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Comparisons may be odious. But dang it, they make great bar conversations. And few topics fuel debate more than comparing the inherent value/abilities of baseball players.

Since the American League Most Valuable Player in 2007 is ABSOLUTELY NOT UP FOR DEBATE (and if you somehow disagree with this absolute, you deserve a karate chop to the throat), we will move on to the National League MVP. Paul argues in favor of David Wright, while Coley touts the virtues of Matt Holliday.

PAUL SAYS:

David WrightAlthough the regular season has come and gone, it still seems that the general answer to the question “Who’s the NL MVP?” can vary daily. Simply put, there are far too many candidates. There’s Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins in Philadelphia. Chipper Jones had a tragically overlooked season for the Braves. There’s Prince Fielder for Milwaukee, Matt Holliday in Colorado, Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera for the Fish, David Wright, Carlos Beltran and Jose Reyes in New York, and no MVP conversation is complete without mentioning Albert Pujols.

With so many candidates, I’m not going to bother going through each player’s credentials here. But I will explain why I feel that David Wright should be (but won’t be because putting numbers into context is too hard for BBWAA members to understand) your 2007 NL MVP.

The detractors will point to the fact (and perhaps fairly) that David Wright does not lead the league in anything that’s easy to compute. “Homeruns are the best a hitter can do, right? Then Wright can’t be the best because he only hit 30. And scoring runs are good too. He only brought home 103 of those!” But context, people, context!

Let’s begin with Park Factor. David Wright plays in the National League East – home of the pitcher’s park. Four of the five stadiums are disadvantageous to hitters. And looking at two ways to measure these things (at Baseball-Reference.com and ESPN), it appears that Shea may be the toughest of them all. This puts Wright at a severe disadvantage in terms of power numbers when compared to those who play in hitter’s parks such as Wrigley, Coors, Minute Maid, Great American, Chase, and Citizens Bank. Luckily for us, people far smarter than I have created ways to help equalize these numbers.

By now, I think most baseball fans have at least heard of things like Win Shares or VORP, either as respectable tools for evaluation or as the thing that’s destroying the very fiber of everything we’ve ever held dear. But as a quick recap, Win Shares was devised to calculate how much each individual player contributed (both offensively and defensively) to their team’s wins. Wright led the NL in Win Shares this year with 34, with Pujols behind him with 32. Basically, this means that Wright’s contributions to the Mets’ total number of wins outweighs that of any other player in the National League.

For VORP, Wright placed second behind Hanley Ramirez (who had an amazing offensive season) which is even more impressive once you consider that VORP does not calculate defensive value – an area that strongly divides Ramirez (arguably the worst defensive shortstop in MLB in 2007) and Wright (one of the best defensive 3rd baseman in the NL).

Matt Holliday

Then there’s Runs Created, another one of these wacky numbers made popular by Bill James, where we see literally how many runs scored were a direct result of each player’s offensive contributions. Wright leads the NL here too, barely over Miguel Cabrera (136 to 135), but again, when you take defense into account, Wright truly was the better player in 2007.

Lastly, Runs Above Average. This is a metric that figures out how many runs a player either created offensively or prevented defensively when compared to their positional peers. In 2007, David Wright was responsible for 73 Runs Above Average, which by far and away was tops in the NL (Pujols comes in second again with 60 RAA).

In 2007, David Wright did everything anyone could ask of him as an individual player. He hit for a very high average (.325), was one of the best at not making outs (.416 OBP), had 30 HRs and 34SBs (with an excellent stolen base success rate of 87%), hit with runners in scoring position (.310 AVG, .975 OPS), and played a very good 3rd base (he led all MLB 3rd baseman in the number of plays made outside of his zone. By a lot.). By pretty much all sabermetric measurements, David Wright was the best player in the 2007 National League.

COLEY SAYS:

Paul, I notice you’ve listed a lot of really good reasons why David Wright should be the NL MVP.

But I also notice you’ve omitted all the reasons why he shouldn’t. Like, for example, the fact that he played for the New York Mets.

Most people will agree that the MVP award shouldn’t go to a player who played for a losing team, unless that player’s performance was so much better than his peers that it is impossible to ignore.

Wright didn’t play for a losing team. He played for the 2007 Mets, which is arguably worse. The 2007 Mets will be remembered for one thing, and one thing only: choking. Their collapse was ugly. It was historic. And it will not be soon forgotten.

Believe me, if the MLB had an award for sabermetric achievement, I would support David Wright’s candidacy wholeheartedly. But how valuable can you be when you’re team implodes spectacularly when the games matter most?

