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Pujols is a lock for the MVP

Nov 24, 2009, 9:20 AM EDT

The NL MVP, the final major postseason award, will be announced today.  While we could maybe argue about Rookie of the Year and while reasonable people could potentially disagree about the NL Cy Young, the BBWAA has basically gotten the awards right on the money for two straight years now, so there’s very little reason to think they won’t get it right today: Albert Pujols will win it in a walk.

The math, she is simple: Pujols led the league in on base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, home runs, extra base hits, runs created, total bases, intentional walks and adjusted OPS. He probably should have won the Gold Glove. If you want to cut through the specific numbers a bit, know this: he won the MVP last year on a losing team with numbers that are close to identical to those he had this year, and this year he led his team to the division title.  Simply put, there is no reasonable argument for anyone to get the MVP other than Pujols.  If you have such an argument, please give it to me in the comments, but right now I simply can’t see it.

But, in the interests of thoroughness, let’s look at the other people who may receive some voter love:

Hanley Ramirez: He won the batting title, hit 24 home runs, drove in over a hundred, stole 27 bases and improved on defense. Because he’s a shortstop he’s probably got the best argument over any of the non-Pujols contenders, but (a) he’s not a transcendent shortstop; and (b) even with the positional adjustment, he simply didn’t provide as much value to his team as Pujols did to the Cardinals.  If you believe in stuff like WAR — which is a stat that probably best quantifies a player’s value to his team — Hanley Ramirez was about as valuable as Derek Jeter was this year.  That’s great — fine damn season — but it’s not as valuable as Pujols was and it’s not worthy of the MVP.

Andre Eithier: Your token Dodger. Solid all-around season, but not spectacular in any one area (he led the league in exactly zero categories). He’ll get some attention because he had a lot of walkoff hits, and voters tend to like that.  Not as many as used to like it — Miguel Tejada basically won the 2002 MVP because of some late season walkoff jobs — but enough to give him some votes.

The first basemen who are not as good as Albert Pujols: Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Derek Lee, Adrian Gonzalez. While Howard bested Pujols in 2006, that was a function of (a) his novelty; and (b) people not yet being hip to the flaws in his game. Great player, sure, but not a complete one and certainly not one who has ever been as good as Pujols in a given season, including 2009.  Prince Fielder had a nice year too, but Milwaukee didn’t make any noise.  Same with Derek Lee and Adrian Gonzalez.  Given that all four of these guys play the same position as Pujols and don’t play it as well, they have no argument.

Field: Matt Kemp, Ryan Zimmerman, Chase Utley, Tim Lincecum, whoever.  I’m actually going to be far more interested in looking downballot later today to see what people really think about these kinds of guys. Of course, where they fall may simply tell us more about what the baseball writers feel about the bottom half of their ballot.  Weirdness — like say, the way Mariano Rivera got more MVP votes than Zack Greinke in the AL yesterday despite finishing behind him in the Cy Young — will probably be present in abundance.

Maybe it’s boring giving the award to Albert Pujols every year, but it’s better to be boring than wrong, ain’t it?

  1. chris - Nov 24, 2009 at 9:47 AM

    Actually, the Cardinals finished 86-76 in 2008, so it wasn’t a losing team. They were in the hunt for the division until Aug-Sept when the Brewers and Cubs pulled away.

  2. Mark Runsvold - Nov 24, 2009 at 10:18 AM

    Don’t speak too soon, Craig. Some nerd might swing this thing for Javier Vazquez.

  3. Bill@TDS - Nov 24, 2009 at 10:21 AM

    Wow, only a passing mention of Utley? Through August, I thought he was actually the deserving MVP (though Pujols still would’ve run away with it). After that, of course, Pujols raked while Utley (and HRam) tanked. My pretend ballot went
    1. Pujols
    2. Ramirez
    3. Utley
    4. Fielder
    5. Zimmerman
    6. Gonzalez
    7. Tulowitzki
    8. Howard
    9. Sandoval
    10. Lee
    Though you could easily swap H-Ram and Utley. It’ll be interesting to see if he inexcusably finishes behind Ryan Howard for like the fourth straight year.

  4. Robby - Nov 24, 2009 at 10:24 AM

    Congratulations Albert! Classy player, an outstanding person playing for a great organization with the proudest fans!

  5. aceshigh99 - Nov 24, 2009 at 10:38 AM

    Albert Pujols’ stats are, in a word, breath-taking.
    As far as I’m concerned, he torpedoes A-Rod completely out of the water and is a far better player.
    And yes, for the record, I am an A-Rod/Yankees hater, but I’m not irrational…A-Rod is an incredibly talented ballplayer, but in my opinion, he’s only second-best in terms of greatest ballplayer over the the past 15 years.
    Pujols may not have the power numbers, but he smokes A-Rod in just about every other category.

