Thursday, September 29, 2011

The MVP Battle

With the baseball regular season over (and in spectacular fashion), votes will soon be cast for end-of-year awards. I'm going to try not to be too lazy and get around to some predictions for all of the awards, but first, let's look at the American League MVP. This year's vote will probably be really rather tight, but when it comes right down to it, there should really only be two candidates - Jose Bautista of the Jays and Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers.

Jose Bautista
Miguel Cabrera

There will be many other suitors for the award, including Justin Verlander1, Curtis Granderson, and Jacoby Ellsbury, but, quite frankly, none of them played to the level of either Bautista or Cabrera.

Consider the following:

Bautista hit more homeruns (43) than anyone in baseball (again); Cabrera (30) was in the Top-10 in the AL
Cabrera and Bautista were both in the Top-10 in the AL for RBI
Bautista (24) and Cabrera (22) finished 1-2 in Intentional Walks
Cabrera (.448) and Bautista (.447) finished 1-2 in On-Base Percentage
Bautista (.608) and Cabrera (.586) finished 1-2 in Slugging Percentage
Bautista (1.056/182) and Cabrera (1.033/181) finished 1-2 in OPS and OPS+
Cabrera and Bautista were on base more times than anyone else in the AL2
Bautista and Cabrera created more runs than anyone else in baseball

All of those, though, depend heavily on their teams, and the players around them. But how much did they actually contribute to their teams?

A lot.

According to BaseballReference.com's calculations, Bautista topped the AL in Wins Above Replacement (8.6), a representation of the number of wins that player contributed to his team above what a "replacement" (AAA call-up, say) player would.3 Cabrera ranked fourth in the AL in WAR.

Bautista and Cabrera were 1-2 in Win Probability Added, which gives a measure of how much a specific batter changes the probability that an average team will win a game.

Finally, the last stat with which I will Dork you - Offensive Win Percentage, the predicted winning percentage of a lineup consisting of nine versions of that player.

Jose Bautista - .822
Miguel Cabrera - .801

Those percentages are the best in baseball, and they represent the only two players above .800 (Milwaukee's Ryan Braun's OW% is .799).

In short, Miguel Cabrera and Jose Bautista cause their teams to win. As such, one of those two really should win the MVP. Cabrera got his team to the playoffs, but they also had the best pitcher in baseball. Bautista got his team to .500, and, with due respect to Ricky Romero, Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia and the other Jays that had excellent seasons, they wouldn't have been anywhere near that without him.

1 - I have absolutely no problem with pitchers being named MVP, but they've got to have a season for the ages. Verlander had a great season, but it won't go down in history
2 - Bautista was tied for second with Adrian Gonzalez of Boston
3 - Just for the record, the site considers a WAR above 8 to be MVP quality

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