That's Debatable: Who should be AL MVP?
"With seven weeks left in the regular season, who's your pick to win the American League MVP award?''
THE CASE FOR JOSH HAMILTONHamilton has been leading the planet in RBIs for so long, it's easy to lose track of just how many he's piled up. He's on pace to drive in 153 runs -- a number topped by only four players in the division-play era: Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa (twice), Juan Gonzalez and A-Rod. And Chipper Jones (among others) has never knocked in more runs in any full season than Josh Hamilton has driven in already this year (111) -- by Aug. 11. Oh, and Hamilton also ranks in the top eight in the league in homers (second), runs scored (77), extra-base hits (fourth), slugging (sixth), on-base percentage (eighth) and runs created per 27 outs (fifth).
THE CASE FOR CARLOS QUENTINWhat a year this guy is having. Quentin ranks first in the league in homers (32), second in runs scored (82), third in RBIs (90) and third in OPS (.952). He's also having a gigantic second half, with 10 homers (most in the big leagues), 20 RBIs and a 1.164 OPS. If you toss the RBI column out of this argument (which, granted is tough to do), Quentin leads Hamilton in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS and runs. And let's note one other fascinating number on the old stat sheet. The batting averages of these two men with runners in scoring position (.324 for Quentin, .326 for Hamilton) are nearly indistinguishable.
THE VERDICTIf we were all voting for Best Story of the Year, Josh Hamilton might win that award unanimously. But Hamilton's cinematic back-story isn't the kind of criterion we're supposed to use when we choose our MVPs. So as we sit here right now, with seven weeks left, I'd cast my vote for Carlos Quentin. Not that Hamilton is his only competition, by the way. You can make excellent cases for Justin Morneau, Milton Bradley, Ian Kinsler, Jermaine Dye, Francisco Rodriguez and that Kevin Youkilis-J.D. Drew tag team in Boston. But if Quentin and Hamilton are the top two contenders, and we stack up one against the other, what do we find? We find that Carlos Quentin's team is in first place, despite pesky, season-long offensive issues -- while Hamilton's team is 14 games out of first place. We find that, in the second half, as the games have gotten bigger, Quentin has out-hit Hamilton by 54 points, has out-OPS'd him by 232 points and, in fact, has topped him in every significant offensive catetory. And we find that, aside from RBIs (and cinematic back-stories), Hamilton really hasn't greatly outshone Quentin in any major offensive department over the first four months of the season. So for me, this is now Carlos Quentin's award to lose. But I'm betting some of you might beg to differ. And of course, that's what we're here for.
Every week, we'll give you the topic and then we'll have one of our writers stopping by to debate the issue with you. To suggest a topic for "That's Debatable," go here. Or check out the full archive.
Jayson Stark (1:02 PM)
Welcome to Debate-ville, friends. I can't wait for the MVP arguments to start flying. And feel free to make your case for any player you think is deserving. That's what makes these debates worth holding. Now let's get rolling.
Hey Jayson. I would give my vote to Quentin Just for the mere fact his team is in first place, but thats my view. I have only seen one player (ARod)win MVP on a losing team. Do you think this years voting will be any different seeing how monstrous a season Hamilton is having?
Jayson Stark (1:05 PM)
First off, let's get this straight. The Rangers don't have a losing record. In fact, since April 25, they've had a better record than the White Sox. But I do think it's going to hurt Josh Hamilton that he's not compiling these numbers in the context of a race, while Quentin has just about carried the White Sox over the last few weeks, while they're battling the Twins. I don't think a player's team has to win for him to be the MVP, but I do think players whose teams are in a race should get some kind of extra credit when numbers are close.
You mentioned that Texas is 14 games out of first place while failing to cite that the Angels have the best record in baseball in baseball in that division. And maybe I'm confused, but isn't this award for a full season and not just half a season? If that's the case, then the MVP definitely goes to Hamilton.
Jayson Stark (1:08 PM)
Of course, this award is for the full season. But if you look back on MVP voting, it's clear that the plot line of the season figures into the voting, and big finishes figure into the voting. I understand Hamilton's value, and I appreciate the kind of year he's having. But if all the numbers, other than RBIs, are close, the guy who has the better second half, for a team in a race, is going to win. That's MVP reality.
Stone (Chaska, MN)
What about Justin Morneau? Is there any player more important to their team this year than Morneau?
