Saturday, November 20, 2004

MVP? Who cares?

Yes, you heard me correctly, who cares? You hear about the voting for the Hall of Fame and one of the things people mention the most is how many MVPs or where the hitter fell in the voting for MVP. Right now there is all of the debate that happens every year about whether or not Player A should have won, or whether Player B got the short shrift. You hear people discuss the meaning of "valuable", although if they explore that meaning, I also think "most" and "player" should be debated as well.

It's also time for Manager of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Gold Gloves and Cy Young. The debate over the meaning of these doesn't extend as far as the debate on "valuable" but there is some contention over the meaning of "rookie". There is also little insight into how the Gold Gloves are selected since the best defensive player rarely wins the award by most objective measures.

Well, my position is that they are all irrelevant. It is just a way to keep baseball in the news between the end of the season and the winter meetings. I mean, wouldn't it make sense to give the manager award to the manager of the team with the most wins? Nah, because he may have had the best players, and the manager with the best players SHOULD win. Why give an award to a first year player? Does it have any later relevance? I mean this blog could have been called "The Hamelin Academy" or "Colemangoogoo" or "Listach and the Banshees" for all the relevance some of the past winners have had.

Nowadays we have a great metric like Win Shares and we can use it to evaluate players' performance in all areas. Why do we need voters to tell us who is the best and brightest when we can see for ourselves? So, without any further ado, here are the top five players and pitchers in each league according to Win Shares. If you want to declare one of them the best, the brightest, the most valuable, the best on a team that got to the playoffs, the player that made the biggest difference on a team or whatever, go ahead. For me, I'll just look at those five and say, wow, they had some pretty impressive seasons.

Top Five AL Win Shares
1. Gary Sheffield 31
2. Alex Rodriquez 30
2. Hideki Matsui 30
2. Miguel Tejada 30
5. Vladimir Guerrero 29

Top Five NL Win Shares
1. Barry Bonds 53
2. Albert Pujols 40
3. Scott Rolen 38
4. Adrian Beltre 37
4. Bobby Abreu 37

Top Five AL Pitcher Win Shares
1. Johan Santana 27
2. Curt Schilling 22
3. Brad Radke 19
3. Mark Buehrle 19
5. Jake Westbrook 17
5. Ryan Drese 17
5. Pedro Martinez 17

Top Five NL Pitcher Win Shares
1. Randy Johnson 25
2. Ben Sheets 21
3. Roger Clemens 20
3. Carl Pavano 20
5. Carlos Zambrano 19
5. Jason Schmidt 19
5. Livan Hernandez 19
5. Roy Oswalt 19

For defensive categories, try this link. I have sorted this database for the highest fielding Win Shares at shortstop for both leagues. (I was really surprised to see how many Derek Jeter had.) You can use it to look and see who has the most fielding Win Shares at every position. Then you can look further into the lists and see where other players total Win Shares are. (Like for me, seeing that Jim Edmonds was sixth in total Win Shares in both leagues.) Trust me, it will be more fun and useful that any votes or awards you will see. If you want to think about the meaning and use of words, read William Safire's weekly column "On Language" in the New York Times Magazine. (Subscription required.)

As for HOF voting, I hope to tackle that next week.


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