award.

Mauer fans can take some solace in Greinke winning the Cy Young. If the ace of a terrible Kansas City Royals team can come out on top in what can often be a popularity contest, then why not a Minnesota Twin who led his team to the playoffs?

More hope for Mauer: If this ESPN poll is any indication, he’ll take it easily.

In a poll of 22 of ESPN’s so-called experts, 20 selected Mauer, while anchor Steve Berthiaume chose Teixeira and broadcaster Jon Miller took Jeter.

Here are the key stats on the main candidates. Feel free to state your case below:

Joe Mauer: .365 avg., 28 HR, 96 RBI, 1.031 OPS
Mark Teixeira: .292 avg., 39 HR, 122 RBI
Derek Jeter: .334 avg., 18 HR, 107 runs, 30 SB
Miguel Cabrera: .324 avg., 34 HR, 103 RBI

Meanwhile, if you have some time while awaiting the balloting results, check out Joe Posnanski’s Least Valuable awards.

Follow me on Twitter at @bharks. For more baseball news, go to NBCSports.com.

  1. billybill - Nov 23, 2009 at 4:19 AM

    It is a travesty that Derek Jeter has never been voted MVP.Even though he is the MVP year in and year out,he is ignored.This is the year he must win it.

  2. Popster - Nov 23, 2009 at 5:45 AM

    I agree with you billy. DJ provides so much more than all the high powered stats. His value to all of baseball, not just NYY, should propel him to victory this year.

  3. bh0673 - Nov 23, 2009 at 7:06 AM

    Everyone was up in arms over steroids skewing the numbers but as far as I am concerned the unbalanced schedual has just as bad an affect. Not to take away from Mauer but I would like to see his numbers if he played for Baltimore or Tampa and had to play 36 games against the Red Sox and Yankees or even 18 games against the Angels. Or if Jeter and Texiera played their 36 games against the Indians and Royals would their numbers look even better? No instead Mauer played half his games in a weaker division then Jeter or Texiera. As far as I am concerned how can we judge any player in one division against another in a different division if the playing field isn’t balanced. It really is a joke, if Mauer wins again it will just confirm my belief that the unbalanced schedual is as bad for the game as steroids were.

  4. AJ Gallo - Nov 23, 2009 at 7:42 AM

    I understand the need to create attention, interest, etc., to an article with an eye-catching title. But “Bronx Bullies”? Really? What better, and journalistically cheaper, way to draw attention to your article by propagating the notion of the Yankees as bad guys? Right? What a shame. Listen, as a Yankee fan, of course I advocate Derek Jeter for MVP. I certainly agree with those above stating the case for DJ. But as much as I would love to see Derek win the MVP, I believe Mauer will win the MVP and, to be honest, probably should. The rationale previously stated aside, and I agree that it is totally valid, Joe Mauer should probably win the MVP.

  5. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Nov 23, 2009 at 7:45 AM

    No mention of Ben Zobrist? Triple slash of .297/.405/.543 and 146 OPS+?

    Not to take away from Mauer but I would like to see his numbers if he played for Baltimore or Tampa and had to play 36 games against the Red Sox and Yankees or even 18 games against the Angels.

    Career vs NY – .287/.391/.435 for an 86 OPS+
    Career vs Bos – .303/.406/.461 for a 95 OPS+
    Small sample size alerts however
    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?n1=mauerjo01&year=Career&t=b

  6. Evan - Nov 23, 2009 at 8:03 AM

    I’m a Yankee fan through and through. That said, Maurer was the best player in baseball last year.
    It’s one thing for a DH, Outfielder or First Baseman to put up his gawdy numbers, but a catcher? I don’t know the stats, but he probably had the best season of any catcher EVER.
    Give him the award.

  7. Ditto - Nov 23, 2009 at 8:27 AM

    First, if you are going to compare players, you have to compare the same stats. You looked up the stats on all players; you should have been able to look up the SAME stats. For that, you get an F.
    Second, an important stat to have would be game winning offense or game saving defense. I realize this is probably more difficult to find than steals or OPS, but I bet it is out there.
    Compare apples to apples, and we can chime in on whether the “Bronx Bullies” (Whatever that means) will prevail over poor Joe Mauer, who must have had a stellar season playing The Yankees – oh wait,did they beat them more than once this season? Not sure.

  8. jimbeetle - Nov 23, 2009 at 9:05 AM

    Ditto, Ditto.
    Come on, bharks. Two Yankees happen to have solid enough years to be thrown into consideration for the MVP and they have to be “bullies.” Would be too simple to recognize what they did for what it was — two very good performances by two very good players?
    Cheap. Real cheap.
    And lazy.
    What’s Teixeir’s OPS? How many stolen bases did Mauer have? How many runs did Cabrera score?
    Take note, NBC, this blogging stuff is killing sports writing.

