Tap-In Question: Should a team's record have any impact on MLB's MVP races? - BaltimoreBaseball.com
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Tap-In Question: Should a team’s record have any impact on MLB’s MVP races?

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One of the things I like about this joint is that we have plenty of old-school thinkers and a bunch of new-aged baseball philosophers.

We can talk about advanced statistics and the way it used to be and meet somewhere in the middle.

I like to think as I’ve progressed as a baseball writer, I’ve become a lot more open to advanced metrics. I like to decide which ones work for me, which ones are occasionally useful tools and which ones I believe are inherently flawed (defensive metrics, I’m talking about you).

When I make decisions, such as voting for seasonal awards, I try to make it a balance of my previous thinking and more detailed information that is now available.

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But I’ve got to admit I may be a dinosaur when it comes to the Most Valuable Player awards. If it’s reasonably close, I think the tiebreaker – or maybe even a little weightier than a tiebreaker – should go to players whose teams have made the playoffs that season.

That, to me, is why it is called, “most valuable” and not “best player.”

The younger generation of baseball fans and baseball writers scoff at this notion. Mike Trout, the 2016 AL MVP, couldn’t make the other guys in his lineup hit better. Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton and Cincinnati’s Joey Votto, two of the three finalists for this year’s NL MVP, couldn’t make their staffs pitch better or stay healthier.

I get it. I’m not saying great players on bad teams should be penalized. Not really. I’m switching that thought around. I think great players on playoff teams should be rewarded. And my reasoning is that they are playing for more down the stretch. The pressure is more intense. The need to step up and carry their teammates is more pronounced. There’s just more at stake, and that’s why I think the playoff ramifications should be a factor in making a MVP decision.

Not the factor. But a factor.

As I wrote earlier this week, I kind of expected Stanton, the sport’s home run leader in 2017, to win the NL MVP race – and Stanton did, by two points ahead of Votto. Stanton’s Marlins finished in second place, 20 games behind Washington, in the dreadful NL East with a 77-85 record. Votto’s Reds were in the cellar of the NL Central at 68-94.

So, if it were up to me, I would have given my first-place vote to Paul Goldschmidt, who may have had the best all-around season (offensively, defensively baserunning) in the NL, and played for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the NL’s first wild card team. Their 93-69 record was the third best in the NL.

This isn’t a new issue, a new-aged stats issue. We all remember around here when Cal Ripken Jr., won the 1991 AL MVP over Detroit’s Prince Fielder. Ripken’s Orioles were 67-95 and finished sixth of seven in the AL East while Fielder’s Tigers (84-78) failed to make the playoffs but finished tied for second in the division.

Honestly, I’m not sure that was right then. And I don’t think Stanton was the right call now. I don’t like players on terrible teams being named “most valuable” unless they were so far above the other candidates that the race isn’t close.

But maybe I’m just a crochety old dude stuck in the 20th century. There’s merit to that thought.

What says you?

Tap-In Question: Should a team’s finish have a bearing on the MVP races?

20 Comments

20 Comments

  1. general81

    November 17, 2017 at 7:49 am

    Good points, Dan. Regarding Cal’s 1991 MVP season, the Orioles would have been lousy without him, so did he really deserve the award? My position is they would have been even lousier, and he DID deserve the award.

    I’m a crotchety old dude, too, but on a different branch of the crotchety tree than you. To me, Most Valuable is the same as Best. If Jonathan Schoop had won the Triple Crown this year – or any player on a non-playoff team – I think he should be named MVP. It’s kind of like the Heisman Trophy – does it truly go to the “most outstanding player in college football,” or to the best player with the biggest hype machine on the highest-ranked team?

    I have no argument with Altuve or Stanton winning the MVP this year. Stanton, in particular, was head and shoulders above anyone else; to deny him the MVP would have been wrong.

    My two cents: The MVP should go to the best, most outstanding player in the league, no matter where his team finishes in the standings.

    • Dan Connolly

      November 17, 2017 at 9:26 am

      Good stuff, General. Drink chip. I think our disagreement comes down to whether best and most valuable are the same thing. If they are, then I have to get off my own damn lawn.

  2. Boog Robinson Robinson

    November 17, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Age old debate … I personally am with the General on this one and give it to the best player, even though that danged “V” words indicates otherwise. If I had my druthers, I’d have the award renamed to MOP … Most Outstanding Player. But until that happens, the age old debate lives on and we have something to talk about in November and December. Perhaps in thier wisdome that’s what Baseball’s Founding fathers intended all along?

  3. Paul Folkemer

    November 17, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    I agree with General and Boog. To me, the best player is the most valuable player. What’s more valuable than being the best at what you do?

