Grady Sizemore. Smart stats love this guy, despite his crappy average this year: he was second in the AL in VORP and first in Runs Created. He also tied for fifth in homers. But it was all wasted because the Indians were so bad. Oh well.
Carlos Quentin. Let this be a lesson to him next time he wants to break his wrist to spite his bat (or whatever).
Aubrey Huff. If David Ortiz can’t win it as a DH, then Huff won’t. But you know, he finished 4th in the league in VORP, 5th in OPS and RC, and 3rd in SLG. I just thought I’d mention it, because unless you live in the 21201area code, you might have missed it.
Kevin Youkilis. Tell me if I’m wrong, but I think he was the only guy to finish in the top ten in VORP, RC, AVG, OBP, SLG, and OPS. That’s pretty badass. Plus, he plays gold-glove worthy first base and can easily slide across the diamond to play third. Heck, you can even stick him in the outfield. Terrible facial hair, though.
But there can be only one winner, and that person is…..
Dustin Pedroia. No, he’s not the trendy pick–at least, not among the baseball eggheads who are sick of hearing about the Red Sox and their annoyingly good players and just plain annoying (but devoted!) fans. (Screw you too, jerkface!) But Pedroia had 73 extra-base hits this year (including 17 HR) this year to Joe Mauer’s* 44 (including 9 HR). Mauer, the catcher, has 1 stolen base and 1 caught-stealing. Pedroia, no real speedster, has 20 stolen bases and was also caught once. (How did he do that if he doesn’t have real wheels? The old-fashioned way: using his brain.) Pedroia led the league in runs, tied for first in hits (213), came in second by just .004 .002 [edit: after game 163] in batting average, finished third in runs created (while Mauer finished 18th there), and was fourth in total bases (with Mauer tied for 33rd). Pedroia also finished third in the AL in VORP (to Mauer’s 7th-place finish) behind Alex Rodriguez and Grady Sizemore, whose teams failed to make the playoffs this year. He played in 157 games and quietly drove in 140** runs while playing an acrobatic second base and energizing a team that suffered demoralizing injuries to their ace pitcher, cleanup hitter, and 2007 World Series MVP—while also coping with the tantrum and subsequent ouster of their most productive hitter. Without Dustin Pedroia, does anyone seriously think the Red Sox would have even made the playoffs? He’s been just as important to their playoff drive as Mauer*** was to the Twins’–and what’s more, he had a better year than Mauer. Case closed.
* I feel obligated to bring up Mauer here because so many people seems to be picking him over Pedroia, not least my colleagues at UmpBump. And look, I’m not one to undervalue a catcher’s contribution to the team, ever. But I honestly don’t know why we’re seriously talking about Mauer for MVP this year at all. (Yes, nice OBP. Very pretty. Well done. Now run along, and try to reach double digits in homers next time.)
**Now, anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I tend to pooh-pooh RBI as a stat, but keep in mind the context here: Mauer ranked 21st in MLB in RBI opportunities. Pedroia ranked 40th. But Mauer somehow finished with just 85 RBI to Pedroia’s 140. And those who would tout Mauer’s admittedly admirable ability to take a walk, I’d like to point out that despite this ability, Mauer grounded into 21 double plays–four more than the contact-prone Pedroia. And it’s not like Pedroia just swings at anything; he’s even a bit tougher to strike out than Mauer.
***To me, it’s a wash whether it’s more “valuable” to keep your team from failing when everyone expects them to succeed or to help your team succeed when everyone expects them to fail.
On to the NL. First, the doomed-to-fail runners-up:
Hanley Ramirez. As Nick pointed out, he’s the young player every GM and fantasy owner would love to have. He carried the Marlins through a surprisingly good year. His time will come.
Lance Berkman. He had a great year–114 runs scored, second in RC, third in OPS and OBP, fourth in VORP. He also had 29 homers and, somewhat surprisingly, 18 steals. But the funny thing is, there are so many guys ahead of him on the home run list–Howard, Adam Dunn, Carlos Delgado, etc and etc–that his great year just isn’t good enough.
Chipper Jones. Now here‘s an AVG and OBP worth writing home about: .364 and .470, respectively, plus he was one of only two players in the NL to OPS over 1.000.
And yet there is only one clear winner here. And that is the other guy to OPS over 1.000. Who is…
Albert Pujols, despite his crappy team (hey, they would’ve won the NL West!), he clearly deserves the NL MVP and it’s not even close. He’s first in VORP, first in RC, first in OPS, second in OBP, and [yawn] first in SLG. Really, the guy is sick. There’s just nothing more to say.