  6. jonny5 - Nov 24, 2009 at 10:46 AM

    I think you’re giving Howard a raw deal here Bill. He had the most RBI’s in the MLB, tied with Fielder, 3rd highest HR in the MLB and he’s on the top ten list for fielding first base. Not too shabby if you ask me. Aren’t these categories which score runs count or is it Just BA??? I’d take the runs scored over BA, I’ve seen guys over .300 with only 60 rbi up for MVP. Can you compare value to someone who hits in over 140 runs but has a lower BA???

  7. mick-7-1961 - Nov 24, 2009 at 10:59 AM

    I would argue your opinion of A-Rod versus Pujols in overall ability, ace, however Albert is not so much concerned about himself as Alex is and his unselfishness is a virtue that places him among the best.
    King Albert by a landslide today.

  8. Z2009 - Nov 24, 2009 at 11:12 AM

    Runs scored over BA? Well, I guess your gonna pick Pujols then as he led in runs Scored. If you meant RBI’s then why would that have a bigger impact for MVP voting. RBI’s are based on the people in front of the batter getting on base. Those guys with .300 average and only 60 RBI’s are called Leadoff men. MVP is a individual award so BA should be regarded higher than something dependant on others such as RBI’s

  9. Dixon - Nov 24, 2009 at 11:12 AM

    No doubt that Pujols should win this one. I mean the cards pitching got screw for the cy young. I just don’t see how they are going to give it to a guy who had a great season. He is very impressive on the mound but, did he help his team get to the playoffs? NO! Carpenter should have won it plain and simple. Every batter that had to face him was scared and prayed he wouldn’t make them look like fool in the box.

  10. Craig Calcaterra - Nov 24, 2009 at 11:17 AM

    Runs scored, not RBI (I agree with the flaws you identify with RBI). Runs scored reflects times on base, power to some extent (more likely to score if you hit homers, triples and doubles) and good base running. Way less dependent on teammates than RBI is.
    Batting average? I’d much rather look at OBP and Pujols leads the league in OBP.

  11. jonny5 - Nov 24, 2009 at 11:31 AM

    Ok, first of Puljos gets it hands down imo. Second of all leadoff men are only dealing with no men on base for one at bat. RBI’s win games plain and simple, yes the ability to get on base is also a an RBI factor, but what do you see more often than not in that situation? Stranded base runners is what you see most often, so I’d say a mans ability to drive those runs in as more valuable than just getting on base. If that wasn’t more valuable then you wouldn’t see high fives for a sac fly would you? I in no way feel Howard should be in contention for mvp i just feel Bill had him a little too far down his list, that’s what i was addressing.

  12. Bill@TDS - Nov 24, 2009 at 11:45 AM

    jonny5,
    The thing about RBIs is, aside from the 45 times he drove himself in, he needed other people on base to get all those RBIs. More often than not, that guy was Chase Utley.
    The thing is, “these categories which score runs” include the ability to get on base *and* hit for power. And Utley does those things just as well as Howard. It’s much harder to find a second baseman who can do those things than it is to find a first baseman who can, let alone one who plays a great defensive second base and is one of the best baserunners in the league. Howard is a very, very valuable player, but Utley, for at least the last three seasons, has been a whole lot more valuable, arguably the most valuable in all of baseball after Pujols. And I’m kind of hoping against hope that this is the year that that gets recognized.

  13. John_Michael - Nov 24, 2009 at 11:46 AM

    jonny5: What’s more valuable with 0 outs and the bases loaded: a sacrifice fly where your teammates give you multiple high 5’s? or a walk?

  14. Bill@TDS - Nov 24, 2009 at 11:48 AM

    You see stranded men on base most often even when you’ve got an “RBI guy” up there. Howard failed to drive in 80.8% of the guys who got on base for him. That doesn’t change the fact that getting on base and thus not making an out is THE most important component of scoring runs. Driving them in is still important, but if you’ve got a whole bunch of guys who are great at getting on base, the runs will score; if you’ve got a bunch of “RBI guys” who DON’T get on base, the runs will be harder to come by.

  15. Ed - Nov 24, 2009 at 11:57 AM

    If you want to have a true indicator of a productive player, why not look at average with runners in scoring position. Average is not enough because you may have a player that has a great average but chokes in big situations. RBI’s are not enough because you may have a player who hits with runners in scoring position every game.

  16. Joe - Nov 24, 2009 at 12:01 PM

    Well, you’d probably see more high fives for walks or doubles if they guy wasn’t on base instead of in the dugout having made an out.
    Big-RBI guys are typically big-RBI-opportunity guys. I suspect if someone were to do a study, they’d find that the guys who knock in the most runs also fail to knock in (i.e. strand) the most base runners.

