That's Debatable: AL MVP?
Monday's question, courtesy of Paul in Boston:
''Is Dustin Pedroia losing his grip on the AL MVP with the current funk that he's in? Who seems to be the frontrunner?''
THE CASE FOR DUSTIN PEDROIAHe leads the American League in runs and doubles, and is tied with Ichiro Suzuki for first place with 205 hits. He has stolen 19 bases in 20 attempts, and he has one more extra base hit (71) than Josh Hamilton. Pedroia is a brash, energizing force on a team that needed him this season with the departure of Manny Ramirez and the injuries to David Ortiz and J.D. Drew.
THE CASE FOR KEVIN YOUKILISHe ranks fifth in the American League in slugging percentage, and is hitting .360 with runners in scoring position. Like Pedroia, Youkilis is a tough-minded competitor who gives maximum effort every day. He's dispelled his reputation for second half fades in this season's second half with a .958 OPS since the All-Star break.
THE CASE FOR JOE MAUERMauer's .417 on base percentage is significantly better than the other contenders. Even Albert Pujols would be impressed with Mauer's 82-to-47 strikeout to walk ratio. With his quiet, professional approach, Mauer helps set the tone for a Minnesota team that has surpassed everybody's expectations.
THE CASE FOR JUSTIN MORNEAUHe's the one legitimate power threat on a team that ranks 29th in the majors in home runs and 19th in slugging percentage. Morneau has been proficient against both lefties and righties, and he's hitting an impressive .373 with a .645 slugging percentage with runners in scoring position.
THE CASE FOR FRANCISCO RODRIGUEZHe's made his 65 1/3 innings count, notching 60 saves to pass Bobby Thigpen and threaten to put the single-season record out of reach. The Angels are 58-28 in games decided by two runs or fewer, and K-Rod is a big reason why.
THE VERDICTWe're going with the little guy, Pedroia, because of his all-around contribution. He has appeared in 152 of 155 Red Sox games, played solid defense, run the bases well and given the Red Sox plenty of thump at second base. And that .375 on-base percentage isn't exactly a drag on the Boston offense. Feel free to send in your opinion, and we'll kick this one around for an hour.
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.
Josh (New Hampshire)
You really can't appreciate Pedroia unless you watch him on an everyday basis. he plays the game its suppose to be played, he runs out grounders and dives for everything. His defense is phenomenal and how he manages to make so much contact with a swing that is so, I'll just call it unconventional, is amazing. Lets give the little man his props.
Jerry Crasnick (1:02 PM)
Josh, This, of course, is the "intangibles" argument. With the numbers so close, it helps Pedroia's case that he's such an energy guy on that team. Jimmy Rollins rode the intangibles argument to a win in the NL MVP race last year. The thing is, Pedroia's numbers stack up very favorably with everybody else's this season.
Spencer (Orange County)
834. road OPS does not equal an MVP, Vlad Guerrero's road ops is about 70 points higher.
Jerry Crasnick (1:04 PM)
Spencer, As I mentioned in the lead to the debate, this isn't a big OPS year for anybody in the AL. Pedroia is hitting .340 with seven homers and 40 RBIs at home, and .309 with 10 homers and 40 RBIs on the road. So he's hardly a Fenway creation.
I'm a big Pedroia fan, but its got to be K-Rod. If he's not the MVP in 2008, then no closer should ever be. The Red Sox have under-performed, based on their run differential; the Angels have wildly over-performed (leading to an inflated view of the team's true quality, I'd say), and K-Rod is the #1 reason why. He deserves the MVP.
Jerry Crasnick (1:06 PM)
Jack, This is definitely a minority opinion. As I've pointed out in recent chats, if you blanked out the names and just looked at the stats, you could make the case that Joe Nathan, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon and Joakim Soria have all had better seasons than K-Rod. He should definitely be proud of the saves record, but I have a tough time giving the MVP to a guy with 65 innings pitched.
Spencer (Orange County)
Look at it this way, would you even think for second of trading Pedroia for Mauer?
Jerry Crasnick (1:07 PM)
Spencer, No, I wouldn't. But the debate isn't about who's the best longterm building block for a franchise. It's who is the MVP this season. I think most Twins fans, and people around the team, would tell you that Morneau has been more valuable to Minnesota than Mauer this season.
Troy (Caribou, ME)
Pretty amazing that for a kid who everybody said was too small to play, and for someone even Red Sox Nation doubted heavily a year ago, that he has gone from Rookie of the Year to strong MVP candidate in his short career. What great draft choice.