  9. jonny5 - Nov 23, 2009 at 9:10 AM

    People absolutely KILL ME!!! How does Jeter deserve MVP? He has a Measley 66 RBI’s!!! Half of what an MVP should have!! RBI’s win games, I say Tex has the clear advantage here, one of the reasons Jeter has 107 runs is because Tex was batting after he blooped his way onto base. You People in love with Jeter need to get your eyes checked, Yes he’s one of the best in the AL, but that’s all he ever was, and ever will be. “One of the best” There has been and always will be a better player to take that honor before Jeter does. Face it, he’ll get his honor when he’s inducted into the HOF, and rightfully so.

  10. awalter340 - Nov 23, 2009 at 9:19 AM

    bh0673,
    You’re talking about if Jeter/Teixeira played in the weaker AL central and what it would do to their stats. I’m sure their numbers would be as good, or better.
    But what if Mauer was inserted into the Yankees lineup? What would that do to his stats? With the company hitting around him, he would see even more pitches to hit than he does in MN. He would probably score more runs, drive in more runs, and have an even higher OBP.
    So, you’re right that it probably is inaccurate to compare stats across divisions, but if you’re going to bring up the situation about Yankees players dominating the AL Central, it’s only fair think about Mauer being placed into that packed lineup where there are many, many more chances for offensive success than in MN.

  11. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Nov 23, 2009 at 9:22 AM

    That said, Maurer was the best player in baseball last year.
    It’s one thing for a DH, Outfielder or First Baseman to put up his gawdy numbers, but a catcher? I don’t know the stats, but he probably had the best season of any catcher EVER.

    Piazza’s 1997 season was better, but not by much. .362/.431/.638 with a 185 OPS+ vs Mauer’s .365/.444/.587. However, Mauer is actually a good defender whereas Piazza was terrible.

  12. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Nov 23, 2009 at 9:26 AM

    People absolutely KILL ME!!! How does Jeter deserve MVP? He has a Measley 66 RBI’s!!! Half of what an MVP should have!! RBI’s win games, I say Tex has the clear advantage here, one of the reasons Jeter has 107 runs is because Tex was batting after he blooped his way onto base. You People in love with Jeter need to get your eyes checked, Yes he’s one of the best in the AL, but that’s all he ever was, and ever will be. “One of the best” There has been and always will be a better player to take that honor before Jeter does. Face it, he’ll get his honor when he’s inducted into the HOF, and rightfully so.

    Come on, you’re kidding with the RBI number right? RBI are a function of the rest of the team, not a batter’s hitting acumen. If no one is on base for a hitter, he has to hit a HR every time to get a RBI.
    As for Jeter never being the best, he should have won in ’06 (http://www.baseball-reference.com/awards/awards_2006.shtml#ALmvp).

  13. aweb - Nov 23, 2009 at 10:06 AM

    Career vs NY – .287/.391/.435 for an 86 OPS+
    Career vs Bos – .303/.406/.461 for a 95 OPS+

    Those aren’t OPS+ numbers, those at tOPS+ numbers. tOPS compares a player to himself, so everyone has an overall tOPS of 100. Meaning Mauer has been slightly worse against those two than other opponents, but still pretty damn spiffy. He’s been in the same area against the White Sox (tOPS of 85) and Oakland (88), and way worse against the Blue Jays (tOPS+ of 48). He’s worse against better pitching staffs, in other words…no shock there.
    And Mauer will of course win the MVP. After they made the playoffs, any last voters lost all arguments, however tenuous, against him.

  14. Bernie - Nov 23, 2009 at 10:06 AM

    Mark Teixeira lead the league in homers and RBI’s. That’s 2 out of 3 for the triple crown. Mauer’s a great player but he’s not the MVP. But he’ll win because of the usual anti Yankee backlash from the writers. It’s time to give the voting to the players and take it away from the know nothing writers who always have an agenda. Jeter in 2006, should have beaten Justin Morneau for MVP. Jeets stats were better. One writer that year put him 6th or 7th on his ballot just to be sure he didn’t have more total points than Morneau.

  15. Bill@TDS - Nov 23, 2009 at 10:06 AM

    CotPO: That’s not “OPS+,” that’s “tOPS+.” It’s how he’s done against those teams compared to his norm, not compared to league average. Obviously .287/.391/.435 is better than 86% of an average player.
    “Bronx Bullies” seems entirely appropriate to me — two very good players who, if they played on any other team, wouldn’t even be in the discussion against a clear-cut choice like Mauer. It’s kind of amazing that people are trying to argue this.

  16. Pilothawkeye - Nov 23, 2009 at 10:14 AM

    As a Yankees fan, I would be happy (obviously) if ‘Jeets’ got the MVP. If I recall correctly, the original purpose of the MVP was to be awarded to ‘that player most valuable to HIS team’. While I consided Jeets to be extremely valuable to the Yankees, and a great ambassador for MLB in general, I would not be upset if Mauer received the award. For a catcher to put up the numbers he does on a consistent basis is downright unbelievable. In fact, are his career numbers to date better than Johnny Bench’s?
    Now, to Mr. Harkins. The expression ‘Bronx Bullies’ was inappropriate and uncalled for. I do not consider Jeets and Tex ‘bullies’. IMO, a very poor derivation of ‘Bronx Bombers’.

