That's Debatable: Who should be NL MVP?
THE CASE FOR DAVID WRIGHTWright has driven in 95 runs, behind only Howard and Lee, and he's got the advantage of being immensely more valuable than both of those sluggers defensively and on the bases. For Wright to finish the season as a legitimate candidate, though, two things have to happen: now batting .292, Wright has to push his batting average past .300; the Mets have to beat out the Phillies for first place in the East.
THE CASE FOR ALBERT PUJOLSOnce again, he's the best hitter in the National League. Period. Sure, Lance Berkman's enjoying a lovely season and Chipper Jones flirted with .400 for a few months. But Pujols has the best OPS (1.076) in the league and nobody's close to him. He also plays an outstanding first base and is one of the better baserunners in the league.
THE CASE FOR CHASE UTLEYIf Utley hadn't spent a season on the DL last year, he might well have aced teammate Jimmy Rollins for MVP honors. This year Utley's missed only two games, and is probably going to shatter his personal bests in both home runs and RBI. If the Phillies beat the Mets again this year, Utley's going to get more credit than anybody else.
THE CASE FOR C.C. SABATHIADon't ignore Sabathia. Sure, it's an uphill climb for a starting pitcher, let alone a starting pitcher who didn't join his club until early July. But voters do like shiny objects, and Sabathia's as shiny as anyone. His sterling record (8-0) is impressive enough, but what really gets the writers (including this one) hot and bothered are all those complete games: five in his first nine starts for the Brewers. If Sabathia can finish, say, 15-1 with the Brewers and the Brewers qualify for the playoffs, he's going to get a great deal of support from the voters, just as Rick Sutcliffe (16-1) did with the Cubs in 1984.
THE VERDICTIs "All of the Above" a choice? Or even better, "None of the Above"? Because we've just scratched the surface (no Hanley Ramirez?) and all of the candidates above do have real negatives. Can Wright win this year after finishing fourth last year? Can Pujols win despite finishing the season with fewer homers and RBIs than teammate Ryan Ludwick? Can Utley's Phillies catch the Mets? Can Sabathia continue to pitch brilliantly and avoid running into two or three great pitching performances by his opponents? I'm going with David Wright, because I think the Mets will close out the Phillies and he'll wind up among the league leaders in RBIs. Oh, and also because he was my choice a year ago. But don't be at all surprised if someone we haven't mentioned sneaks into the mix. Who's your favorite?
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.
Buzzmaster (12:05 PM)
Rob Neyer will be by at 12:30 p.m. ET to debate the NL MVP!
Rob Neyer (12:31 PM)
You guys ready to figure this thing out? Because I can't do it by myself ...
You stated that Ryan Ludwick has more RBI and HR than Albert Pujols....Should Ludwick be considered for NL MVP?
Rob Neyer (12:35 PM)
If the Cardinals get into the playoffs, Ludwick's going to have his supporters. But between competing with Pujols and the likelihood that he'll fall off some over the next six weeks, I'd say he's a longshot.
Evan (New York)
Why doesn't Jose Reyes get any respect, first for the All-Star Game and now for MVP Consideration. MVPs should be the driving force behind their team and the Mets win/loss record is highly dependent on Jose's performance. Case in point, look at the 6-game winning streak that ended yesterday on his off-day.
Rob Neyer (12:37 PM)
He's having a fantastic year, but his most impressive stats are probably his 14 triples and his 40 steals, neither of which are likely to impress the voters a great deal.
LeRoy (Millville, NJ)
How about Brad Lidge?
Rob Neyer (12:38 PM)
If he goes through the whole season and doesn't blow a save, and the Phillies reach the playoffs? I might vote for him myself, despite my general disregard for the value of relief pitchers. But I don't think he'll draw a great deal of support, as voters aren't impressed by fewer than 50 saves.
Justin (Long Island)
Hanley Ramirez certainly has a case. 30/30 with a very outside shot at 40/40, and the Marlins are contending when they have no business doing so. Not to mention, he has put up similar numbers with less protection in that lineup (no Miguel Cabrera).
Rob Neyer (12:41 PM)
Well, let's not discount his "protection"; three other Florida *infielders* are going to finish with more than 25 homers. But yeah, he does have a case. But the Marlins probably have to get into the playoffs for him to finish in the top five. Because his numbers alone don't distinguish him.
Manuel (Morton Grove, IL)
Cubs have the best record in the league. When Soriano went out they couldnt win as much. He was pretty valueable. How bout any other Cub. Dont they deserve some nods?
Rob Neyer (12:42 PM)
That's an odd thing, isn't it? Best team in the National League doesn't have a legitimate MVP candidate. Hey, it happens.
Jonathan (Kearney, NE)
Which is more likely, Sabathia wins the NL cy young or the NL MVP? And does he still have a shot for MVP if he doesn't win the cy young?
