Tuesday, December 27, 2011

MVP This, MVP That

One of the toughest arguments to settle in baseball is that of the Most Valuable Player award. Does it go to the absolute best player in the league, or does it go to the best player on a team that makes it to the postseason (i.e., the player created the most value by being the biggest reason Team X made the playoffs as opposed to missing them). It's incredibly subjective, and despite being a major advocate of the former, I've little choice but to accept the latter's point of view as....somewhat valid. After all, they're right in the sense that being awesome and pushing your team to .500 and still nowhere close to the playoffs as opposed to like .450 doesn't do all that much for your team except morale and jersey sales. Stuff like this kind of makes that argument look really stupid though.

Anyway, for this year's NL MVP, the argument is simple. If you wanted to pick the player that generated the most wins, it's Kemp. If you wanted to pick the guy who did the best job of leading his team to the postseason, it's....Roy Halladay, or something? And if you want to pick the guy that did the best job of leading his team to the postseason and come from the planet Tardulon where "pitchers" are not "players", it's Braun. Fine. Argue that last point if you want. But don't do it like Tracy Ringolsby. You see, even though you would think a guy wearing an obnoxious cowboy hat in his profile picture would act like he's way smarter than you and have a my-way-or-the-highway attitude towards his own opinions, well.....heh....stereotype's right on I guess.

Thank goodness Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun was able to claim the National League MVP.

That's the way it is supposed to be.

Says you, my friend. Says you. Why don't you go ahead and tell me why?

Braun was No. 1 on 20 ballots and No. 2 on 12 ballots. Runner-up Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers was voted No. 1 on 10 ballots. One ballot had Braun's teammate, Prince Fielder, and one had Justin Upton of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the No. 1 slot.

There is no argument over the worthiness of Braun.

Really. None huh? Matt Kemp was the best individual player in the National League. That seems like it's a decent argument!

There's also no argument about the wonderful season that Kemp put together, but it's hard to buy the claim that he was the NL MVP.


He was the Player of the Year, honored by the Major League Baseball Players Association and by voters for the Hank Aaron Award, which goes to the best position player in each league.

Oh, because he won an award that says he is the best player in Major League Baseball, a set of players that contains the subset of National League players, and an award that says he is the best position player in the National League, a set of players that includes National League Most Valuable Player, Ryan Braun.


He also was honored by the Dodgers, who signed him to an eight-year, $160 million contract extension just a year removed from when members of their front office and previous coaching staff questioned his attitude and wondered whether he could be a part of an eventual contending team.

Could not be less relevant. But at least this sentence didn't contradict your premise.

Braun had a sparkling season. But MVP stands for Most Valuable Player. Put an emphasis on the term "valuable." Why is that so hard for anyone to understand?

I picture Tracy Ringolsby beating his peers senseless with a baseball bat while reading that last sentence.

For all the newfangled forms of statistical analysis that have been developed, there is still one stat that has the ultimate value in baseball, and pretty much any other sport: victories.

And those newfangled statistics say that Kemp was worth more victories than anyone in the National League. That's why they invented things like WAR and WARP and DERRRRP and NERDVAR, to translate player performance into victories.

The Dodgers didn't win. They finished third in the NL West. Players on third-place teams don't even get postseason shares anymore. That's how much value a third-place finish has.


[At this point in writing the article, Mr. Ringolsby stopped writing to smash several expensive items in his living room with a baseball bat]

Anyway, back to reading about what place the 2011 Los Angeles Dodgers finished in. I mean, uh, the NL MVP.

There is the claim that without Kemp, the Dodgers would have finished somewhere in Baja California.

Ah. Addressing the opposition's argument. This is good. Now, Tracy, how would you go about arguing against this claim? How do you assert Ryan Braun's superior value?

This begs the question of how poorly are the Dodgers run that a team with the Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw, and the Hank Aaron Award winner, Kemp, couldn't even find itself in a pennant race.

Of course. By going off on a weird tangent about how Ned Colletti is a dunderfuck.

The Dodgers were out of the NL West race before Memorial Day. They didn't spend a day in first place after April 4. They were 14 games below .500 by July 6, and never were more than three games above .500.

The Dodgers were a "meh" team that finished in third place.

The Dodgers had to paddle upstream just to inch above .500, finishing 82-79.

