This kicks off my Extreme Awards where I give out the best and worst awards of 2010 for all kinds of things. Let’s get started on a more serious note. My NL MVP Award goes to Albert Pujols, over the other candidates Joey Votto, Ryan Zimmerman and Carlos Gonzalez.
Conventional Offensive Stats (avg/obp/slg):
Cargo: .336/.376/.598 (26 SB, 8 CS)
Really Cargo doesn’t even belong on this list. He hit for a great average, hit a lot of homeruns, and recorded a lot of RBI, but 2 of those three things just aren’t that important (average and RBI). Cargo walked rarely, and was below average defensively according to UZR. UZR does tend to fluctuate a lot, indicating that one-year data is considered a small sample, but it’s all we have to go by for the young Rock. He’s a rising star, but he just doesn’t compete with the other three here.
Votto mashed like none other this year, recording the highest wOBA in the NL, 19 points better than Pujols. But Pujols wins this battle for 2 key reasons: he played 9 more games than Votto, and I believe he is a better defender. While Votto’s averages are higher (wOBA, WAR), there were nine games in which he didn’t appear where he could have played a role in the outcome. Nine games that Pujols did play. As for the defense, I mentioned before that UZR tends to have a high variance, and that when possible, career averages are a better indication of true ability. Pujols has average +6 runs per season over his career, while Votto has only averaged about +2.5. So, despite Votto’s beating out Pujols this year by 1.2 runs defensively, I believe strongly that it was a quirk of UZR process, and not a true indication of ability. Votto gets my Silver Medal.
As for Zimmerman, his offensive stats may look a little weak in comparison to the other three, but his glove is one of the best in the game. He put up a +13 UZR this season, and he has averaged more than 10 runs saved defensively per year throughout his career. A run saved is as good as a run produced and, in combination with his well above-average offensive abilities, Zimmerman earns my 3rd-place vote this season.
As for the AL MVP, it was really a one-man race much of the season, with a lot of guys vying for second. Josh Hamilton, despite missing 29 games, performed head and shoulders above the rest. Total games played mattered in the case of Votto and Pujols because they were so close both offensively and defensively. However, 24 of Hamilton’s 29 absences from the lineup came in September—while recovering from an injury—after his Rangers had all but locked up the AL West.
Here are your conventional offensive stats:
Hamilton: .359/.411/.633 (8 SB, 1 CS)
Adrian Beltre: .321/.365/.553 (2 SB, 1 CS)
Evan Longoria: .294/.372/.507 (15 SB, 5 CS)
Carl Crawford: .307/.356/.495 (47 SB, 10 CS)
Jose Bautista: .260/.378/.617 (9 SB, 2 CS)
Beltre and Longoria, along with Zimmerman, are two of the best third baseman in the game defensively. Beltre’s glove has been below-average in just one season since the advent of UZR in 2002, and Longoria has saved 44 runs in his first three years in the Bigs. Though they have both been phenomenal defensively, Hamilton has strung together back-to-back years with respectable UZR figures, playing one of the most demanding positions on the field, Center. The fact is, no player matched Hamilton’s offensive and defensive contribution this season. Beltre gets my Silver, while Longoria takes the Bronze.
My 4th-place guy, Crawford, has always been a solid player at the plate, increasing his value with his speed on the basepaths. He stole bases at 78% this season, and I’m sure his speed from first and second to home helped the rays out on all the singles and doubles Longoria was hitting. wOBA drives the offensive side of the WAR statistic on fangraphs, but does not include stolen bases or any other measurement of speed, so Crawford gets screwed a little bit. That speed, however, does get measured indirectly in his defensive range. Crawford put up a staggering +18.4 UZR this season, and he has averaged +13 UZR per season over the course of his career.
Bautista hit 54 HR…and walked a lot. This is a good combination, but he’s a loss defensively and he strikes out too much. But hey, being the fifth best player in my book means something, right? I’ll bet he’s sitting by his computer right now waiting for this article to come out.
Now for your pitchers—your hurlers, your aces, your gunslingers. The AL Cy Young goes to Seattle’s Felix Hernandez. Not a big surprise if you read my article last week. I won’t repeat myself too much, but Felix has the winning formula: lots of ground balls, a high strikeout rate, a low walk rate, and the sheepiest little grin when he thinks something is funny. By the way, can you think of someone else with those first three attributes? Oh right, Roy Halladay. He’s pretty good I hear. Let’s take a look at the stats this season…
League Average: 4.08 ERA, 7.13 K/9, 3.28 BB/9 (Fangraphs refuses to publish the league average GB%, but I believe it’s between 40% and 45%)
Hernandez: 2.27 ERA, 53.9 GB%, 8.36 K/9, 2.52 BB/9
Halladay: 2.44 ERA, 51.2 GB%, 7.86 K/9, 1.08 BB/9
These are some similar numbers. Felix has slight advantages in both strikeouts and GB%, while Halladay has a more significant edge in reducing free passes. This leads me to my NL Cy Young winner (who has already been introduced), Roy Halladay of the Phillies. He was my guy before his no-no to open up the ALDS on Wednesday, and that performance only strengthened my opinion of him.
Other receiving honorable mentions include…
Notice that David Price, C.C. Sabathia and Ubaldo Jimenez are conspicuously missing from the list. I did not forget them. They are simply not as good as those listed ahead of them here, based on all the best measurements of pitching ability and success. It is my opinion that individual wins and teams wins should not drive MVP/Cy Young awards.