Jayson Stark (1:11 PM)
I think Morneau is definitely a top-five pick. And hitting .374 with runners in scoring position doesn't hurt. But he isn't in the top 10 in the league in homers, slugging, OPS or any of the big sabermetric categories. So he's a tick behind Quentin and Hamilton for me -- right now, anyway. If he lifts his team into the playoffs, get back to me.
The only eye-popping stat that would lead me to vote for Hamilton is his RBI total. But aren't RBI's a somewhat over-hyped statistic?
Jayson Stark (1:12 PM)
Thanks for bringing that up. Here are some RBI-related numbers on Hamilton I didn't bring up earlier: He doesn't have a single RBI since the all-star break that didn't come via a home run. (You can find that one in today's Elias Says column.) And he has come to bat with 51 more runners on base than Quentin (261-210). So in this day and age, with all the great numbers and info available to us, we shouldn't be using RBIs as our No. 1 offensive criterion anymore, should we?
Marty (Chicago, IL)
Everyone talks about Hamilton's backstory and struggles but seem to forget those of Carlos. The goldboy of the D-Backs three years ago, his career was virtually over because of a shoulder injury (an injury not of his own making unlike Hamilton's troubles). If Hamilton's darkness-to-light backstory is summer boxoffice material, Quentin's at least deserves a made-for-tv movie, or perhaps an after school special.
Jayson Stark (1:13 PM)
Great point. I'm not even sure which one of them is the better comeback-player-of-the-year candidate when you look at it that way.
I would vote for Evan Longoria period! He is having a fantastic year for a rookie,not only with offense but defense. The Rays are also in first place in one of the best divisions in baseball.
Jayson Stark (1:16 PM)
I think Longoria is clearly his TEAM'S MVP. But he's not the league MVP. He's hitting .235 with runners in scoring position for one thing. He's only 38th in the league in on-base percentage, 15th in OPS and 19th in runs created per 27 outs. So while he's a great, great player, he isn't having as good a year as all the players I named in the lede-in to this debate. He might win five MVP awards before he's through, but not this year.
pete (mound, mn)
Remember the last time a team with a losing record had an MVP player? (Texas with A-rod). MVP has nothing to do with a team's record. If you put the Chisox staff on Texas they're contending for the title
Jayson Stark (1:19 PM)
Sorry, Pete. But it just isn't true that a team's record has "nothing" to do with who wins the MVP. We've seen players on losing teams win it when there were no great candidates on the contenders, or when they have historic seasons. But that's the only way it ever happens. Check the history of the award. So while your point about pitching is valid, remember that this award is about "value," not numbers.
Scogginator New York
How can you not take A-Rod in this spot? Seems like the Yankees would be in last without him.
Jayson Stark (1:21 PM)
I was waiting for this. ARod is putting up great numbers, as always. But he's hitting .234 with runners in scoring position. And my buddy Buster Olney documented recently how many of his home runs have been hit in blowouts. He's the best player in baseball, but he isn't having an MVP season this year -- not so far, anyway.
Marty (Chicago, IL)
Jayson, shouldn't one consider who is hitting in front of Hamilton and Quentin if the only category Hamilton leads in is RBI's? Look at the stats: Orlando Cabrera OBP .327, A.J. Pierzynski .318 v.s. Kinlser .378 and YOung .337.
Jayson Stark (1:23 PM)
Exactly. That all figures in. I already mentioned the disparity in number of runners on base when each guy came to bat. How about this one: Hamilton has batted with 40 more runners in scoring position than Quentin. Huge difference.
Chris (Dallas, TX)
Considering there's a month and a half left of the season and Hamilton is roughly 20 points off the batting lead and only a few HR behind Quentin, shouldn't we wait to make sure he doesn't win the Triple Crown before deciding this one?
Jayson Stark (1:24 PM)
Of course. I didn't say we should just stop the season and give Quentin the award right now. I said that if I had to vote today, I'd vote for him. Obviously, if Josh Hamilton wins the triple crown, that qualifies as "historic" enough to override all sorts of other factors.
Doug (Santa Barbara)
Is it possible that the team with the best record could have nobody in the top 10 voting for MVP? What does that say about the Angels?
Jayson Stark (1:25 PM)
Hang on. I'd be shocked if K-Rod doesn't finish in the top 10, or even the top five. The history of the voting shows that, in recent years, we've come to look at closers as pretty much "every-day" players. And if this guy saves 60-65 games, he's going to be in the argument.
