With the month of August rapidly approaching, it's almost time for both baseball fans and analysts to start discussing just who is the most valuable player in each league.
This award usually comes with controversy, mainly in regards to two biases that have been exploited by voters over the last decade:
*Players that do not play for a playoff team should not win the award.
*Pitchers should not win the award.
Over the last ten seasons, twenty MVP Awards have been awarded. Of the twenty, a whopping fifteen winners have come from playoff teams; meaning only five MVP winners over the last decade have played for teams that did not reach the postseason.
Sometimes the most deserving player for the award actually does play for a playoff team, but there is a clear pattern developing here. The word "valuable" is now being associated with postseason play in baseball.
Even more revealing is the bias that pitchers should not win the award. The last pitcher to win the MVP award was Dennis Eckersley way back in 1992. The fact pitchers have their own award, that being the Cy Young Award, is probably a reason why hurlers usually tally a poor showing at the MVP voting polls.
My personal opinion is that any player can win the award; a pitcher or a hitter that plays or doesn't play for a playoff team. Value is value.
With all of that said let's take a look at how things are shaping up in the American League from a sabermetric standpoint first starting with the position players only:
Probably to the surprise of nobody, Alex Rodriguez is currently tops in both VORP and WARP1.
Rodriguez is hitting .311/.410/.658 on the season leading the league in home runs, slugging percentage and OPS. He has also been one of baseball's prime performers in big-game situations leading the league in WPA at 4.42.
Ordonez is right behind him in terms of VORP, but his WARP is currently topped by both Ichiro Suzuki and, interestingly enough, teammate Curtis Granderson. Ordonez seems like a very strong candidate, but he might not even be the most valuable player on his own team right now.
Maggs is currently hitting .360/.438/.597 for the first place Tigers, but his .390 BABIP is coupled with an 18.0% line-drive rate which equates to an expected BABIP of around .300.
A 90-point differential almost certainly points to a little good fortune so you have to wonder if Ordonez can keep this up all year.
My sleeper here is Ichiro though he has struggled following the All-Star Break hitting .250/.333/.313 in 32 AB's. If the Mariners end up making the playoffs he's a guy that should draw a lot of attention.
Let's throw starting and relief pitchers into the mix here. VORP tends to penalize relief pitchers because they don't throw many innings over the course of the season, so keep an eye on each players WARP1 here:
If there is anyone close to Rodriguez in terms of overall value it is Johan Santana whose WARP trails A-Rod's by a hair.
It seems very unlikely Santana even has a shot at the award; for a pitcher to win the award in this era he has to be far and away the most valuable player in the league, but it will be interesting to see just who is more valuable at the end of the season.