August 15, 2007
A Weak Field
by: Dan Scotto on Aug 15, 2007 12:00 AM | Filed under: Articles

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.

            RATE       ZR-Rank
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:

               OBP     SLG
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:

April: .244/.370/.311
Other: .321/.401/.575

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:

        RATE    ZR-Rank
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.

Trivia Question

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?

9 Responses to “A Weak Field”

  1. Comment posted by Blastings Thrilledge on August 15, 2007 at 12:55 am (#462338)

    Dwight Gooden, Cy Young: 1985

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  3. Comment posted by Simons on August 15, 2007 at 5:37 am (#462343)

    Nice article. You just put more thought into your hypothetical vote than half of the actual voters will with theirs. “Lessee, who’s #1 in RBI this year… Ryan Howard again? Well, the numbers don’t lie!”

  4. Comment posted by elliot on August 15, 2007 at 8:27 am (#462353)

    Elite speed – like Jose Reyes possesses – helps the team to win in ways that are hard to find statistically. How many times did Reyes end up on second base when he hit a grounder because the defense threw the ball away rushing the throw, trying to compensate for Reyes speed? How many fastballs does the number 2 hitter see when Reyes is on first? A player like Reyes (and there are not really any others of his caliber) changes the entire game. This is a true measure of “value”, but, sadly, is not considered enough by those who determine the MVP.

    I’m just saying…

  5. Comment posted by Danny on August 15, 2007 at 9:03 am (#462378)

    The sad, sad truth is that Utley’s success is greatly enhanced by his home park. I know people have some irrational love for the guy, even Mets fans, and he is a fine hitter, but his home/road splits are too blatant to ignore.

    2007 Home: 188 AB, .394/.471/.681, 1.151 OPS
    2007 Road: 211 AB, .284/.363/.493, .855 OPS

    2006 Home: 322 AB, .329/.397/.571, .969 OPS
    2006 Away: 336 AB, .289/.361/.485, .847 OPS

    Now check out what Jose Reyes has done on the road this year…

    2007 Road: 258 AB, .302/.374/.453, .827 OPS

    Hmmmmm… Tis interesting, no?

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  7. Comment posted by Lunkwill Fook on August 15, 2007 at 10:32 am (#462499)

    Darryl Strawberry, MVP, 1988. At least, he SHOULD have won it.

  8. Comment posted by Joe A. on August 15, 2007 at 1:23 pm (#462770)

    I don’t believe for a minute that Fielder has the MVP locked up. In fact, if the Brewers don’t make the playoffs, he has very little chance of winning. It will come down to who has the best September and which teams make the playoffs.

  9. Comment posted by argonbunnies on August 15, 2007 at 4:59 pm (#463282)

    If this guy keeps hitting like he has, he’ll finish with the following line and deserve the MVP:

    Ryan Braun .354/.396/.684, 37 HRs, 90 runs, 96 RBI in 114 games, leading the league in AVG and SLG.

  10. Comment posted by argonbunnies on August 15, 2007 at 5:02 pm (#463287)

    As for Utley, an .855 road OPS for a second baseman with good range is still fantastic. And not everyone posts an 1.151 OPS at CBP… If he comes back and helps key a few wins to get the Phils into the playoffs, I say he deserves it despite the injury.

    The Marlins and Giants haven’t played a single game with postseason relevance all year. I find it hard to imagine that no one among Chipper, Pujols, Fielder, Howard, or Holliday will do something important to trump the stats of Barry, Hanley, and Cabrera.

    If the season ended tomorrow, I’d bet the Met who’d get the most MVP votes would be Wagner.

  11. Comment posted by argonbunnies on August 15, 2007 at 5:04 pm (#463290)

    Dwight Gooden, Cy Young: 1985

    No Met pitcher has even won 18+ games since 1990.

    C’mon, Maine, get back on track tonight!