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Could Albert Pujols be the National League MVP?

Sep 20, 2011, 1:53 PM EDT

Albert Pujols, Gerald Laird AP

The quiet NL MVP race looks like a two-man competition on the surface: Matt Kemp has been the league’s best player, while Ryan Braun has a good case for second best and has put up his numbers for a first-place team.  Still, I can’t help but wonder if a third candidate is lurking.

Albert Pujols may yet become the NL MVP if he leads St. Louis to what would be a pretty amazing comeback in the wild card race.  The Cardinals have won 10 of their last 12 games and now trail the Braves by just 2 1/2 games with nine left to play (the Braves have eight games remaining).

Pujols has certainly been a driving force while hitting .397 with four homers and 17 RBI in 17 games this month.  He’s batting .324/.386/.609 with 18 homers and 46 RBI in 60 games since the All-Star break.

Writers do love their stories, and Pujols provides a better one than either Kemp or Braun.  He had maybe the worst two-month run of his career at the beginning of the season, hitting just .265/.335/.412 with nine homers and 31 RBI through June 2.  Just after he regained his stroke, he suffered a fractured wrist that was supposed to cost him 4-6 weeks.  Instead, he returned after two weeks and never missed a beat.  He currently leads the NL with 36 homers and he’s seventh — and climbing — with 96 RBI.

Pujols will have to keep it going in these last nine games to have a chance, and he’ll need the Braves to continue to falter as well.  If it all comes together, he could be looking at a fourth MVP award, even as he finishes with what will probably be the lowest batting average and OPS of his career.

  1. thefalcon123 - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    I think we can all agree that this is the worst year of Albert’s career….
    ….and he’s currently hitting .299/.369/.548, ranks 1st in HR and 6th in WAR

    That being said, he certainly doesn’t deserve the MVP. But not deserving hasn’t stopped the writers before says Juan Gonzalez…

    • Alex K - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:14 PM

      Exactly. We can’t pretend like the first two months didn’t happen.

      • paperlions - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:16 PM

        Maybe we can’t, but those who vote on the awards can and regularly do.

      • cintiphil - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:43 PM

        I have no opinion on this either way, but remember that Tim Lincecum won the Cy when the voting members ignored the last half of the season. It was said that he had such a great first half, it overshadowed the end. Just saying.

      • thefalcon123 - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:50 PM

        If you’re speaking of 09, he had a 2.67 ERA in the 2nd half. He pitched great in the 2nd half, his 5-5 record was had more to do with the league’s 13th best offense behind him. He finished the year 2nd in ERA, 3rd in IP, 1st in WAR for pitchers, 1st in Ks, 4th in WHIP….
        There was nothing wrong with Lincecum winning the CY that year. And for the record, I’m a Cardinals fan (Carpenter and Wainwright finished 2nd and 3rd that year)

  2. Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:07 PM

    If the Cardinals make the playoffs Pujols deserves the MVP. Give Kemp the Most Outstanding Player award they also give out at the end of the year.

    • stlouis1baseball - Sep 20, 2011 at 6:04 PM

      I don’t want to jinx anything…but didn’t you (maybe a little tongue-in-cheek)…predict .300/30/100 AND an MVP for him a couple of weeks back?

      • duanemccoy - Sep 21, 2011 at 10:34 AM

        Wow, what a bold prediction for a 3 time mvp..

  3. shaka49 - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:11 PM

    Matt, Pujols is batting .324/.386/.609 since the all-star break. .609!! Sounds a bit more impressive than .509.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:21 PM

      Whoops. Fixed now. Thanks.

      • shaka49 - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:53 PM

        Even if you take it back to the beginning of June, AP is batting .321/.392/.636.

        MVP talk or not, Albert Pujols….is STILL Albert Pujols.

    • thefalcon123 - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:54 PM

      ….which is .005/.035/.009 lower than his career totals.

      • paperlions - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:40 PM

        What a slacker.

  4. JB (the original) - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    But the Cards played well when he was on the shelf and had slipped in the standings while he was playing. Going by the ‘where would the team be without him’ method (and while I don’t tend to garner pitchers as MVP candidates), where would the D-Backs be without Ian Kennedy this year?

    • Matthew Pouliot - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:29 PM

      For the record, the Cards are 76-60 with Pujols in the lineup, 8-9 without him.

    • Jeff J. Snider - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:55 PM

      Well, the D-Backs are 24-8 in games Kennedy starts. Let’s say they replaced him with a league-average pitcher, one who gives up 4.17 runs per game (the NL average this season). So the D-Backs would have won the games where they scored more than 4.17 runs (15 of them) and lost the others (17). So they would be 80-74 right now, 3.5 games behind the Giants in the NL.

