The National League Most Valuable Player results were just released, with the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols winning his third MVP award and becoming the first unanimous MVP since Barry Bonds in 2002. I had one of the 32 votes (two from each National League market). Here’s how I voted.
First, the process: I know how much fun it is to bash the writers who vote for these things—and there’s certainly room to argue about decisions—but there isn’t anybody I know who doesn’t take their vote extremely seriously. I sat down in the final few days of the season and formulated a list of about 25 players who I thought were at least worth looking at for a spot in the top 10. From there, I compared offensive players over 20 different statistical categories. I looked at a handful of pitchers (Tim Lincecum, Javier Vazquez, Adam Wainwright, Chris Carpenter and Dan Haren mainly), but in the end, I didn’t end up putting one of them on my ballot. I believe the threshhold for a pitcher as MVP is much higher, simply because they only play once every five days.
Here’s how my ballot looked in the end, after several revisions.
1. Albert Pujols
2. Hanley Ramirez
3. Chase Utley
4. Prince Fielder
5. Troy Tulowitzki
6. Ryan Howard
7. Derrek Lee
8. Pablo Sandoval
9. Ryan Braun
10. Matt Kemp
Now, what I gather most of you are probably wondering about is: Why didn’t I have Ryan Zimmerman on the ballot? (Over on Twitter, a threat has already been made against my yet-to-be-born children and grandchildren—without any knowledge about whether I had a vote. It was facetious—I think. :-)
Zim got two 10th-place votes, and in one incarnation of my ballot, I had him there, too. He fares much better in stats such as WARP (win above replacement player) because of his defense—he was fourth overall in WARP, which is why he almost made my ballot. But in the end, his offensive numbers didn’t measure up for me.
Of the 20 stats I used, he placed in the top 10 in just seven of them—runs (4th), hits (10th), total bases (5th), RBI (tied for 6th), VORP (9th) and WARP (4th). In stats like on-base percentage, OPS, slugging percentage, adjusted OPS, runs created and the like, he didn’t make the top 10.
Compare that to a player like Sandoval, who was 6th in slugging percentage, 7th in OPS, 7th in adjusted OPS, and placed in the top 10 in runs created, adjusted batting runs, adjusted batting wins and offensive win percentage. He also ranked above Zimmerman in VORP (he was 5th), and though he was below Zimmerman in WARP, he was a still-respectable ninth. Plus, he played for a team that was in the race for a playoff spot until mid-September.
That was the other factor for me, and it’s one you can debate all day. Most of the players on my ballot at least played for teams who had a chance at the playoffs well past the All-Star break. If they weren’t compiling their stats in the heat of a race, they were at least trying to keep their teams on the fringe of the hunt. Zimmerman was the only player I considered whose team didn’t win 60 games.
However great he was defensively, however many steps forward he took in terms of plate patience and ability to string together long stretches of production, he did it for a team that was going to finish in last place with or without him. In my mind, Zimmerman is primarily in the MVP conversation because of his defense, and he was correctly rewarded for that with his Gold Glove. But there were plenty of players who either clearly surpassed him statistically (Ramirez, Fielder, Braun) or turned in similar or superior performances for better teams (Utley, Tulowitzki, Howard Lee, Sandoval, Kemp). Pujols, obviously, did both.
So that was my methodology. If you want to rip it, discuss it or suggest something different, join the live chat I’m hosting tomorrow.
And one final word: Based on the year he had, I’m guessing Zimmerman will have many more shots at an MVP award.