Roughly six or seven years ago I was introduced to the field of sabermetrics, mostly through a high school project in which I was trying to construct a formula to determine the best candidate for an MVP. That project sort of fell flat on its face, as I learned that many other people before me had attempted to do serious statistical analysis of baseball. So I never actually created that one formula, and instead, I try my best to use a wide range of things to pick the MVP.
As things stand right now this is a weird year for the NL MVP. The obvious MVP candidate, Chase Utley, is battling injury now and probably isn’t the most viable option (now that he’s missed a month of theseason). And every single other candidate has some serious flaw in their candidacy. Just for the sake of argument, I’ve classified the “flaws” of some of the candidates:
Poor defense: Hanley Ramirez, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder
Injured/Limited Playing Time: Chipper Jones, Barry Bonds, Chase Utley
Coors: Matt Holliday
Pitchers: Brad Penny, Jake Peavy
There’s no real “slam dunk” candidate this year, so I felt like looking at the Met candidates in detail. Of course, lots can change in the last month and a half, but we base most of what we do as fans on our ability (or lack thereof) to predict the future.
Candidate 1: Jose Reyes (.306/.378/.459, 56 SB)
The catalyst for the Mets’ offense, Reyes has improved his game from last year by exchanging power for plate discipline. Of course, we don’t know if that was conscious or just circumstantial, but his .378 OBP makes my previous pronouncements about Reyes’ inability to hit leadoff look downright insane (Granted, a handful of his walks this year are of the intentional variety). There’s no better leadoff hitter in the game this year, except maybe the one in the Pacific Northwest.
He has also become the great defensive shortstop that people thought he would be, at least according to the metrics.
2005 93 19/25
2006 89 4/24
2007 107 2/26
This year, the metrics agree (RATE and ZR are calculated quite differently): Reyes is really good defensively. (We’ll repeat this chart with Candidate #2.)
Reyes is stealing a TON of bases this year; he’s on pace for a career-high 77 steals. Still, though, he’s not unstoppable on the basepaths; he’s been caught 15 times and is stealing at a 78.8% clip: very good, but not amazing.
Reyes’ flaw is different than the other candidates: he’s just not hitting enough. Reyes would need to get on-base a little bit more (or hit for a little more power) to be a serious candidate. Here’s what I mean:
H. Ramirez .393 .574
M. Holliday .401 .585
B. Bonds .496 .585
P. Fielder .383 .614
M. Cabrera .413 .611
C. Utley .414 .581
C. Jones .428 .596
A. Pujols .414 .547
J. Reyes .378 .459
Reyes trails all of the Big 8 in both statistics. Steals and defense go a long way, but they can’t really make up that kind of difference.
Reyes probably can win an MVP during his career, but it’ll probably have to be the Jimmy Rollins way: he’ll need to gain power with age.
Candidate #2: David Wright (.304/.393/.518)
In another year, David Wright would be an easy pick for MVP. He hit .321/.401/.575, played stellar defense at the hot corner, played in a tough hitters’ park for a good team… really, Wright was a prototypical MVP in that season… but that season never happened. That’s what David Wright has done this season since his horrendous April:
It’s too bad; Wright’s now on the fringe, much like Reyes.
But Wright, like Reyes, has developed into a great, well-rounded player. Start with his defense:
2005 102 15/18
2006 106 20/22
2007 104 4/23
Again, newfound agreement in the metrics.
Move onto his very opportunistic basestealing (he’s stolen 25 bases and has only been caught twice), and his very strong eye, and you have an MVP candidate… except for the bad April. As of now, the overall numbers don’t look like those of an MVP. Even projecting his post-April numbers out, Wright would post a .309/.397/.535 for the season… which still isn’t good enough, I don’t think.
Wright will have to “go nuts” in his last 40 games to have a chance at the MVP award. Basically, he’s going to need to step up the home run pace while maintaining everything else (35+ homers would make him look a little stronger and would push his SLG into elite territory). But in a year with a thin field? It’s certainly possible that Wright could put together a good candidacy. If the season ended today, he’d probably get a handful of votes.
I wrote this piece while watching the Tuesday night game. I almost died when Wright’s arm got twisted under Jack Wilson. I guess that’s the real truth of it: Wright and Reyes are homegrown MVP candidates, and I’m scared to death of either one getting hurt. That rocks.
But right now, I’d bite my tongue and vote Hanley Ramirez for MVP, even with the horrible defense. But really, it’s not like it matters; we don’t have a say, and Prince Fielder’s got the award locked up.
Last week: Glavine won his first game against the Pirates. It was his second career start.
This week’s question (a gimme, but a sobering thought): Who was the last Met to win one of the Big 3 awards (Cy Young, MVP, ROY), and when was it?