Jerry Crasnick (1:10 PM)
Troy, Here's another thing: Pedroia obviously gets a lot of mileage out of the fact that he's a diminutive, supposedly overachieving guy. But it's clear that the Red Sox have fed off his energy and competitiveness this season. He's the cocky little 5-7 guy who never stops yapping or playing hard. They plugged him into the cleanup spot for a few days, and he went 12 for 18 with a 1.889 OPS. Does that fit the MVP storyline, or what?
Jerry, I brought up Pedroia's name in the debate between Hamilton & Quentin for MVP and was promptly ignored. Clearly, you owe me a cheeseburger for my insightful proposition.
Jerry Crasnick (1:11 PM)
Pat, I think Jayson Stark conducted that chat. So he owes you a cheeseburger. I'll ask him to throw in a Coke and some fries as well.
How can it not be Morneau, yeah Pedroia has had a good season in the middle of a stacked lineup. Morneau has done it with NOBODY around him other than mauer. His XBH are even with Pedroia with more home runs, 50 more RBI, Higher OBP and basically a comparable average. I'm sick of this east coast bias. Give the twins some love
Jerry Crasnick (1:14 PM)
Kyle, Morneau has been terrific. I don't think anybody would deny that. I just checked and Minnesota's No. 5 hitters -- Kubel, Delmon Young and Cuddyer, mainly -- have combined for a .675 OPS. That's dreadful. Morneau has produced even though opposing pitchers have no earthly reason to give him anything to hit. That should clearly weigh in his favor in the MVP balloting.
Nick (Minneapolis, MN)
I haven't seen Pedroia or Youkilis play much this year but once again, without Justin Morneau the Twins would be struggling to win 70 games this year. He's an RBI machine, and has come up in the clutch so often, we Twins fans expect it. He's become Minny's version of Big Papi. Nothing against Pedroia or Youkilis, but without Pedroia or Youkilis, the Sox would still be a playoff team. Could you really say that about either Morneau or Mauer?
Jerry Crasnick (1:15 PM)
Nick, Probably not, but keep in mind that Ortiz wasn't Ortiz this year, Drew has missed a bunch of time and Manny hasn't been around since July. There have been times when Pedroia and Youkilis really had to carry that club.
Jim (Bristol, VA)
Jerry, Do you think Carlos Quentin's injury knocks him out of the race? All season long he was right there with the other guys.
Jerry Crasnick (1:16 PM)
Jim, Quentin could still finish in the top 5, but yes, that wrist injury knocks him out of the race. Hey, however it happened, it was his own fault.
Morneau is the clear choice, because he is more valuable to his team than any of the other candidates. Take Pedroia away from his team and they still can win, take Morneau away from his team and you got a good AAA club. Morneau has also played in every game this season.
Jerry Crasnick (1:19 PM)
David, The numbers are amazingly close between Morneau and Youkilis, so it's tough to choose, unless you go under the assumption that Morneau had so much less help in Minnesota. I just think the production that Pedroia brought at second base -- a much less offensively oriented position --puts him over the top. Add in that he's a very good defender and a base stealer, and that's a pretty well rounded package.
Brad (Boston, MA)
What are the chances of Pedroia also getting a gold glove? He ranks second in fielding % among AL 2B, and also leads in innings played.
Jerry Crasnick (1:21 PM)
Brad, I like looking at the John Dewan plus-minus system, because it's easy for even us layman types to understand, and Dewan ranks Pedroia with a plus-15. That makes him the fifth best second baseman in the game and No. 2 in the AL behind Mark Ellis of Oakland. So yeah, I'd say he has a shot at the Gold Glove.
Tanner (St. Paul, MN)
Is there any way Morneau can win without making the playoffs?
Jerry Crasnick (1:23 PM)
Tanner, To me, it shouldn't make a whit of difference to Morneau's chances if the Twins finish two games out in the AL Central or win the thing, but I suspect that AL MVP voters won't draw that distinction. It will obviously help Morneau if he has a huge final week and puts them over the top. If he goes 9 for 12 and they sweep Chicago, that's a pretty powerful statement.
Jerry, What do I gotta do to get some love around here? I mean, I win the Homerun Derby and I get called Jason! I lead the league in RBI's with no one hitting behind me! I got a .310 avergage! Plus, I got a sick glove at first base, and should win an overdue Gold Glove this year. Help a guy out, and give me a vote for MVP!