Isn't Quentin facing some competition from his own teammate, Jermaine Dye? A gold-glove outfielder who is putting up numbers just below his stellar 2006 season?
Jayson Stark (1:27 PM)
I think Jermaine Dye is in the top 10, but have you really compared his numbers with Quentin's? He's 20 RBIs behind. He's hitting .268 with men in scoring position. He's 28 points back in OPS and 24 points back in on-base percentage. So it's tough to argue he's a more deserving candidate than Quentin is.
Joe (Rosemont, IL)
Jayson, don't you think giving extra credit for putting numbers up in the heat of a race is similar to giving extra for Hamilton's feel good story. I mean both situations show the respective ballplayer putting up huge numbers in face of adveristy. I think you either separate the numbers from the stories or you don't. I say Hamilton mainly because I value defense and he is head and shoulder above Quentin Defensively. (In other, extra credit should be give for the something that matters, like defense)
Jayson Stark (1:31 PM)
Sorry, Joe. I disagree. This is the most VALUABLE player award. So the life circumstances that brought Josh Hamilton to this place in time just aren't as relevant to an MVP discussion as what a player does in crunch time for a team in the race. I'm a great admirer of Josh Hamilton, on and off the field, offensively and defensively. But it's awfully tough to win an MVP award when your team is 14 games out and you don't have vastly better numbers than a guy on a first-place team.
James (Frisco, TX)
You say that because the ChiSox are in a pennant race that Quentin should get the nod over Hamilton. Well unfortunately for the Rangers, the best team in Baseball is in their division, how can you hold that against them? And besides, if you haven't noticed they are only 6.5 out of the Wild Card with some very good teams to fight with (Boston, NY, and Min/Chi). Hamilton may be having a little slump here but it had to come sometime right? And even though all his RBI have come off homers...c'mon he had 98 RBI off of 24 at the break...That being said I might make my case more for Milton Bradely because without him, the Rangers bats have gone slient (minus that 15-6 smash of the O's)
Jayson Stark (1:33 PM)
The wild card might wind up being Hamilton's ticket, but the Rangers have never quite gotten into the thick of that race. If that should change, you're right. Then we can't use that 14-out factor in quite the same way.
I love Hamilton, but he's the third best player on the team. Kinsler and Bradley are both having better years if you go by any of the more sophisticated stats. Of course, "sophisticated" and "MVP voters" have never been associated with each other.
Jayson Stark (1:38 PM)
Hey, don't go putting down MVP voters, man. It's harder than it looks. I agree that there are numbers out there that make it appear that Bradley, especially, is having a better year than Hamilton. He leads the league in on-base and OPS, and he's second in slugging -- while Hamilton is 22nd in OBP, eighth in OPS. But I don't think we have to be confined just to your definition of "sophisticated" stats when we make our choices. RBIs may be overrated, but Josh Hamilton has 51 more RBIs than Milton Bradley. Yep, 51. There's also a defensive component here that's tough to ignore. So I still think that by my definition, Hamilton is the Rangers' MVP.
Jayson Stark (1:40 PM)
Oh, and one more thing. Forgot to discuss Ian Kinsler. He was my first-half MVP if you'll recall. But he's down to 16th in the league in OPS and OBP, and he's about to fall out of the top 10 in RC/27 outs. So I think he's dropped to third on the Rangers' MVP list at this point.
Surely the Cy Young front runner Cliff Lee belongs in this discussion. Where do you see him in the MVP race?
Jayson Stark (1:41 PM)
I think Cliff Lee is the Cy Young. But Grady Sizemore is really their MVP. Don't you think? He's got a chance to join the 40-40 Club. Unfortunately for Cliff Lee, this is almost never a starting pitcher's award. That's why the Cy Young was created in the first place.
Here's the real question: If the White Sox miss the playoffs, is Quentin still the favorite to win MVP?
Jayson Stark (1:43 PM)
Let me say this again: I can't speak for every voter. But when I vote, I don't think a player's team has to win to get that extra credit. I do give that credit when a guy's team stays in the race all the way, because it means all his numbers have been compiled in big games, in the context of a pennant race. In those situations, those aren't just numbers for the sake of numbers. Every number on that stat sheet is meaningful, whether that player's team makes the playoffs or not.
