It’s time for each member of the umpbump staff to make his or her MVP picks. Nick went first. Now it’s my turn. Buckle up — it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Rob Neyer says 30 win shares is a good baseline for an MVP caliber season and if he’s right than we’ve got a problem, because not one single player had 30 win shares in the AL this season. Still, I’ve got to pick someone, so I guess I’ll go with…
3. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees. In 100 fewer at bats, he hit only two fewer home runs than league leader Miguel Cabrera. His .573 slugging percentage led the league, and his .964 OPS was fourth. Defensively, he had the highest fielding percentage among AL third basemen, and he got to more balls outside his zone than any AL 3B other than Adrian Beltre. Oh, and he stole 18 bases.
2. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox. He was third in runs created in the AL this season, behind Grady Sizemore and Josh Hamilton. His .325 batting average was second in the league. He stole 20 bases and only got caught once. He was arguably the best defensive second baseman in the league, and he gets extra credit for being adorable.
1. Joe Mauer, C, Twins. I don’t have much to add beyond what Nick said. This guy is the best all around player in the game. He’s not only one of the best defensive catchers in baseball, but he is one of the best defensive player overall. This season, Kurt Suzuki led the majors with 9.3 defensive win shares. Mauer came in second with 8.2. That’s not second among only catchers. That’s all positions. To do what he does defensively and also lead the league in hitting makes for an obvious MVP selection, as far as I’m concerned.
This year’s NL MVP selection is complicated a bit by the enigmatic Ryan Howard, who managed to lead the league in home runs and RBI — by a lot — while maintaining an anemic .250 batting average. How do you not vote for a guy who led the league in homers and RBI? This is how…
3. Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies. He’s tied for fourth in the league with 27 win shares and eighth in defensive win shares. He’s fifth in the league in runs created. Utley’s season stalled after a torrid April. The media speculated that he was playing hurt. Utley denied it, saying he wasn’t injured beyond the usual bumps and bruises that a player accrues over the course of a season. But what a lot of fans don’t know is that Utley’s bruises are more plentiful than most. He was hit by a pitch 27 times this season — almost twice as many HBPs as anybody else. He does whatever it takes to win. And he’s an above average defensive second baseman.
2. Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros. I’m having a hard time not voting for Berkman for MVP, just because he clearly had an MVP calliber year. He had four more win shares than anyone in the NL, including Albert Pujols. But that’s about the only metric I can find that favors Berkman.
1. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals. He was the man. He led the league in OPS and runs created. He was second in batting average and OBP, behind Chipper Jones. He walked nearly twice as often as he struck out. Moreover, as Jayson Stark point out, Pujols “racked up almost twice as many intentional walks (33) as anybody else in the league and only 46 percent of the pitches thrown to him have been in the strike zone.” That’s an MVP.