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 NL 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.
- Joey Votto (CIN)
- Albert Pujols (STL)
- Carlos Gonzalez (COL)
- Jayson Werth (PHI)
- Adrian Gonzalez (SD)
- Troy Tulowitzki (COL)
- Dan Uggla (FLA)
- Matt Holliday (STL)
- Aubrey Huff (SF)
- Rickie Weeks (MIL)
The three biggest name candidates (Votto, Pujols, Gonzalez) all were right around the top of the leader boards in nearly every offensive category throughout the season, with all 3 being legitimate threats to win the NL Triple Crown at times. Pujols ended up taking home runs and runs batted in, and Gonzalez ended up winning the batting title, but to me the clear cut choice for MVP was Votto. Without his offensive leadership, there is no way that the Reds finish in the top 2 in the NL Central, let alone make the playoffs and win the division. Pujols had what will probably end up viewed as a “down” year for him comparatively, but he really came on at the end of the season this year. To me, these three are going to end up fighting for the MVP for years to come. Some of my thoughts about the other candidates:
- Werth is going to get paid this offseason by somebody, and it appears that it will be with good reason. I will be interested to see what he does when he is not the 4th option on the team, but is instead one of its’ top 2.
- Huff had a very, very good season in San Francisco, and definitely was one of the few consistent performers out of the Giants’ lineup. He’s a free agent after the season as well, and should get a 2 or 3 year deal as a result of this I would imagine.
- Dan Uggla really had his best season yet, and I have to imagine that the Marlins are going to find it that much more difficult to sign him to an extension cheaply.
- This really appears to have been the year that Rickie Weeks put it all together and stayed healthy. It was a great season, but I want to see what he does next year.
- With regard to Adrian Gonzalez, I had to look at just how poor the rest of that offense is, and the fact that he was the only hitter that opposing pitchers had to remotely fear. And they still came within 2 games of winning the division.
- I really thought it was interesting that Ryan Zimmerman finished 3rd in the league in WAR, and it really speaks to just how good his defense is at 3B.