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« You Make The Call | Main | Playoff Predictions »

September 30, 2005

Struck a Chord?

I seem to have struck a chord regarding my choice for NL MVP. I have received quite a few comments for those making arguments for both Albert Pujols of the Cardinals and Derrick Lee of the Cubs. I thought I'd use this column to again state my case as to why Andruw Jones of the Braves should win the award. I'll begin by defining the award, which is given to the player who has been most valuable to his team and, more importantly, where would his team have finished without him in the line-up.

If looked at this way then Derrick Lee won't win because even with him in the line-up the Cubs are a crappy team that will finish below .500. By this same rationale Albert Pujols shouldn't win because even without him in the line-up the Cardinals probably would have won the NL Central, which is the second weakest division in baseball behind only the NL West. In contrast, the Braves compete in the very competive NL East, the only division in baseball in which all teams will finish over .500 and all teams were separated by just 5 games two weeks ago. Certainly I have to admit that Pujols and Lee have had better seasons statistically than Andruw Jones, however, neither player carried his team offensively for long stretches as Andruw has done this season nor have the Cardinals or the Cubs played as many rookies as the Braves, which added to the pressure Jones played with. Furthermore, Andruw Jones defense is far more superb then Pujols and Lee and is in a much more demanding position (centerfield vs. 1st base). That said, I'm probably the one who is going to be writing a blog soon and congratulating Pujols on winning the award as I think he's going to get "sympathy" votes from a lot of writers who have grudginly voted for Bonds the past few years. However, this vote, more then others of recent years will probably come down to who garners more 2nd and 3rd place votes and that's where I beleive Andruw has a chance.

Posted by Kevin O'Leary at 7:26 PM


Just playing devil's advocate here, and taking a different tack. Okay, so the argument for Andruw is that the Braves would have done much worse withour him than the Cards sans Pujols, or Chicago w/o Lee. First, here are the final standings:
St. Louis 100-62, .617
Atlanta 90-72, .556
Chicago NL 79-83, .488

Well, we can test the theory of how the teams would do without their respective MVP candidates. Let's agree to replace them with an average player, both offensively and defensively, at their position: Jones at CF, Lee and Pujols at 1B. Using Runs Created, we can replace the players...
-Atlanta. The Braves scored 769 runs, and Andruw created 111 of them in 433 outs. An average CF would have created only 79 runs in the same amount of outs, so Atlanta would have only scored 737 runs with that "average" CF in place. In the field, Andruw saved about 55 runs, while the average CF was worth 51 runs; this works out to Atlanta allowing 678 runs. Using the pythagorean theorem, Atlanta would have finished 88-74, 2 games worse.
-St. Louis. 805 runs scored, Pujols created 141 of them in 395 outs. An average 1B would have created only 70 runs in those same outs, giving St. Louis only 734 runs scored. At first, Pujols saved 26 runs, while an average 1st baseman would have saved 24, making the Cardinals allow 636 runs. The Cardinals without Pujols would have been 93-69, a full 7 games worse.
-Chicago. Scored 703 runs, 147 of which Lee created in 394 outs. The average 1B would have created only 73 runs with the same outs, and Chicago would scored only 629 runs with him. Lee saved 39 runs afield, while the average player would have saved only 25 with his playing time, giving the Cubs 728 runs allowed. So, without Lee, Chicago would have been 69-93, a full 10 games worse!

As you can see, Lee is the best player in baseball by a variety of methodologies. But say we eliminate him from the running because of his team's poor record... Using your own argument ("Atlanta wouldn't have been as good without Jones as St. Louis would have been without Pujols"), Pujols still deserves the MVP. Let's do a breakdown:
Braves w/ Jones: 90-72
Cards w/o Pujols: 93-69
Even if Pujols was never born, and St. Louis was trotting out Joe Average at first, they would have been three games better than Atlanta.
Braves w/o Jones: 88-74
Cards w/ Pujols: 100-62
This feels like 'It's a Wonderful Life'... If Jones had never played this year, but Pujols had, the Cardinals would have crushed the Braves by 12 games in the standings.
Either way, St. Louis finishes higher. And don't forget the +/- of the records vs. an average replacement:
Lee +10 wins
Pujols +7 wins
Jones +2 wins
Any way you look at it, Pujols is better, more valuable, more of "a winner" than Jones. He's probably better than Jones at chess, or at making souffles too.

Posted by: Goo on October 2, 2005 11:40 PM

more importantly, where would his team have finished without him in the line-up.

Umm, do you have selective memory. The Braves have won what 13 straight division titles, there is no reason to believe that Andruw Jones is the reason for all of them...while certainly he helped this year, the Braves are simply a great organization, and the Cubs are a crappy organization. Derrick Lee had the Best Season statistically speaking, he deserves the MVP...is the goal to make it to the playoffs or to win the WS. Cause none of these guys will be putting any kind of ring on his finger...so who really cares who finishes in second place.

Posted by: Mike2 on October 25, 2005 2:57 AM

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