      What does that mean? Nothing at all. The fact is that the “Where would Team X be without Player Y?” argument is worthless. What if Kennedy had pitched exactly as well as he has this year, but the D-Backs scored a ton of runs in the games he pitched. He would have a better record, but there would also be almost no difference between “where they are” and “where they would be without him.”

      Let’s say I give two people each a $100 bill. They both open their wallets and put the bill in. One of the guys, it’s the only bill in his wallet, and it’s the first money he’s had in weeks, and he can feed his wife and kids and they won’t have to starve to death. The other guy, he adds it to the pile of money already in his wallet and doesn’t think twice about it.

      To whom is the $100 more valuable?

      Answer: Neither. $100 is worth $100, regardless of how much money you have. The poor man can buy the same exact stuff with $100 that the rich man can. Value is not a subjective thing, it does not depend on its surroundings. Matt Kemp is the lone offensive bright point in a lousy Dodgers offense. Ryan Braun is one of several bright points in a solid Brewers offense. Albert Pujols has been performing better than either of them the past couple months. Ian Kennedy has pitched well and had some good luck and (mostly) not had much bad luck with regards to the performance of his teammates.

      But in the end, the MVP award as asking: “Which player provided the most value to his team over the course of the 2011 baseball season?” And with value not being a subjective measurement, the formula is easy: which player played the best. The only real room for debate is how you define “the best.” Some people (who are dumb) think it’s the number of RBIs or runs scored. Some think it’s home runs. Even among the statistically enlightened, there are differences of opinion between WAR and OPS+ and a lot of other things. Those are all valid.

      The one thing that isn’t valid (in my opinion, which is obviously right :-) ) is a discussion about “what does ‘valuable’ mean?” Valuable means having value. Value means how much is something worth. In baseball terms, that means how well did this person play, how well did he do the things that help a team win games.

      • thefalcon123 - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:58 PM

        I want to kiss you on the mouth right now.

      • Jeff J. Snider - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:01 PM

        That seems like overkill, falcon, but the heart wants what it wants.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:07 PM

        Those who argue against what you are saying aren’t dumb to say that adding value to a team that sucks just makes them suck less. It’s subjective and they aren’t any more wrong than you are.

        And your $100 question is flat out wrong. The $100 is more valuable to the guy with no money. $100 is more valuable to me than it is to Gates because he will go out and get a haircut for $100 while I will get a haircut, feed my family for a week and maybe have some left over to buy a soda from the machine. You are comparing apples and oranges when you talk like that.

        Basically, Pujols is $100 for a team that is hungry…a team that is going to make the playoffs where they wouldn’t have without him. Kemp is a $100 bill to Gates, who doesn’t even need it and may actually light his cigar with it while it is burning.

        Kemp…Most Outstanding Player. Pujols…if the Cards make the playoffs, Most Valuable Player.

      • thefalcon123 - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:20 PM

        (note: yes Chris, I realize I am blowing your argument beyond the proportions you meant them to be. This list just seemed like too much fun not to do).
        So, Chris, since we’re taking Pujols over…say, Ryan Braun who has also been better than Albert, and your arguments about value, you seem to be saying that the MVP should only come from a team that barely makes the postseason (highest offensive WAR by team that made the playoffs by the slimest margin).
        So, by Chris’ standards, here are the NL MVPs dating back to 2000
        2010: Jason Heyward- ATL
        2009: Troy Tulowitzki- COL
        2008: Russell Martin- LAD
        2007: Matt Holliday and Chase Utley- COL and PHI
        2006: Albert Pujols- STL
        2005: Andruw Jones- ATL
        2004: Lance Berkman- HOU
        2003: Mark Grudzielanek – CHC
        2002: Barry Bonds- SFG
        2001: Luis Gonzalez and Chipper Jones
        2000: Edgardo Alfonzo

        So…since 2000, MVP voters agreed on your criteria (that I took huge liberties with less you think I’m trying to hide my assholeness) exactly once.
        2008:

      • Chris Fiorentino - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:42 PM

        Falcon…Falcon…Falcon…you know I hate WAR. The least you could have done is use HRs and RBI if you were really going to blow my argument beyond the proportions that I meant them to be…here’s my list…

        2011: Ryan Howard- PHI
        2010: Ryan Howard- PHI
        2009: Ryan Howard- PHI
        2008: Ryan Howard- PHI
        2007: Ryan Howard- PHI
        2006: Ryan Howard- PHI
        2005: Ryan Howard- PHI
        2004: Ryan Howard- PHI
        2003 and earlier…no award given…waiting for Ryan Howard to enter the league.

