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Here are the MVP voting criteria

Aug 29, 2011, 3:30 PM EDT

jose bautista points getty Getty Images

The MVP post from earlier today has, predictably, set off a lot of debate. And it’s understandable debate given that there aren’t hard and fast guidelines for what actually constitutes the Most Valuable Player.

But that doesn’t mean there are no guidelines.

Indeed, as Anna McDonald of The Hardball Times reported last year after her conversation with the secretary-treasurer for the BBWAA, voters are given some guidelines.  Among them, with the ones I feel to be germane to our discussion today bolded and italicized for emphasis:

 “There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

“The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931: (1) actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense; (2) number of games played; (3) general character, disposition, loyalty and effort; (4) former winners are eligible; and (5) members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.”

So yes, that is pretty wide open. But there is at least some guidance there. Guidance which suggests that by making one’s MVP choices contingent on the player’s team being in the playoff race, one is reading in their own rules, not following any rule set forth by the BBWAA. It also provides at least some definition of “valuable,” and no part of that definition here contains the concept of “where would this team be without this player.”  It’s merely the “strength of their offense and defense.”  Strength which can be easily measured by statistics.

No, that doesn’t keep people from going off in their own direction. The voters can do whatever they want.  But it should also be understood that many who make their voting decisions are bringing in their own predispositions to the process, not following some hard and fast rules written in stone.

Which, I should add, is actually kind of beautiful in a really frustrating way.  My criticism of the “contenders only” camp does not mean that I find their views illegitimate. I just disagree with them and I find this kind of philosophical debate to be one of the things that make baseball — and arguing about baseball — so damn fun.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Aug 29, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    See, #1 is the biggest problem with the whole thing. “Value to a team” that is basically valueless, can be construed as having not much value himself. Do I agree? Not really. But they could avoid all this nonsense by adding a simple sentence…”The Most Valuable Player award should go to the player who was the most outstanding all-around player in the league”.

    Add that sentence and this debate disappears.

    • kopy - Aug 29, 2011 at 3:38 PM

      Exactly. At what point do people start considering the value of the money that a team is paying a player when considering that player’s “value to his team”. Surely this would hurt any massive free agent signings in favor of underpaid, controllable players!

      • texasdawg - Aug 29, 2011 at 3:55 PM

        Amen. Mike Napoli: 2011 AL MVP.

    • nolanwiffle - Aug 29, 2011 at 3:49 PM

      Let’s just contract all the “valueless” teams tomorrow. That way we ensure that only players from the ‘Haves” win the awards given to individuals.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Aug 29, 2011 at 4:07 PM

        Valueless this season, but nice try. Would you argue that for the sake of competition, that about 23 of the 30 teams have basically no value this year?

      • kopy - Aug 29, 2011 at 4:25 PM

        Who would be the 1 playoff team with no value?

      • uberfatty - Aug 29, 2011 at 4:30 PM

        That is what the MVP voters are arguing, yes. I think wiffle was mocking that line of thinking, as would most everyone I presume.

      • flcounselor - Nov 14, 2014 at 6:49 PM

        It takes both winners and losers to create value.

        Without the Washington Generals to be their foil, who would pay to see the Harlem Globetrotters play? They would be every bit as valueless.

  2. Jonny 5 - Aug 29, 2011 at 3:37 PM

    “that is, strength of offense and defense;”

    Well Ortiz is out, now what?

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Aug 29, 2011 at 3:45 PM

      Kerry Wood wins b/c he showed most “loyalty” to his team by turning down bigger money elsewhere multiple times over the course of the season. Man, this IS easy!

    • Ryan - Aug 29, 2011 at 3:57 PM

      Now, I definitely do not think Ortiz should be the AL MVP (or is really even in the conversation), but to be fair, another guideline (pulled from the article Craig links to): “Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.”

      I think it’s pretty tough for a true DH to really deserve the MVP while providing no defensive value, though.

      • Jonny 5 - Aug 29, 2011 at 4:10 PM

        I saw a clause in there Ryan, somewhere…. Hold on…. Here it is.

        “Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters. As long as the DH has an OPS of 1.950 or greater, and the Pitcher must pitch in 100 games while maintaining a 3. era or lower.

        Seems fair to me… 😉

    • flcounselor - Nov 14, 2014 at 6:43 PM

      Is it not possible that ones offensive value alone is greater than another’s offensive and defensive value combined?

