Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Guest Blogger: Rob Neyer

OK, not really... but as I promised to explain why Mauer was the best choice for MVP today, I came across Neyer's article which stated everything I wished to and probably more eloquently. Thus, I present a snippet from the esteemed Mr. Neyer:

Aside from his height, there's nothing unique about Dustin Pedroia. Unusual: yes. Unique: no. Chase Utley plays the game right, and is a better hitter and a better fielder than Pedroia. Utley stole 14 bases this season, and was caught twice. Pedroia stole 20 bases, and was caught once. I'm sorry, but one steal per month just doesn't contribute much to uniqueness.

Clutch hitting? Pedroia's career numbers in the clutch are nothing special.

The Red Sox wouldn't have reached the playoffs without Pedroia? That's a mighty tough case to make. At season's end, the Red Sox owned a six-game lead over the Yankees in the wild-card standings. I dare say that even if Dustin Pedroia had never been born, the Red Sox would still have finished ahead of the Yankees in 2008. (And if it's really Pedroia's pure force of will that's driving the Red Sox to win, then they won't have to worry about retaining Jason Varitek. Might as well measure Pedroia for that captain's C right now!)

It's not so obvious that Pedroia was the American League's Most Valuable Player. He didn't do anything that Chase Utley didn't do, and Utley finished 14th in the National League's MVP balloting.

Which isn't to suggest that Pedroia wasn't an outstanding MVP candidate. This was an odd year in the American League. Of the four postseason teams, three -- every team but the Red Sox -- simply lacked a viable candidate. Chicago's Carlos Quentin quite probably would have won the award if he hadn't missed the last five weeks of the season. But he did, which left only Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis among those in the playoff money. There's really not a great deal to choose from between them. If you value hitting most of all, Youkilis is your man. If you value the other things, it's Pedroia.

On the other hand, if you value players who missed the postseason, there were other fine candidates, particularly Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. And their team just missed the postseason; in fact, I suspect that a fair number of MVP voters completed their ballots before the Twins lost to the White Sox in their one-game playoff for the Central flag.

We know that Joe McDonald was right: Pedroia did win, and convincingly. While he didn't significantly outpoint runner-up Justin Morneau, he did pick up 16 first-place votes compared to only seven for Morneau. That's apparently the difference between making the playoffs and not making the playoffs.

But now I want to make the case for my choice: Joe Mauer.

This season Mauer became the first catcher in major league history to win two batting titles. He finished second in the American League in on-base percentage. He won a Gold Glove. Measured by Baseball Prospectus' Wins Above Replacement Player (which considers defense), Mauer finished a close second to Pedroia. Measured by Bill James' Win Shares (which also considers defense, along with clutch hitting), Mauer finished first in the American League, with Pedroia a couple of wins behind. Measured by Win Probability Added (no defense, but clutch hitting especially), Mauer finished first in the league, with Pedroia eighth.

None of these things can tell us everything we need to know, but I'm willing to say that Joe Mauer was one of the three best players in the American League, and that Dustin Pedroia might have been.

What I'm not willing to say -- what I'll probably never be willing to say -- is that Joe Mauer deserved to finish behind Justin Morneau in the MVP balloting again. Two years ago, there was virtually no evidence that Morneau was more valuable than Mauer, yet Morneau finished first and Mauer finished sixth. This year, there is virtually no evidence that Morneau was more valuable than Mauer, and yet Morneau finished second and Mauer finished fourth.
Let me just add that Mauer caught - not played in, not pinch hit in, not filled in defensively during, but caught - 137 games. That's value, especially with having to work with such a young pitching staff and getting good results from them.

As for Morneau, writers seem to have a hard on for him. We've had this fight before when Mauer gets passed over for his less-deserving teammate.

Pedroia however is becoming a perfect storm of media love and I don't think there's any way of stopping it. Scrappy? Check. White? Check. Short? Check. Gets dirty? Check. All of the Ecksteinian qualities are present. Add in some decent stats, and he should win the MVP of everything every season from now on.

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posted by Mr. Faded Glory @ 10:43 AM   1 comments


At 11/19/2008 6:55 PM, Blogger Rex Banner said...

I hardly saw Mauer or Morneau (did you?) but saw lots of Pedrioa last year. He was the AL MVP by far in my eyes (not Most Outstanding Player, MVP). If the Yanks had him instead of Cano, they would have made the playoffs.


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