Jerry Crasnick (1:24 PM)
Justin, I don't have an MVP vote in reality. I'm just hosting this "That's Debatable" chat, so I'm afraid I can't help you, bub.
If you're going to make the "less offensively oriented position" argument, you'd have to give Mauer a leg up on Pedroia...there really isn't a debate about who brings more offensive value to their position. Also, what do you think of the "Win Shares" statistic that has Morneau and Mauer #1 and #2 in the AL?
Jerry Crasnick (1:26 PM)
Joe, I'm not sure how the Win Shares breaks down. As for the catcher vs. second base argument, I can see where you're coming from. Mauer and Pedroia are two different types of players. Mauer draws a lot of walks, hits a lot of singles and is more a table setter type, where Pedroia seems to wind up on second base a lot -- a la Jimmy Rollins. I like the fact that he has about 30 more extra base hits than Mauer.
Francisco Rodriguez (Anaheim of Los Angeles, CA)
Hey guys, what about me? Out of the top five AL saves leaders, my WHIP and ERA are the worst of the bunch and I'm about to be grossly overpaid this offseason! I've also blown the most saves out of the five, too! Wait, why am I here again?
Jerry Crasnick (1:26 PM)
Francisco, All I can say to that is, Ouch.
Quick Hypo. Would Cliff Lee be in this discussion if the Indians were a playoff team. If yes, isn't it dumb that Lee is affected by how his team plays while he is sitting in the dugout on off days, having absolutely no control over the situation?
Jerry Crasnick (1:28 PM)
Brian, This is one of those years where there is no overwhelming offensive player and a pitcher could very well work himself into the mix. But it hurts Lee's cause that the Indians threw up the white flag in June. As great as he's been, that team was never in postseason contention.
Shaun (St. Cloud, MN)
How much will the fact that Mauer and Morneau, as well as Pedroia and Youkilis take away votes from each other, and could that play in K-Rod's favor, or will it not be a factor, like when Morneau won a couple years ago despite Mauer getting a lot of support for the MVP?
Jerry Crasnick (1:29 PM)
Shaun, Since every voter has 10 spots, I don't think there'll be much of an issue with vote-splitting. Some people might have Pedroia, Morneau, Youkilis and Mauer in their top 4 and put K-Rod fifth. If anything, he might suffer from the logjam of evenly-matched contenders.
Freddie (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
Why the sudden shutdown on Josh Hamilton talk? O.K, hes not quite so ridculously strong in the second half, but his overall numbers still compete well. He's been the leader in one of the strongest offensive clubs in baseball, other contributors having been injured, and given a team with no right to any look in a glimmer of playoff hope (trailing off last month and a half). Premium position too.
Jerry Crasnick (1:31 PM)
Freddie, I made a point to throw Josh Hamilton's name in there, but he hasn't done a ton since the All-Star break, and the Rangers have faded into oblivion (thanks largely to their pitching). Hamilton had 95 RBIs at the break, and he's got 29 since.
Pedroia isn't even the most valuable player on his team. To give him the league MVP would be asinine. If Carlos Quentin hadn't broke his arm I'd say he'd be the clear winner - I'd still say he's up there even with the injury.
Jerry Crasnick (1:32 PM)
Robbie, I don't get this, "Pedroia isn't even the MVP on his team" argument. According to who? If he polled the Red Sox players, I think they'd tell you he's been extremely valuable.
Jason (Seattle, WA)
Why is team performance valued so heavily? How does one player have control of the other 25 guys on the team? Do we really think the reason the Sox will win 90+ games is solely Dustin Pedroia? If the Indians had 8 other guys like Grady Sizemore on their team, they would have been runaway division winners. Why penalize him because Ryan Garko is a stiff and Casey Blake couldn't hit himself out of a wet paper bag?
Jerry Crasnick (1:34 PM)
Jason, This is always the debate, and I think that's what makes the award so interesting -- because everyone seems to have their own definition. I don't think the MVP necessarily has to come from a postseason team. But if a guy is going to win it with a sub-.500 club, he better have numbers that are far and away superior to the field. And that's simply not the case this season.
Ben (Omaha, NE)
I vote for Carlos Quentin....and if you don't, maybe he will punch you instead of his bat next time.
Jerry Crasnick (1:34 PM)
Ben, Duly noted.
