Monday, September 20, 2010
Don't hand out NL MVP quite yet
Dave Cameron on his National League MVP pick:
I suggested that I’d lean toward voting for Troy Tulowitzki, and that was before he launched two more home runs on Saturday. His numbers in September are just crazy good (.357/.407/1.000, .577 wOBA), and he’s a big reason why the Rockies are right back in the NL West race. But I’m not throwing my support behind him just because he’s bashing the baseball of late; I think there’s a pretty decent argument to be made that he’s been the league’s best player, even after accounting for the time he spent on the disabled list.
I think we can probably all agree that he’s been the best player in the NL on a rate basis. His .420 wOBA ranks second to Votto in the NL, and he’s a shortstop. Yes, his numbers get a boost from Coors Field, but his park adjusted wRC+ is still a fantastic 158, and translates out to 42 runs above average per 600 plate appearances. Votto’s 174 wRC+ translates out to 53 runs above average per 600 PA, leaving a gap that is easily overcome by the difference in scarcity between SS and 1B.
While we’re obviously big proponents of the usefulness of Wins Above Replacement, we do not encourage the use of it as a definitive ender of discussion when the subjects are within the margin of error. It’s one thing to use WAR to declare that Votto has clearly been better than, say, Aubrey Huff, but it's another to state that it is perfectly accurate down to the decimal point ...
That's exactly right.
Used to be, we would start with the easy stuff -- first the Triple Crown stats, then maybe OPS -- then drill deeper if necessary. But now we start with WAR (take your pick). But "we" do not suggest that's the end of the process. We look for the guys who are reasonably close to the top, and then see what else there is to see.
In this case, with the park effects and the difference between playing first base and shortstop and the impact on the pennant race (a tiebreaker in my mind, anyway), there's plenty more to see than just WAR.
Which isn't say I'm ready to simply dismiss the big difference in playing time between Votto and Tulowitzki. In a Tweet, Cameron writes, "Joe Mauer's 2009 = Troy Tulowitzki's 2010, in reverse. I don't remember the outcry over lack of playing time last year."
Except 1) there was at least some outcry (as I recall) and 2) Mauer led the American League in WAR despite playing in only 133 games. Which is, by the way, 10 more than Tulowitzki's going to play if he doesn't miss any time the rest of the way.
To me, the Mauer comparison isn't all that useful. What I want to know, in the end, is whether Troy Tulowitzki won more games for his team than Joey Votto and Ryan Zimmerman and Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols and Ryan Zimmerman won for theirs. As near as we can figure, anyway. And we have a great number of tools to help us do the figuring.
Yes, life is short. But MVP Awards last forever. And Tulowitzki's been jobbed out of one big honor already.