Call me VORPy. I believe that “most valuable” means that you were the best in that year. I do not think it’s rational to expect great players to be able to turn turd-ish teammates into 30HR-threats. And I like pie.
So please keep all of these things in mind as I take my crack at my list of MVP-worthy players in the AL and NL. And if any hate mail results from this, I will not read it unless it is accompanied by a slice of pie.
#4: Dustin Pedroia – I don’t know if I have a bias for or against Pedroia. For one, he’s a Red Sox which is a negative (ducking as Sarah justifiably takes a digital swing at my head across the vast world of the interwebs). On the other hand, he’s about my size and as such is totally relatable. Plus, as a former second baseman myself, I appreciate how deftly he handles the position. So I think those two irrational sides cancel each other out. What we’re left with is a guy tied for sixth in AL Win Shares and third in Runs Created despite the fact that he plays a skill position.
#3: Roy Halladay – In a year where no AL hitter distinctively separated himself from the pack, I think it’s only right to recognize what Halladay did. Although Cliff Lee beat him for the ERA and Wins titles, Halladay was right behind him. But what puts Doc over the top is how well he performed over so many innings. His 2.78 ERA is only fully appreciated when one considers the fact that Halladay threw 22.67 more innings than any other pitcher in the AL. That’s over three more games total than Lee who’s second on that list. I don’t know about you, but I like the idea of having a guy with such a low ERA pitching instead of a crappy bullpen. How’s that for value? It should also be mentioned that Halladay finished third in strikeouts, fifth in hits allowed per nine, third in walks per nine, and of course, racked up Complete Games.
#2: Joe Mauer – It’s not just that he has a “very pretty” OBP. He led the AL in Win Shares. I don’t know when was the last time a catcher accomplished this. And while it may be odd for an MVP-candidate to have less than 10 HRs, the man still slugged .451 playing half his games in the Metrodome, which was one of the worst places for hitters in 2008. And with his second batting title in three years, he’s now the first catcher in the American League history to win two of those. The first catcher to win one AL batting title was, of course, Joe Mauer in 2006. Plus, Mauer also led the league in WPA (Win Probability Added) and led all catchers in defensive Win Shares this year as well.
#1: Grady Sizemore – Is there anything this man can’t do well? Power (sixth in HRs), plate patience (third in walks), base stealing skills (38 SBs in 43 attempts), and defense (4th in Revized Zone Rating among CFers and second in Out of Zone plays made). Add it all up and you get just a great centerfielder who finished fourth in Win Shares and second in VORP, which doesn’t even counting his strong defensive contributions.
#4: Carlos Beltran – If you think that I did a top 4 instead of a top 3 just so that I can get Beltran on this list (say it with me in your best Ed McMahon voice!), you – are – co-rrrrect, sir!!! I’m actually beginning to worry about my propensity to blabber on about this guy. Despite his HR total being lower this year, he still hit well enough to finish in the top 10 in VORP, Runs Created, and extra-base hits. He was third in Win Shares and sixth in walks. And we haven’t even begun to talk about his baserunning skills and defense in center. Although he was only 7th in Revized Zone Rating among NL CFers, he more than makes up for it by easily making the most Out of Zone plays (seriously, it’s not even close).
#3: Lance Berkman – I think it’s odd how little attention has been paid to the Big Puma. Top-5 in BA, OBP, SLG, Runs Scored, Adjusted OPS, Runs Created, Extra Base Hits, and in doing all this also ended up with the most Win Shares in the National League. Played a great first base to boot. It’s really not his fault that Brad Ausmus OPSed BELOW .600. He was a player having a great season on a mediocre team.
#2: Hanley Ramirez – This one hurts. How could I possibly put Han-Ram over Beltran? He deserves it, that’s why. Offensively, Ramirez had a similar season as he did in 2007 – a bit better in OBP, a bit worse in SLG. Didn’t come all that close in SBs, but increased his homerun output. But what I appreciated most about him this year was how much better he had become defensively. His Revised Zone Rating improved dramatically from .773 to .840 (god-awful to very good), and was seventh in Out of Zone. Last year, the only knock I had on him was his defense. Now, I got nothing. He hit 33 HRs. No other shortstop in MLB came close (Hardy was second with 24). He OPSed .940. No other shortstop was even within .100 points of the guy. He’s undoubtedly the best SS in baseball.
#1: Albert Pujols – I know. Ho-hum. But no matter how contrarian I may want to be sometimes, there’s just no way I can deny Pujols this. And that’s all I have to say about that.