      Of course it is. Ortiz offensive value alone this year was much more valuable than the combined offense and defense of Derek Jeter (just to raise some hackles).

      And the defensive value of Clayton Kershaw was greater than the combined offensive and defensive value of anyone else in the National League. Good job, voters!

  3. deep64blue - Aug 29, 2011 at 3:59 PM

    “The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.”

    They’re clarifying that it’s OK if the MVP comes from a team that were in the race during September but just fall short 😉

  4. jimbo1949 - Aug 29, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    “The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931
    “Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.”
    What foresight! Anticipating 42 years into the future. That’s the BBWAA for ya!

  5. natstowngreg - Aug 29, 2011 at 5:01 PM

    Here’s an idea. Give the MVPs to the players, regardless of position, who have the highest Roto dollar value for the season. A panel of sabermetricians, chaired by Bill James, could come up with such a measure. There would have to be an adjustment to the formula for pitchers, but I’m sure they could come up with something.

    It has the advantage of being objective, and would be about as meaningless as having a bunch of individuals voting based on their own biased views of value.

    • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Aug 29, 2011 at 5:36 PM

      So long as we don’t have to watch ANY baseball to come to the mathematical conclusion that will undoubtedly pick the best…ahem, excuse me…the most valuable player.

      • natstowngreg - Aug 29, 2011 at 6:13 PM

        Indeed, one would not need to waste time watching actual baseball games.

        But then, one need not watch actual baseball games to vote on the MVP awards, as they are set up currently. All one needs is batting stats and standings.

        Of course, the sabermetricians would proceed to have a raging battle over what the “objective” performance measure is. Given that defining objectivity is inherently subjective.

        *wanders off to find headache remedy*

      • Lukehart80 - Aug 29, 2011 at 6:45 PM

        Does anyone here really think they watch enough baseball AND gain enough insight from what their eyes see while watching to accurately and honestly assess every single player?

        I watch a ton of baseball because I love the game, but I need a lot more than that to tell the differences between all the possible candidates for the end of year awards.

        My love of watching the game and my love of studying statistics aren’t mutually exclusive, the are thousands of fans who somehow juggle both. That said, they are two separate interests, and just because a fan cares about one of them doesn’t mean they are forced to care about the other.

        I have plenty of friends who watch a good amount of baseball, but know much about statistics beyond the graphics ESPN or Fox put on-screen. If I were to ask those friends who should win the MVP, the only honest answer they could give would be something like, “I don’t know… Braun’s having a big year, maybe him?”

        If you’re not into advanced statistics, that’s fine. But don’t fool yourself into thinking you know all the best players if what you get from TV is all you know.

  6. dannomac21 - Aug 29, 2011 at 6:25 PM

    i remember when i got clowned a few weeks back for saying fielder and braun were top mvp candidates in the NL.

    good times…congrats to ryan braun for winning the 2011 NL MVP!

    2nd highest batting avg (.002 pts behind jose reyes), will finish with over 30 hr, 100 rbi, and already has 30 sb. has only made 1 error this season.

    • Lukehart80 - Aug 29, 2011 at 6:36 PM

      Braun is a totally valid MVP candidate this season, but what does “has only made 1 error this season” have to do with it?

  7. Lukehart80 - Aug 29, 2011 at 6:35 PM

    So many people still say: Player A (Bautista, for example) can’t be the MVP team didn’t make the playoffs, so his production doesn’t matter; his team didn’t accomplish anything more with him than they could have without him.

    When others point out that Player B (Gonzalez or Granderson, for example) plays for a team that would have made the playoffs even without their production, those arguing against Player A ignore the point completely, or they attempt to refute the point by claiming that playing for a good team brings more “pressure” onto a player and thus somehow infuses his performance with higher status.

    You say you’d feel more pressure on a good team? Well, I say I’d feel more pressure on a bad team. And neither one of us has the slightest idea how Matt Kemp or Justin Upton feels in those two situations, or if they even feel a different amount of pressure from one circumstance to the other.

    Disqualifying an individual because their team isn’t good enough is exactly as misguided as disqualifying an individual because their team is too good. The latter of those two never seems to happen, so why does the former happen all the time?

  8. dirtyharry1971 - Aug 29, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    sorry bautista shouldnt get the MVP, he should get a pee cup instead!!

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