      • paperlions - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:38 PM

        I’m going to have to agree with Chris on this one, I really don’t see any argument for a non-Ryan Howard, he should probably have won the AL MVP award each of those years as well on the strength of his play in interleague games.

      • Alex K - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:55 PM

        About the $100 thing. You guys are talking about different things. Jeff is talking about actual value and Chris is talking about marginal value. I agree with Jeff on the MVP thing, but understand where Chris is coming from.

        We should probably just rename the MVP award the Ryan Howard award since everyone knows that nobody else has ever been more deserving.

      • Jeff J. Snider - Sep 20, 2011 at 5:31 PM

        Well, a long as we’re all on board with Ryan Howard, I’m cool.

        And Chris, yeah, I get where you’re coming from, although I disagree. The fact is, you COULD get the same $100 haircut as Bill Gates, or he COULD get the same haircut/week of food/soda that you get. It has nothing to do with the value of the $100, just the choices you make, at which point my brain can no longer keep the analogy going. But $100 is worth $100 no matter what.

        And the Dodgers are more along the lines of the third, unmentioned man, who when you give him $100 he just throws it away because he’s $6 billion in debt so what good is a hundred measly dollars? :-) (Sometimes we Dodger fans have to laugh so we don’t cry.)

        My main point is that the Most Outstanding Player IS the Most Valuable Player.

      • stlouis1baseball - Sep 20, 2011 at 6:02 PM

        Yeah…what he said!

  5. tribulationpress - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:27 PM

    it tells you a lot about pujols when his worst year is .299 o_o

    • stlouis1baseball - Sep 20, 2011 at 6:06 PM

      Yep…pretty much sums it up huh?

  6. okwhitefalcon - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:32 PM

    Albert should be in the conversation and finish in the Top 5 or so, but that’s as far as it should go for now.

    Smart money says it’s Kemp’s or Brauns to lose..

    • paperlions - Sep 20, 2011 at 2:38 PM

      Yeah, he’s in the conversation and should be given consideration.

      • paperlions - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:42 PM

        80% got the sarcasm, nice!

  7. CJ - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    In a wide open race such as the MVP in the NL, one thing is clear: Ryan Howard should be considered. :D

    • paperlions - Sep 20, 2011 at 3:59 PM

      He’s in the conversation.

  8. scatterbrian - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:34 PM

    Using non-arbitrary endpoints–i.e. the entire season–Pujols hasn’t even been the best hitter on his own team. If your argument is that Pujols’ numbers matter more now because it’s crunch-time, I’ll counter that this crunch-time wouldn’t have existed were it not for Berkman’s and Holliday’s contributions. This push by Pujols doesn’t make him the MVP, it simply means that Pujols isn’t finished yet.

    If you want to look beyond Kemp/Braun, you can make a better case for Justin Upton.

    • paperlions - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:44 PM

      Upton is a product of his friendly home ball park. On the road he has hit .246/.328/.439 for a mediocre wOBA of .327. In other words, he a league average player when not playing in the dry air of the desert. His desert OPS is 315 pts higher than on the road.

      The MVP isn’t just about hitting, it is also about defense, base running, and staying on the field. Holliday can’t stay healthy and Berkman is a disaster on defense (though he could be cut some slack for playing out of position). If you add everything up, Pujols is easily the MVP of the Cardinals this year.

      • Alex K - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:51 PM

        That’s a little rough on Upton, paper. Sure his home park helps him, but most players hit better at their home ballpark.

        Wasn’t Holliday only good because he played in Coors?

      • scatterbrian - Sep 20, 2011 at 4:58 PM

        I’m really just countering the notion that “from Date X to Date Y, Pujols has done this and therefore should be considered for MVP” (which, for the record, is being argued strictly using offensive numbers). Berkman and Holliday may have their warts, but they kept the Cards going when Pujols wasn’t going, and that shouldn’t be ignored. Nor should Pujols–or anyone–be given extra credit because he is doing something at a certain time of year.

        And good lord, I hadn’t really seen Upton’s splits. Point taken…

      • stlouis1baseball - Sep 20, 2011 at 6:11 PM

        Paper: As a rule…I try not to agree with anything you state.
        But I gotta’ give it to you on this one.

  9. stlouis1baseball - Sep 20, 2011 at 6:08 PM

    Holy shit! Russell Martin won the MVP in 07’? I must have been in a coma cause’ I flat forgot about that one.

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