Over at the Baseball Bloggers’ Alliance, we have been voting on our award winners for the regular season. Previously I have announced my votes for the Connie Mack awards (Best Manager of the Year), the Willie Mays awards (Top Rookie), the Goose Gossage awards (Top Reliever), and the Walter Johnson awards (Top Pitcher). Only one set of awards left to give out, and it’s the big one: The Stan Musial award, given to each league’s most valuable player.
Every season there seems to be a real debate as to what should be considered for the league’s most valuable player. It’s become pretty clear that there is (or at least should be) a difference between who is the best player and who was the most valuable to his team this season. Well, here’s my criteria (at least how I see it anyway):
Value to their Team
It becomes extremely hard for me to argue that a player who has a great season on a team with a lot of great players is more valuable than a player who has a great season on a team that doesn’t have a lot of good players on it. When I look at it, I start looking at how the team would perform without the player. If the player I am looking at were to miss extended time, would their team be able to easily replace what he does, or would they struggle until he returned to form?
The Complete Player
It becomes extremely important in my opinion, that for a player to be the most valuable player, they have to provide at least some value on both sides of the game. Clearly, there is value to a player who plays excellent defense in addition to a player who hits extremely well. To me, this doesn’t necessarily mean that a player needs to steal a lot of bases and hit a lot of home runs on the offensive side, but they should clearly be pretty close to elite for what they do. And in terms of players who are primarily designated hitters, to me they have to be far and away the most obvious candidate for them to get a lot of votes. While it is a position in the game, I think that it is important to find a way to offset the value they are not providing in the field.
I tend to view pitchers the same way as designated hitters in terms of the most valuable player. They would need to be unbelievably dominant to move ahead of top level position players.
The Big Stats
At this point, it’s pretty much impossible to ignore what the statistics tell us overall. It becomes hard to argue that there isn’t a judgment to be made when looking at value with regard to home runs, stolen bases, runs scored, runs batted in, and batting average, among many others. That said, it is something I look at, but it doesn’t become a spot where I just make a judgment based entirely on the statistics.
With all that (phew!), here’s my top candidates for the AL Stan Musial award. Players are listed from east to west, and my vote will be at the bottom. For this award, it’s a 10 person ballot. Also, when you’re talking about the best of anything, it invariably ends up a bit nit-picky when it comes to differentiating candidates. Everyone on this list had a great season, and it just comes down to trying to determine small ways in which one was better than the rest. There’s not a whole lot to say about each player as a result, and so instead here are the statistics that I looked at for each player, and then I’ll go into my logic for my decision.
- Josh Hamilton (TEX)
- Miguel Cabrera (DET)
- Robinson Cano (NYY)
- Adrian Beltre (BOS)
- Carl Crawford (TAM)
- Jose Bautista (TOR)
- Paul Konerko (CHW)
- Evan Longoria (TAM)
- Shin-Soo Choo (CLE)
- Vladimir Guerrero (TEX)
This really came down to Hamilton versus Cabrera to me. While Cano was definitely in this race all the way through, the numbers that Cabrera and Hamilton put up were too much better in comparison. When looking at Hamilton and Cabrera, it really came down to the fact that the numbers Cabrera put up, while clearly ridiculous, were not that much better than Hamilton’s to convince me that I should ignore the fact that the Tigers were out of the playoff race early on in September and the Rangers were running away with their division. Other than that fact, I essentially viewed them as nearly equal in all factors. My thoughts about some of the other candidates:
- Guerrero and Ortiz both get penalized for being just designated hitters. I know it’s a position on the field, but the value that someone like Hamilton or even Cabrera provide by playing defense is still very important.
- It’s amazing what defense can do for a player’s value overall. Mauer and Ichiro had solid seasons at the plate, but nothing spectacular necessarily. But their WAR was still higher than players who did have spectacular seasons at the plate (like Konerko and Guerrero).
- The Indians must be extremely happy with that trade that brought them Shin-Soo Choo. I think it’s only a matter of time before he could win one of these himself.
- Whether or not Jose Bautista‘s season was a total fluke, it is still one of the best offensive seasons we have seen in a long time. And while he wasn’t necessarily an amazing defender out there, he did play both 3B and the OF serviceably.
- I also think it won’t be too many seasons before Robinson Cano wins an MVP as well. He was far and away the best player on the Yankees this season, and with that roster, that’s definitely saying something.
- It continues to amaze me that the Rays were able to get Evan Longoria to sign such a team-friendly contract, but then I remind myself that he’s going to still make $44 million over the 9 years of its’ length.