Rob Neyer (12:45 PM)
Oddly enough, the MVP is a possibility (however slight) while the Cy Young isn't, because Brandon Webb's got that locked up. Speaking of whom, is the MVP in play for Webb? What if he finishes 22-6 and none of the hitters comes out of the pack? Nah, I guess not.
Jordan (New York)
I see no reason why Carlos Lee can't win the MVP when A-Rod won it on the Rangers. Is he not the CLEAR choice if the 'stros are contenders? I hate the logic stating a great player on a terrible team isn't valuable.
Rob Neyer (12:46 PM)
One, A-Rod was a shortstop. Big difference. And two, Lee isn't even the best hitter on his own team. Not close.
Eric (New York)
If you are going to put C.C. Sabathia on that list then shouldn't you add Manny Ramirez as well? Every since the trade he has put the Dodgers on his back and put up some phenomenal numbers. Not to mention that he makes the guys around him better. Isn't that what makes an MVP? If the Dodgers make the playoffs it will be because of him.
Rob Neyer (12:47 PM)
If MannyB continues to hit like Babe Ruth I suppose he could muscle his way into the discussion. But the difference is that Sabathia has roughly three weeks more in the league than MannyB does.
Jimmy (flushing, ny)
Rob - CC Sabathia has got to be the MVP hands down.. he is carrying his team (albeit every 5th day) to the postseason more so than any other player in the NL (pitcher or everyday player)... A flawless performance worthy of an MVP
Rob Neyer (12:51 PM)
Well, okay ... but where exactly do you draw the line? What if Greg Maddux goes 7-0 down the stretch for the Dodgers, with a perfect game on the last day of the season to clinch the pennant? Is he a worthy candidate, too. More realistically, what about Webb? If the Diamondbacks win the West, it's likely to be very close. Is he less valuable in six months than Sabathia was in three?
Chris (Milwaukee, WI)
What about Ryan Braun? His numbers are up there in every category with the leaders, he also seems to step up when in a big spot. The number of 0-2 home runs he has is outstanding!
Rob Neyer (12:52 PM)
Well, he'd have to come back quickly from his current injury *and* someone would have propagate some quick shorthand for his clutch performance. If you have a dark horse candidate like him, you've got to be able to make his case in about three seconds.
Pete (St. Louis)
Clearly, I'm biased here. But honestly how can this choice not be Albert Pujols? He has the highest OPS and SLG in the NL, is trailing in OBP by one point, plus he leads the league in VORP and has the highest EQA at a whopping .366. As I'm sure you know, John Dewan ranked him as the best fielder at any position last year, so surely he's high on that list again. It's El Hombre!
Rob Neyer (12:55 PM)
All good points, but I'm afraid the voters don't pay a great deal of attention to OPS, VORP, or EqA. Or a first baseman's defense. You know what might push him over the top, though? A batting title. Along with the Cardinals winning the Wild Card.
John (Watertown, SD)
I don't know how you can make an argument that Braun would deserve the MVP over Chase Utley. Utley's OPS is almost identical, but he sports almost 30 points of OBP over Braun. This is while he is a better defender at a more difficult position. I don't see how you can argue that Braun is more valuable than Utley.
Rob Neyer (12:56 PM)
Right. That was my point. Braun does have a lot of big clutch hits this year, but unless they become a big part of the narrative it's not going to help his MVP candidacy. Which means he needs a few more big ones down the stretch.
Aaron (Mohawk, MI)
Lance Berkman is having an incredible season. Why is he not a favorite?
Rob Neyer (12:57 PM)
For the same reason Chipper Jones and Prince Fielder weren't last year.
John (Newtown CT)
Wright is right!! i'm not sure which season it was that he got a nod, but didn't get it. i agree 100% that if he sneaks above 300 and has a 120/40 season, it's his if the Mets are still in first-
Rob Neyer (12:59 PM)
Yeah, I think that's about right. If he hits all those numbers he might not win, but he'll be in the middle of the discussion.
Please explain how David Wright is in this conversation and Aramis Ramirez is not? Wright is the best player on a slightly above average team. Ramirez is the clutch hitter who should win a gold glove on the best team in the league--and their offensive numbers are not that different.
Rob Neyer (1:03 PM)
They're different enough, mostly because Ramirez has played only 116 games this season. That alone is going to keep him from getting serious action in the balloting, unless he just goes off between now and October.
What do you make of peter gammons argument that geo soto should be considered. He's having a fantastic rookie year, but MVP???
Rob Neyer (1:04 PM)
Soto might be even better than you think, but I suspect he'll have to content himself with a Rookie of the Year plaque.
Jack (San Diego)
Can we start by discussing what the obsession with postseason awards are amongst fans? As a fan of a smaller market team, I root against Peavy winning Cy Youngs, it will just price him out of the Padres budget. If I am a Twins fan, I don't want Mauer or Morneau to win....etc.