I usually contend that the MVP is the player who's team loses the most games off their total if that player wasn't there. Although, I'm a huge Sox fan, I think the Red Sox this year have proved that they can win by making substitutions and filling in gaps to several key positions so I'd be more inclined to vote to Morneau - what other options does that team have, plus this was supposed to be a terrible year for the Twins and a rebuilding process.
Jerry Crasnick (1:35 PM)
Andrew, Hey, it's always great to see an open-minded, non-provincial Red Sox fan giving some props to the competition.
Do you think salary should come into play when discussing MVP? For example, isn't Pedroia a lot more valuable to the Sox than say A-Rod is to the Yankees because, in addition to his great contributions, he also frees up a lot of money for other players, thereby making their production also part of his "value"?
Jerry Crasnick (1:37 PM)
Mike, I'm sure that Theo Epstein is ecstatic that he's getting about $10 million worth of production out of a $457,000 second baseman, but I doubt that will weigh into the MVP balloting. It will, however, help Dustin Pedroia considerably in future contract discussions.
A-Rod (Abandoned Stadium in the Bronx)
Hi everyone, just thought I'd remind you all that I'm leading the league in OPS in a pitcher's stadium, and my team's in 4th place just like that Pujols guy. Love, Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez
Jerry Crasnick (1:37 PM)
A-Rod, Nice to see you're paying attention.
if he wins, would pedroia be one of the most unlikely mvps in recent history?
Jerry Crasnick (1:39 PM)
Gavin, I'd have to say yes. Ken Caminiti was an unlikely winner in 1996 and Terry Pendleton came out of nowhere in 1991, but there aren't many bigger surprises that spring to mind.
pete (detroit, MI)
fun fact: Joe Mauer has reached base via a hit or walk in all but nine of his starts this season. he is the catalyst of the twins offense and a big reason why morneau has 128 rbi's. Add the fact that he has worked wonders with a very young pitching staff and you have yourself the 2008 mvp
Jerry Crasnick (1:41 PM)
Pete, I do think Mauer has to get some credit for helping nurture that young pitching staff through a long, hard season. That might be his biggest "intangible."
Chuck, Oakland, CA
What about Carlos Pena? I know he's only hitting .250, but he has a .380 OBP with all those walks he gets. Tampa Bay is a play off team, and it seems to me that Pena is a solid leader in that clubhouse. 30 plus homers has to help too.
Jerry Crasnick (1:43 PM)
Chuck, It'll be interesting to see if Pena finishes ahead of Evan Longoria as top Ray in the MVP balloting. That team has relied a lot more on pitching and defense than hitting, so I wonder if we'll see any Rays in the top 10.
In reference to venerable Twins blogger Aaron Gleeman...I think there needs to be a "free Grady Sizemore" campaign started. This guy totally deserves the award. Thanks for the chat Jerry!
Jerry Crasnick (1:45 PM)
Joe, Aaron Gleeman is terrific, and Keith Law, my ESPN colleague, feels the same way. But I just don't see it. Grady Sizemore has great numbers at a premium up the middle position, but he hit .221 in May when the Indians were on their way to becoming an afterthought. And are Sizemore's numbers really that much better than Dustin Pedroia, who has played very good defense at second base? Maybe I'm missing something here.
John, Boston, MA
I'm sure I'll be branded a homer, but let's not forget Pedroia was hitting .260 on June 12th. He's hit .372 since. He's hit .348 since the Manny trade and the Sox have gone 30-16. Coincidence? No, as Pedroia goes, so goes the Red Sox. MVP in my book.
Jerry Crasnick (1:46 PM)
Sean (Hopewell, NJ)
You think the American League is muddled? How about the National League? Who's going to win the NL MVP?
Jerry Crasnick (1:47 PM)
Sean, That's a debate for another day. But I've been pro-Albert Pujols all along, and I'm not sure I'm willing to switch course this late in the game even though the Cardinals won't make the postseason.
Jerry, what is with the Mid-West bias? All you are posting are questionsabout how maurer or morneau should win. Clearly you do not know that a whole country exists outside of Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois. You need to stop this, it makes it seem like the East Coast does not even matter. But seriously, Youk or Pedroia would be fine choices for MVp they both have been the emotional leaders of this team this year bringing fire everyday even with the injuries and Manny antics.
Jerry Crasnick (1:48 PM)
Chris, I'm with you. This heartland bias is starting to become oppressive.
Jerry Crasnick (1:48 PM)
Thanks for the emails, everybody. I suspect events in the next week will help sort this thing out. Enjoy the rest of the pennant races.
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