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.
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?