The Dodgers were a "meh" team that finished in third place.

The Dodgers were never closer to first place than 10 games after Aug. 6.

The Dodgers were a "meh" team that finished in third place.

They finished 11-1/2 games out.

The Dodgers were a "meh" team that finished in third place.

They had a winning record against only three teams with winning records: Atlanta (5-2), St. Louis (4-3) and Detroit (2-1).

The Dodgers were a "meh" team that finished in third place.

Have you ever heard of being succinct?

Anyone out there think that whether the Dodgers had a winning record against the Phillies or Giants has anything to do with whether Ryan Braun or Matt Kemp should win the fucking MVP???


(This "stat" of his is even stupider than it sounds. The Dodgers only had 6 NL opponents with records above .500. They were even with the Giants and had the upper hand against Atlanta and St. Louis. In the AL, they only played 2 teams with a winning record and won the season series against one of them. What exactly does this prove, even external to the MVP argument?)

Braun and the Brewers, meanwhile, won the NL Central. They faced the pressure of being a preseason favorite, and Braun and his teammates handled it well.

You know what, Tracy, you can have this point if you want. One can certainly argue that there's more value in performing well in a high-pressure pennant race than performing well on a middle-of-the-pack team. Like I said, I don't agree it should be a criteria for winning the award, but it's a legit argument that's tough to absolutely disprove given the subjectivity. Fine. That's pretty much all you need to say about the Brewers....

They knocked off the NL West-champion Arizona Diamondbacks in the Division Series before being upset by eventual world champion St. Louis in the Championship Series.

....but what would this column be without a bunch of superfluous sentences?

As Braun was quick to point out, it was an award that was about more than him. It was his teammates, his manager and coaches, and even the Brewers ownership who played a role in his claiming the MVP award for the Brewers for the fourth time, joining Rollie Fingers in 1981, and Robin Yount in 1982 and 1989.

"A reason I won is they put a better team around me," he said.

Ryan Braun's response to the media's questions about him winning the award, in no way, argue that he, not Matt Kemp, is the MVP. If anything, putting this comment here only adds fuel to the fire that people besides Braun were responsible for him winning the award.

Kemp put up strong numbers, hitting .324 with 39 home runs and 126 RBI, but Braun's numbers compared quite nicely. Braun did, after all, lead the NL with a .597 slugging percentage, .994 OPS, and 77 extra-base hits. He was second with a .332 batting average, drove in 111 runs, hit 33 home runs and stole 33 bases.

The two were pretty similar at the plate (with probably a slight edge to Braun). Ryan Braun plays left field. Matt Kemp plays center field. That is a very important difference that tips the scales in the favor of Kemp. So don't go the stat route. You won't win that one.

And he was nervous while he wait at home in Malibu, Calif., for the announcement Tuesday .

"I woke up early and went for a drive," Braun said. "From about 9:30 a.m., on I sat outside my home with my cell phone and home phone, hoping I would get a call from a number I didn't recognize."

He got the call.

Uh huh, great.

Kemp didn't, although he did receive 10 first-place votes, 16 second-place votes and six third-place votes to finish second ahead of Fielder, and Upton. Braun, Kemp, Fielder and Upton were the only players who were included on the ballots of all 32 voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Fittingly, Braun won.

"Fittingly, Braun won?" Really? Well, here's what I took away from this article. Go ahead and stop me if I oversimplified.

1) Kemp is the best player in the National League
2) The Dodgers were kind of mediocre and finished in third
3) The Brewers won their division
4) Braun is excited to be the MVP
5) Braun attributes much of the award to his teammates and other members of the Brewers organization
6) Statistically, the two players were pretty similar, however "newfangled" statistics also exist.

And THAT is why it's so fitting Braun won.


Biggus Rickus said...

He could have just tweeted:

"Fitting that Braun won MVP, because his team won and Kemp's didn't."

I guess there is a place for twitter in the world if it would replace needlessly redundant sports columns.

Chris W said...

Braun played left field....poorly. Kemp played center field, above averagely.

Shocked that Ringolsby--who is in my experience a world class dickhead of a writer--didn't bring up how Braun had fewer strikeouts.

Teh productive outzorz!!!!!!!!!!

Adam said...

People just don't comprehend that star baseball player inherently has a very small impact on his team relative to other sports.