  17. jonny5 - Nov 24, 2009 at 12:14 PM

    I must agree there, no team in baseball would rather have another man on second than Utley, He’s the rock for Philly. And yes it’s a much easier position to fill on first base. Look at Adam Dunn, He’d be only useable at DH in the AL. He’s not even very good at first base, but they stick him in there anyway. he was a joke in the OF.
    Onto the RBI topic, I see the point of getting on base but that sure seems easy compared to driving them in, I guess watching teams leave so many risp on base has given me this outlook. Runs win games and it depends on both getting on and driving them in, which one is more valuable??? I’m not too sure since Howards been in the mix to win mvp with a lower batting avg continuously.

  18. Dirty Lowdown - Nov 24, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    MVP has always been weighted to some extent to the best player on the best team. Doesn’t work that way so much anymore. The Dodgers had a great year, best record in the NL etc…but arguably, Eithier was their best player and he didn’t really catch fire until the last two months, before that his Avg. was mediocre at best, his RBI’s and HR’s were good in Dodger stadium, but nothing to write home about. Kemp would of been considered the Most Valuable Dodger until Andre caught fire. We can talk about Utley, and the rest, but simply put Albert is the best player in the NL if not the game, and he lived up to that again this year. Furthermore, I can’t see the Cardinals even competing
    without him. Hands down, Pujols.

  19. steve a - Nov 24, 2009 at 12:45 PM

    Wait, I’m sure some sabre math expert from ESPN (Keith Law?)has proof Ryan Braun or some such pretender had the best Friday-Saturday-Sunday average in games that somehow mean more than Monday-Thursday games, thus he, not Pujols earned the MVP. Hey, if Lincecum (5-5 the second half of the season) can outpoll Carpenter (led the league in ERA, second in wins and 10-1 the second half of the season) for the Cy Young anything is possible. The vote belongs to the players, coaches and managers, not some ink-stained wannabe.

  20. Joe - Nov 24, 2009 at 1:11 PM

    Is the Cy Young Award given to the best pitcher in the second half of the season?
    Who knew Cardinals fans were so damn whiny?
    The modern MVP and Cy Young Awards have always been determined by the BBWAA, so “ink-stained wannabe’s” were the ones who decided that wins and RBI were so important in the first place.

  21. BIGBRUCE11047 - Nov 24, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    I think Albert Pujols is the National League MVP of the decade!! He is the most consistent hitter in the game today plus what he delivers defensively at first base makes him a very rounded player. St. Louis should keep him in their lineup for his entire career in baseball. He is a well-deserving player.

  22. steve a - Nov 24, 2009 at 1:44 PM

    Joe, BBWAA used to be made up of beat writers who covered all 156 or 162 games for their daily paper or media outlet.
    Now, some baseball literati can sit in their homes, follow the games on a computer or watch games on the TV and are still eligible to vote for the awards without ever attending a game or posing a question to those who do play and compete.
    Who knows more about the relative talents of a player–those who face them on the field or those who crunch meaningless new formulas which somehow top century-old barometers as measuring sticks.
    I don’t denigrate voters who follow the game on a daily basis and do their research regarding seasonal awards. But those “journalists” who follow baseball on a cyber basis like many sabre mathematicians aren’t worth the modum they are reliant upon.
    And for the record, the Cy Young is usually given to the best pitcher based on a season’s worth of stats. Carpenter’s stand the test of time. Whiny? Other than strikeouts, Lincecum was just blowing smoke.

  23. Daniel - Nov 24, 2009 at 3:19 PM

    Well, Utley got hosed again. This is the fifth straight year he’s finished 7th or worse in the MVP balloting despite putting up OPS+’s of: 132, 125, 146, 135, 136, being regarded by everyone other than Gold Glove voters as the best second baseman in baseball, and being one of the best (if not THE best) baserunners in the game. He’s done this for a team that has been to the playoffs three times and won a World Series. I just don’t get it.

  24. Joe - Nov 24, 2009 at 3:24 PM

    That would be 154 games, not 156. And what makes you think that Keith Law and Will Carroll don’t watch any baseball games? Keith Law was once a scout, for god’s sake. And for all the complaints about Will Carroll, he put Wainwright first, not Lincecum, and wins was about the only stat where Wainwright had the advantage over Lincecum.
    Actually, the old-school methods of evaluating performance (“traditional stats”) have not stood the test of time. ALL MLB front offices have moved beyond things like wins and RBI in evaluating players. It’s the media and the general fan base who have yet to catch up. This year’s balloting shows that the media is starting to get on board with the philosophy. Lincecum received 11 first-place votes – that’s one from Law, and 10 from the “old” media. If you were to give Carpenter the votes that went to Vazquez and Haren, he would have wound up with 98 points – two fewer than Lincecum. Keeping him off the ballot didn’t actually cost Carpenter the award.
    So yes, all you Cardinal fans are being whiny. The game is changing, so you might as well get on board.

  25. kardo - Nov 24, 2009 at 8:02 PM

    Hey lets talk traditional stats, Lincecum actually lead his team in wins, Carpenter didn’t. How can you be most valuable of the league when you aren”t even the most valuable in wins of your team?
    MVP: 1 Pujols, 2 Utley, 3-10 others

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