Warning: After the jump I'm going to present information which could be interpreted as stating, "Franklin Gutierrez is the American League MVP." Without proper preparation, that information could cause physical and emotional damage, so whatever you need to do to prevent such damage, do it now.
MVP. It's amazing how three little letters can open up such a huge can of worms. We'll have a debate about defining what MVP means and should mean down the road, but today, I want to present some data to match one popular definition that doesn't usually get attacked from an objective angle. That definition is:
The MVP is the player who did the most to help his team try to win baseball games, with production weighted by game state.
An expansion of that definition and the jaw-dropping data which supports the claim I warned you about up front are after the jump.
Some notes on that definition:
- For hitting, we're using Win Probability Added, which takes into account the score, inning, runners, and number of outs. A bases-loaded walk in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth is more valuable than a grand slam in a blowout.
- Defense matters. Fangraphs' UZR and position adjustments are used. Unfortunately, we can't yet adjust fielding for game state, but I'm not sure that wouldn't just be introducing more noise than usefulnsess.
- For pitchers, I'm using FIP-based WAR, not WPA. Why? WPA has too much noise for pitchers, including team defense, luck, and ballpark effects. Adding that noise hurts more than adding in clutchiness helps.
- Team context doesn't matter. If a player racks up .5 WPA in a loss, that counts just as much as .5 WPA in a win. And a 10 win season on a bad team counts just as much as a 10 win season on a playoff team. This definition treats the MVP as mostly an individual award.
In other words, we're pretty much using WAR from Fangraphs, but substituting WPA for hitters in place of batting runs above average (scaled by using 10 runs per win.) If you don't like that definition of MVP, no problem, but you won't find the following data useful. Please feel free to define MVP your own way and present the data to match.
National League MVP
What surprises me up front is not just that Albert Pujols trails Tim Lincecum, but that he also trails Chase Utley. As you'll see below, part of the reason is that UZR sees Pujols merely as average in the field this year, which goes against recent history. (Then again, Utley barely rates better than average, himself.)
Whatever you think of Raul Ibanez's huge season, you have to give him credit for it. Although, maybe someone will try to give Ryan Howard credit for it somehow.
Regarding Matt Kemp, when was the last time an eight-hole hitter was an MVP candidate, and it wasn't for his glove?
American League MVP
|5||Roy Halladay||Blue Jays||5.2|
|7||Josh Beckett||Red Sox||4.6|
|8||Cliff Lee||- - -||4.6|
|11||Jon Lester||Red Sox||4.1|
There you go. If you buy this definition of MVP, you either need to vote for a pitcher or agree that Franklin Gutierrez is the AL MVP so far. Crazy, huh? Not crazier than FGut's 2.3 wins due to clutch hitting.
What I find fascinating about this list is there are zero traditional big boppers on here. FGut, Figgins, and Inge are glove-first position players having solid years at the plate. Zobrist is hitting.298/.409/.573, but well, he's Ben Zobrist. And Mauer, well, maybe this is finally his year, but people have made an effort to avoid voting for him in the past. The AL MVP really should be Zack Greinke's to lose, and many starting pitchers should finish in the top ten. Cliff Lee's numbers include his time in NL.
* * *
How about a data dump to finish up? Here are the top 58 players in MLB so far this year -- everybody to hit the 3.0 WAR* level through Sunday's games. Most of the data is self-explanatory and taken from Fangraphs. Again, WAR* is WAR but with WPA (times ten, which is the "hitting" column) instead of batting runs. Clutch is WPA*10 - batting runs.
In addition to some interesting names on the list (Asdrubal Cabrera, Nyjer Morgan, Pedro Feliz, Juan Rivera, and Dallas Braden) there are some interesting names not on the list (Dustin Pedroia, Alex Rodriguez, Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Morneau, Matt Cain, and Johan Santana.)
|9||Roy Halladay||Blue Jays||5.2|
|16||Josh Beckett||Red Sox||4.6|
|17||Cliff Lee||- - -||4.6|
|24||Jon Lester||Red Sox||4.1|
|29||Marco Scutaro||Blue Jays||3.8||12||-3||6||5||16|
|32||Aaron Hill||Blue Jays||3.8||17||4||3||1||16|
|33||Kevin Youkilis||Red Sox||3.8||27||-4||2||-4||13|
|37||Nyjer Morgan||- - -||3.6||1||-4||23||-2||15|
|45||Gavin Floyd||White Sox||3.4|
|46||Victor Martinez||- - -||3.4||19||5||0||0||15|
|53||Scott Rolen||- - -||3.2||15||5||3||1||13|
|56||Matt Holliday||- - -||3.1||17||-7||3||-5||15|
What's that, you're up for a little schadenfreude? Ok, but Royals fans, look away...
|Vernon Wells||Blue Jays||-2.1||-18||-10||-20||1||15|
|Yuniesky Betancourt||- - -||-1.5||-19||2||-10||4||10|
|Ben Francisco||- - -||-1.4||-12||-15||-13||-2||12|