Aaron (skokie, IL)
my biggest concern is that the MVP voters will count all-star game home run derby totals in their tally
Jayson Stark (1:45 PM)
Anybody who does that shouldn't be an MVP voter. That Derby was another magical part of the Josh Hamilton back story, but it shouldn't be a part of the Josh Hamilton MVP credential story.
John (Herndon, VA)
Checking the stats, RBIs and homers aside, Youkilis is having a very similar year to Quentin and Hamilton. His BA and OBP is the highest of the three and his slugging is tied with Hamilton and OPS is better.
Jayson Stark (1:48 PM)
I agree he's having a great year. In fact, considering he plays for the Red Sox, I'd say he's been the most underrated MVP candidate out there. How many people out there, for instance, know he actually has a higher slugging percentage than Josh Hamilton (OK, barely, but he does)? I think Kevin Youkilis has put himself in position where he could still win this award. He's top five in the voting for me.
Brian (Pasadena, CA)
How much should we fit ballpark factors in to this? In Texas, Hamilton's OPS is 1.073, while it's a very pedestrian .759 in away games, while Quentin is at .910 away and .989 at home. That's a monstrous ballpark effect for Hamilton.
Jayson Stark (1:49 PM)
Thanks for pointing that out, Brian. I think it's fair to factor in all of that. Matter of fact, I think park factor is as big a reason as any that Matt Holliday didn't win last year.
dietrich, river falls, wi
do you have the total number of runs produced numbers of all these guys at your fingertips?
Jayson Stark (1:51 PM)
Of course! My "runs produced" definition is RBIs plus runs scored, then subtract homers. Here's how they rank: Hamilton 160 Kinsler 147 Morneau 142 Quentin 140 Youkilis 125
Erik: (Oxford, UK)
Hamilton's OPS+ is 142 while Quentin's is 147.
Jayson Stark (1:53 PM)
Another stat worth citing. For those not familiar with OPS-Plus, it adjusts OPS for ballpark factors and then compares each player's production to the average player in his league. So Quentin's park-adjusted OPS-Plus is 47 percent greater than the average player in his league, while Hamilton's is 42 percent greater.
Randy (St. Paul)
If your looking at stats, you cannot put K-Rod in the discussion because he is not even the best closer in the AL. Just because he has gotten the most save opportunities, is the reason why he has the most saves. His ERA and WHIP are both much higher than Nathan and Rivera, and he has more walks and blown saves than those two combined!
Jayson Stark (1:56 PM)
Good point, Randy. I've had a lot of folks writing in during this chat wondering why I'm not hyping K-Rod more than I have. And you've cited part of the reason. He's been amazing. He's a huge reason that team has the record it has. And he's in the MVP argument. But what has put him in position to rack up all these saves is that his team, until recently, didn't score a lot of runs. So nearly every game it won represented a save opportunity. If you look at numbers beyond the save column (which I highly recommend any time you're evaluating closers), this isn't even K-Rod's best season.
Hamilton plays in the Ballpark. Look at all the Rangers at the top of the offensive heap every year. Yet each year they get outscored by their opponents. Take 20% off all the Ranger batting stats and then compare. It's ridiculous for pitchers to pitch in that heat.
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
Hey, the Cell isn't exactly Petco Park, either, Paul. But with Hamilton and Quentin, I think it's important that we check those home/road splits. And we've already had a reader point out in this chat that Quentin gets the better of those splits by far.
Jayson Stark (1:59 PM)
Whooh. This hour flew by. Let's try to cram in one more.
rusty Broome, Boston
Monreu is the only guy you fear in that Minnesota lineup, if the gets them in the playoffs he has to be the man for carrying that whole offense.
Jayson Stark (2:03 PM)
I've had a ton of Justin Morneau nominations here, so it's only fair to mention him one more time. You're absolutely right about his stature in that lineup.Only Milton Bradley and Vladimir Guerrero have more intentional walks than he does in the American League -- which tells you something. Nevertheless, he's 53 points behind Quentin in OPS and about a half-run back of both Quentin and Hamilton in runs created per 27 outs. So right this minute, it would be hard for me to place him above either of those two. But we don't have to vote right this minute. We vote in seven weeks. And he's another guy who has put himself in position to win this award with a big finish.
Jayson Stark (2:04 PM)
Thanks for another fun hour of hot debating. See you back here for more next week.