I support Matt Holliday for NL MVP. He led the NL in batting average and RBI and he played for the anti-New York Mets, the Colorado Rockies, who went on a torrid run down the stretch and haven’t come up for air yet.

Holliday was second in slugging and third in OPS. His home/road splits are cause for concern, but it’s hard to penalize a guy for playing in a certain city. I won’t do it.

Jimmy Rollins says, I won’t deny that Wright was your National League player of the year. But his MVP stock took a nosedive when his team collective cowboyed down.

Holliday’s team finished with a flourish, while Wright’s finished with a whimper. Holliday led the league in RBI and AVG. He led his team to the postseason. And he’ll lead the MVP pack once the votes are tallied.

Matt Holiday is your NL MVP.

FROM PAUL:

It’s not the “Most Valuable Player of the last two weeks of the season”. It’s for the whole year. So yes, you could easily make the argument (as some Mets fans have) that this year was ultimately more painful than in 2004 when they finished with only 71 wins. But you cannot say that the 2007 Mets weren’t as good.

And as you pointed out, I initially ignored the whole “didn’t make the playoffs and thus couldn’t have been that valuable” argument. I’ve always simply disagreed with it. And not only that, it’s brought up only when it’s convenient. It’s applied inconsistently. How do you explain Ryan Howard’s MVP last year? Not only did the Phillies miss the playoffs in 2006, they finished with fewer wins than the 2007 Mets. Then the argument must be that Howard had such an incredible season that no one came close to matching his

stats, right? Not true. Albert Pujols not only played for a team that

qualified for the postseason, he put up 49 HRs and 139 RBIs to go along with an incredible 1.102 OPS. Yet, Howard won it because he put up more homeruns and RBIs (with a lesser OPS, mind you). Not only that, Pujols did it playing half his games in Busch Stadium, which plays more like a pitcher’s park. The fact that Pujols led all of MLB in Win Shares and VORP didn’t matter. The fact that the Cardinals played in October didn’t matter. The fact that Howard had 38 more at-bats with runners in scoring position and still managed to get only 10 more RBIs than Pujols didn’t matter. They were all completely ignored because Howard had more HRs and RBIs. And the kicker is, you know this too because you picked Pujols over Howard last year! It’s not a hard and fast rule.

To top it off, the Mets ended up being ONE GAME behind Colorado after 162 games played. The Mets had 88 wins. The Rockies had 89 (they reached 90 after the one-game play-in). So basically, this argument hinges upon that one win. You’re willing to ignore the park factor between Shea and Coors.

You’re willing to ignore the fact that Holliday slugged a trememdous .722 in Denver but only managed a .485 SLG away from home, which is still good, mind you, but nowhere near .722. You’re willing to ignore the difference in value between having a good defensive 3rd baseman and a good defensive left fielder.

And you’re willing to ignore the fact that all these various forms of

statistical measurements (Win Shares, VORP, Runs Created, and Runs Above Average) all agree wholeheartedly that Wright was more valuable than Holliday. All because the Colorado Rockies had one more win in 162 games?

Prince gets no love.You simply can’t hold it against David Wright that the Mets fell apart. Did you know that he had a .360 AVG, .429 OBP, .602 SLG, 1.034 OPS in the month of September even though the team’s season was going down the tubes? Didn’t he perform “when it counted”?

Don’t get me wrong. Again, I’m not so hopeful that Wright is going to be MVP because BBWAA members think that stats are ruining baseball. They’ll be swayed by the gaudy power numbers. And yeah, they’ll be swayed because the Rockies won one more game than the Mets. But I will argue until the day I die that David Wright should be your 2007 NL MVP.

So suck on that.

COLEY SAYS:

Paul, I did know that Wright was awesome down the stretch for the Mets. I knew about all of his gaudy September numbers, and I still chose Holliday. Why? Frankly, I’m beginning to wonder.

You know what? Screw it. I’m done with Holliday. You’ve convinced me. David Wright is the man. I’m on board.

I’ve always hated the MVP award, because nobody can agree what “valuable” means. And what point is there in giving an award when nobody can agree on the criteria?

If they called it the “Player of the Year Award” everybody could agree on what that meant. But that would be too easy.

What kills me are the people who say that an MVP Award is better than a Player of the Year Award, because it encourages great debate. Baloney. Some debates are greater than others, and debating an award that has no clear criteria makes no sense. I won’t do it any longer.

At least, not until next year.

One Response to “The Great MVP Debate”

  1. Amen.

    And very funny.

    But please, let’s keep the MVP award away from the Mets. MVPs and no-hitters are anathema to us.

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