    Whether a team made the playoffs doesn’t hold much weight for me in terms of who’s the MVP — especially when the team has plenty of great players contributing to their success and runs away with the division, like Houston. The Astros won the AL West by 21 games, so they would’ve sailed into the playoffs with or without Altuve. (That’s not to say that Altuve shouldn’t have won MVP.) So the argument works both ways — a terrible team may still lose without their MVP candidate, just as a great team can still win without their MVP candidate.

    • Dan Connolly

      November 17, 2017 at 2:32 pm

      I get that. But how they perform when the season truly means something I think points to value. I’m not advocating the “they’d still be in last/first place” concept. But I think there is a distinction between those playing for something and how they perform versus those playing for nothing.

      • Paul Folkemer

        November 17, 2017 at 4:16 pm

        But just because a team doesn’t make the playoffs doesn’t mean they were playing for nothing. Every team has the same goal: to win games. So I think whatever player most helps his team win games — i.e., the best player in the league — is therefore the most valuable. Even if that team doesn’t win very many games, it doesn’t take away from the fact that the player had a great performance and had a huge impact on his team.

        Plus, there are plenty of teams who were in the playoff race until the last week or two of the season but fell short. Those teams were definitely playing for something, even if they didn’t make the playoffs in the end.If anything, those teams had more to play for in August/September than a team like the Astros, who already had the division well locked up.

  4. IndyOriole

    November 17, 2017 at 1:49 pm

    No, the team performance shouldn’t have anything to do with it. The terminology is just semantics. Valuable, best, whatever – it’s the same thing. It’s not a team award. Since it’s an individual award, it shouldn’t matter whether the player’s teammates are Max Scherzer or Chris Sale instead of Ubaldo Jimenez or Bronson Arroyo.

  5. GSISDANNO

    November 17, 2017 at 2:27 pm

    I have always felt the team’s record should an important consideration. The award is Most VALUABLE Player, not Player of the Year or Most Outstanding Player. Not that my opinion means much. There have been some major exceptions to this viewpoint – Andre Dawson in 1987, Cal Ripken in 1991, Dale Murphy in 1983. How valuable could the guy be if the team was last?
    Reminds me of what Branch Rickey told Ralph Liner when he wanted a raise after hitting 52 home runs … “We coulda finished last without you.”

    • IndyOriole

      November 17, 2017 at 4:25 pm

      It’s easy to see and understand this popular viewpoint. But value is perceived and people’s opinion of what valuable means, varies. Who says it’s the most valuable towards making the playoffs? A star player on a bad team is still very valuable to that team.

    • Dan Connolly

      November 17, 2017 at 6:36 pm

      Loving the discussions. Drink chips

  6. Raymo

    November 17, 2017 at 4:28 pm

    I’m in the camp of those who think that MVP is synonymous with best. And, I think modern Advanced stats such as WAR provide an objective way to determine who was truly the best. Perhaps some weighted average of the various forms of WAR could be used to remove all subjectivity. On the other hand, it’s nice to have something to debate in the Tap Room this time of year.

    • Dan Connolly

      November 17, 2017 at 6:36 pm

      Agreed on the debate. Love this place.

  7. 5brooks5

    November 18, 2017 at 9:07 am

    This is what I love about baseball and this site in particular. A discussion, a discourse, an exchange of ideas, with no name calling or your wrong I,m right. When is opening day?

    • Dan Connolly

      November 18, 2017 at 10:18 pm

      Thanks Brooks. And March 29 — March — is right around the corner.

  8. boss61

    November 18, 2017 at 10:09 am

    Dan, first and foremost, I love your blog and wish you every continuing professional success.

    Second and on your question, it would be easy to objectify the process. A player whose WAR is the greatest percentage of his team’s WAR is the most valuable. No muss; no fuss. If you want to choose among only playoff teams, restrict the above analysis to those ten teams (5 teams in each league).

    Wouldn’t be much fun, but it would remove the emotion and sentimentality.

    • Dan Connolly

      November 18, 2017 at 10:19 pm

      Thanks Boss. And I’m all for the fun of it. The debates are what makes this sport so much fun to cover and watch.

  9. willmiranda

    November 19, 2017 at 10:46 am

    From the crotchety wing. Too many variables. Even “objective” statistics are grounded in subjective, anecdotal data, e.g., hit or error, ball or strike. And the interrelationship of variables is even more of a judgment call. Anyway, I think the notion of most valuable or best or whatever is also variable, even from year to year. To create distance by time, I was and am happy to recognize Yogi Berra as MVP because he was the acknowledged linchpin of a dominant team. I am just as content with Ernie Banks as a heroic performer on a horrid team when the better teams had no such performer. Like Dan, I am biased toward winners; but there are years when winning teams are made up of very good players working very well together and individuals on other teams are having historic seasons. It’s great when intuition and statistics coincide, but baseball –and life– are too interesting for that.

    • Raymo

      November 19, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      Very good points, you make a compelling case.

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