Rob Neyer (1:08 PM)
I suppose an obsession with the awards themselves isn't particularly healthy. But the discussion can be enlightening.
Why do writers/voters such as yourself over value BA and RBI so much when they are very clearly not amongst the best metrics?
Rob Neyer (1:09 PM)
We're mostly talking about who *will* (or might) win the award, not who should. Last year *my* favorite candidates were David Wright and Hanley Ramirez, and neither got more than a sniff from the learned men who vote (I don't).
Ryan - Parkersburg,Iowa
Does it seem like some writers just go out and try to find that underdog for the MVP, even when they clearly know who should actually win it?
Rob Neyer (1:12 PM)
I don't believe the voters are quite that conscious about it. But yeah, I do think they sometimes try to outsmart what really isn't all that complex a question. Sometimes I get the feeling there's a race among the writers to come up with a non-obvious reason for supporting a particular candidate.
Rob, If bright people like yourself are going to spend your time trying to predict who the writers will choose with their antiquated selection process, how can we expect positive change?
Rob Neyer (1:15 PM)
First: thanks. I'm not all that bright but I appreciate your thinking I am. Second: Can't we do both? I'm comfortable choosing *my* MVP and also trying to figure who the voters will choose. But this season I don't actually have mine yet. Gun to my head, though, it's probably Pujols.
Just want to throw Pat Burrell's hat into the ring
Rob Neyer (1:16 PM)
Yeah, I almost mentioned him, but he's a power hitter who's third on his own team in homers. Just not enough juice there.
Max (Coral Gables)
This is off topic, but i have to ask. When the Mets played the Yankees in interleague play, Michael Kay spoke about Reyes and Jeter and said that the debate about the best NY shortstop was clearly decided in favor of jeter. what do you have to say about that? It seems a little ridiculous, especially considering jeter's season thus far.
Rob Neyer (1:18 PM)
We should at least consider the possibility that Jeter's just having an off-year, right? After all, Jeter was as good as Reyes, maybe even a touch better, as recently as last year. But based on their respective ages, at this moment you would of course have to prefer Reyes.
Craig (Bloomington, IL)
Why only one pitcher mentioned, Rob? Why not a Brandon Webb? Because of his team?
Rob Neyer (1:19 PM)
Webb has been mentioned at least once during this discussion. I didn't have room for everybody in the introduction...
Why do you guys insist on using batting average as a fair indicator of someones hitting performance? Sure David Wright has a low BA (.292), but his OBP (.384) is much higher because of how many times he's drawn walks this season (75). OBP doesn't tell you anything about hitting for power, but neither does average. OBP plus Slugging % (OPS) is the most accurate indicator of how well a hitter has been hitting.
Rob Neyer (1:20 PM)
Of course you're right, but because Wright's batting average is down a bit this year, his OPS is not particularly impressive, or as good as it was last year. Which is why I think he has to hit .300+ to have a real shot at winning.
Do you think a pitcher should win the MVP? In my opinion, if Pedro can't win it in '99, then no one can.
Rob Neyer (1:21 PM)
I think there are seasons when a pitcher deserves strong consideration, and '99 was one of them. The process that year was corrupted by a conscience-free voter.
I have a long shot candidate here....Mark DeRosa! He has a higher OBP than Lee and Soriano. He's right there with them in RBI's and isn't that far off in BA and HR. He also plays more than one position!
Rob Neyer (1:22 PM)
No comment here, just wanted to spice things up.
Patrick (New York)
You got it wrong, the MVP WILL be the man standing 20 feet from David Wright, yes you guessed it. Jose Reyes. The Mets are 0-3 when he did not play this year. He is the spark to the Mets offense. His power numbers are up with 13 and expected to finish with about 15. He is batting over 300 and has a the most hits in the NL. He has 14 triples which also lead all players. Jose is among the leaders in 2Bs, and total bases. Jose Reyes deserves MVP.
Rob Neyer (1:24 PM)
If they were 0-13 without Reyes, you might have a case. But I don't believe the voters will be swayed by a three-game sample. Which isn't to say he's not a deserving candidate. I just don't see what sets him apart from the other dozen or so viable candidates.
What about Matt Holliday? He is having an incredible season.
Rob Neyer (1:26 PM)
True enough, but a) he missed some time, and 2) the Rockies aren't going anywhere this season. Holliday probably doesn't finish in the top 10. Or deserve to.
Aaron B. (Novato, Calif.)
"OBP plus Slugging % (OPS) is the most accurate indicator of how well a hitter has been hitting." Please tell Ryan how wrong he is (OPS undervalues OBA, etc.)Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) is the ONLY way to accurately combine on-base average and slugging.
Rob Neyer (1:28 PM)
Well, there are other ways. But yeah, wOBA is solid. We're just not quite there yet, popularity-wise. Thanks for playing today. I'm still not sure who the MVP is, but I know a lot more now than I did an hour ago.
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