With the scorching hot dog days of summer coming to a close, the MVP race is really beginning to heat up. The race has been discussed recently with the obvious front-runner from Canada’s point of view being the Jays’ Jose Bautista. South of the border though, discussion has focused on the Yankees’ Curtis Granderson, a trio of Red Sox (Ellsbury, Pedroia, and Gonzalez), and even Justin Verlander of the Tigers (a pitcher!).
To the non-biased fan it seems pretty clear who the MVP should be, but due to silly reasons it’s possible Bautista will in fact not win the end of the season award. First a look at the numbers (Updated through Sunday August 28) reveals Bautista’s slash line is much more impressive than the other candidates (AL leaders in bold):
At first glance it’s quite obvious the only real slash line threat to Bautista is the Red Sox’s Adrian Gonzalez. The sizeable difference comes in the OPS category where Gonzalez’s 0.965 (Granderson’s OPS of 0.971 is higher, but he has a much lower average) looks regular compared to Bautista’s godly figure of 1.092.
The leaderboard of the main counting stats are also dominated by the MVP candidates although these stats are given way too much weight in award voting:
Edge: Slight edge to Bautista
The defense aspect was recently discussed in Monday night’s game thread with Benk (likely) correctly pointing out, "Granderson’s UZR is hurt a lot because the Yankees have Gardner in LF. This lets them play Granderson quite a bit further towards RF than usual teams, and since he doesn’t get as many balls in his zones as other teams, his UZR suffers." Comparing the defense of MVP candidates is also made difficult due to different positions being favoured by certain stats, but comparing Bautista and Granderson’s UZR number, there is a slight edge given to Bautista:
Since the different positions and defensive adjustments make it difficult to determine the defensive edge (post in comments if you have a suggestion) I’ll leave the fielding side of things as undetermined because the MVP definitely won’t win based on defensive sabermetrics.
This section is where I’ll address my opinion on Verlander’s case for MVP (because I know you were wondering). The Most Valuable Player award in my eyes should represent just that, the most valuable player to their team. No matter how big a clubhouse presence Justin is, I highly doubt he makes up for four days of rest between starts with his veteran experience. It’s clear when Verlander starts he almost always wins (20-5 in 29 starts, ERA: 2.38, FIP: 2.85, xFIP: 3.03 WHIP: 0.90). I don’t think there is anyone saying Verlander is anything less than nasty and should win the AL Cy Young, although Weaver (and possibly Sabathia with a lights out September) should also be considered, but it’s nearly impossible to make a case for a player to win MVP that makes an impact in a maximum of two games per week.
With that taken care of, in my opinion an easy way to see who is the most valuable to their team is their WAR (fWAR). A player with a high WAR is going to be making the big plays in crunch time and single-handedly winning games for his team, which is representative of a valuable player. To the numbers (AL leader in bold):
After seeing these fWAR numbers it’s pretty easy to surmise what every Blue Jays fan already knows, Jose Bautista is valuable. Can anyone imagine a lineup without Jose? Yunel Escobar takes over the lead in most categories while Adam Lind’s 22 HR’s takes the team lead in homers (yes, that Adam Lind). If voters really want to determine the Most Valuable Player I don’t see how they can vote for a Yankees or Red Sox player. The fact that three Boston players are in MVP contention shows that without one of them, the team would survive. Even the Yankees without Granderson would still challenge for the AL East division. Without Bautista, the Jays would suffer horribly and have no clear team leader on the field.
The problem that has developed in MVP races for all major North American sports leagues is that team wins and post-season play effect the votes too severely. Voters aren’t watching the Jays battle the Orioles in the coming days; their TV monitors are set on the Yankees visiting Fenway to battle it out in the final weeks of the division race. The AL MVP race can be compared to the saying: "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" When it comes to the Jays, "If Bautista hits 3 home runs in Baltimore and no one is watching, does it even matter?" Casting all bias aside, the clear edge is to Bautista.
Although nothing I said is groundbreaking, I thought I’d lay it out in a fairly organized format for everyone to digest. Now it’s time for you guys to post in the comments and weigh in on who should win the MVP and also state your feelings on Verlander even being in the discussion for the season ending award.