  17. t-will - Nov 23, 2009 at 10:34 AM

    bh0673,
    2009 ERA by team –
    White Sox – 4.16
    Tigers – 4.34
    Rays – 4.35
    Red Sox – 4.36
    Blue Jays – 4.47
    Royals – 4.83
    Indians – 5.07
    Orioles – 5.16
    The average AL East ERA (non-Yankee) is ~4.59. The average AL Central ERA (non-Twin) is ~4.60. So why don’t you sit down and let the adults talk for a while.
    First off, it has to be acknowledged that Mauer missed a month. Even with that understood, I think it’s clear that he is the MVP. He led in all three of the slash stats. He hit home runs at a faster pace than Teixeira (the difference in total homers due to injury and the demands of his position). And he plays a more physically demanding defensive position.
    Mauer had one of the best seasons by a catcher of all-time. He had an 8.2 WAR, good for third in MLB, and it probably would have been higher if WAR could account for his Gold Glove-caliber fielding behind the plate. Teixeira’s 5.1 WAR was good for sixth…among first baseman. He wasn’t even the best first baseman in the AL. Both Cabrera and Youkilis had higher WARs than Tex. Jeter’s WAR (7.4) was also very good, but was not as good as Mauer’s and was not as statistically anomalous as Mauer’s. Jeter’s WAR was .1 higher than the next best SS (Hanley Ramirez) and 54% higher than the next best AL SS (Jason Bartlett). Mauer’s WAR was 67% higher than the next best catcher (Victor Martinez). Mauer was historically good, and he should be recognized for that achievement.

  18. Robb - Nov 23, 2009 at 10:36 AM

    Bronx bombers yes. Bronx bullies – no. I’m not a Yankees fan nor a MN fan. However, my vote goes with Mauer. He did contribute the most to his team whereas the Yankees had a whole host of players that could be chosen for that. Personally, I think A-Rod should be the MVP.

  19. Church of the Perpetually Outraged - Nov 23, 2009 at 10:40 AM

    @Bill@TDS and @aweb, my fault guys, was doing a quick glance between his page and jeter’s for another question, and didn’t pay enough attention to the column I was reading. Thanks for pointing it out.
    now where’s the damn edit button around here…

  20. Bernie - Nov 23, 2009 at 11:41 AM

    O.K. t-will, now your showing your ignorance. If you don’t think Tex is the best fielding first baseman, stop talking. He’s the best I’ve seen since Keith Hernandez. Do you actually watch the games or just look at stats for fantasy baseball? And if you want to use projected stats because of injury than Arod should win the MVP. He missed 40 games and had 30/100 but injury is a part of who should win.

  21. MG - Nov 23, 2009 at 11:53 AM

    The guy is a CATCHER….. enuff said. It’s not even close.

  22. bh0673 - Nov 23, 2009 at 12:03 PM

    You are correct Mauer’s numbers could have been better if he was playing in NY but then again you could better compare him to Texiera and Jeter since they faced the same pitchers and played the same teams all together. I just think with the unbalanced schedual it can skew the numbers and really isn’t a fair assumption of value and contribution. I am not knocking Mauer but I am knocking a system that doesn’t force everyone to play on an even playing field but does judge them as if they did. Next year will be interesting to see if playing outside in the cold at Target field in the early spring and late fall and in the heat in the summer will have an impact. No matter what I would still feel the MVP would have more validity if the schedual was balanced.

  23. Mike - Nov 23, 2009 at 12:06 PM

    Jeter is a leadoff man! That automatically takes away one at bat a game where he can get an RBI (unless he homers) and then the rest of the game he has the 8 & 9 hitters batting before him. Don’t you think this might have something to do with having as many RBI’s he did?

  24. t-will - Nov 23, 2009 at 12:08 PM

    Not once did I say that Tex is not a good fielding first baseman. What I said is that Mauer does not get credit toward his WAR for his fielding, because WAR uses UZR for its fielding component, and there is no UZR for catchers. Now, I will add that UZR is a notoriously sketchy statistic when it comes to analyzing first baseman, so Tex’s -3.7 rating may not accurately reflect his defensive value. But even if you turn him into the best fielding 1B, he still only ends up with a 6.0 WAR, good for fourth in MLB and first (barely) in the AL.
    |
    I also did not use projected stats. I used ratio stats. In fact, WAR is a counting stat, so the fact that Mauer was worth three more wins than Tex this season despite missing month is all the more impressive.

  25. Dan - Nov 23, 2009 at 12:08 PM

    What has Jeter done in the past, or Tex for that matter to be considered a bully?

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