Over the last few weeks or so, the words "Adam Jones" and "Most Valuable Player" have been contained in the same sentence. And, as is usually the case with underdog MVP candidates, the hometown fans, (fans of the Baltimore Orioles in this instance), are leading the charge. This time, however, even some prominent national baseball writers are beginning to stir things up with tweets like this.
So ... Where do you have Adam Jones on your AL MVP ballot? Top five?— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) August 14, 2014
Additionally, Dan Plesac, former major league pitcher and current MLB Network analyst, said Jones should actually win the award. But our own Neil Weinberg, who runs Beyond the Box Score's Twitter handle, vigorously disagrees with Morosi and Plesac and anyone else with the notion Adam Jones should be considered for the AL MVP award.
Adam Jones is having a very good season but he's probably not even the 10th most valuable player in the AL.— Beyond the Box Score (@BtBScore) August 9, 2014
I'm on Neil's side of the fence on this one. Adam Jones is undeniably having a fantastic year at the plate (.342 wOBA and 116 wRC+) and has greatly improved his defense (3.4 UZR), but he shouldn't be in the MVP conversation. Why, you ask? Well, for starters, Mike Trout plays in the American League, so there's that. But it's also because Jones is basically duplicating his 2012 season, in which he finished 6th in MVP voting.
So let's first compare 2012 to this season, and see where he ranks among league leaders in the AL.
Note: WAR ranks do not include pitchers.
Standing alone, Jones' numbers are very solid, but since we're talking about the Most Valuable Player award, it's all about how he stacks up against the rest of the league. And the comparisons aren't favorable for Jones.
He's only created 16 percent more runs than league average. Plus, I'm leaving out an important statistic at which Jones has dramatically floundered -- on-base percentage. Jones has an OBP of .316 (he had a .334 OBP in 2012) which ranks 53rd among the 77 qualified hitters in the AL. His eye at the plate needs some major retooling as he's walked in less than three percent of his plate appearances and has swung at the third-most pitches outside of the strike zone. If by some miracle Jones was named MVP, his OBP would be the lowest in the award's history, which was instituted by Major League Baseball in 1911. That alone should turn voters away.
By now, you're probably wondering why I haven't mentioned Jones' 23 home runs or .197 isolated slugging. The truth is, when it comes to MVP debates, if a player doesn't have eye-popping peripherals the number of home runs he has isn't all that pertinent.
Looking at the AL leaderboard, I would vote for at least eight hitters ahead of Jones -- in no particular order: Mike Trout, Michael Brantley, Jose Abreu, Alex Gordon, Jose Bautista, Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and probably a few others. Keep in mind that those are just hitters, although I'm a firm believer that a pitcher should win the MVP if he's the best player in baseball. Why can't he be the best pitcher and the best player?
Most of the players I listed above are among the league leaders in Wins Above Replacement, but WAR wasn't my deciding factor in making these selections, and it isn't for members of the BBWAA when they cast their votes. When looking at MVP candidates, I tend to care more about their offensive game than their defensive contributions, and since WAR includes defensive metrics I don't place an over-bearing value to it. I like my MVPs to be offensive Gods, something Jones is far from.
Essentially what I'm trying to say is if I had a vote, Jones would not make my top 10, and might not even make my top 15. But before I get jumped by Orioles' fans, I'm not discounting the fact he's a tremendous player; he's just not worthy of an MVP.
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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.
Justin Schultz is a contributor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @JSchu23.