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Good MVP article (mentions Miggy)


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Not Diggin the Long Ball

Listed in: Baseball


Note: Our comment system still appears to be down. But have no fear; in the time being, you can email me with your comments. I'd love to hear feedback on the NL MVP race since it is a hotly debated topic in baseball these days. Whether you agree or disagree, make a compelling argument for someone and I'll make sure to post it this week. Enjoy.


Its time to be blunt. Enough with the Ryan Howard for MVP talk.


Yes I know hes almost a lock to hit sixty home runs. Sure, I know hes been the sparkplug on a Phillies team that is making a surge if you will, towards the postseason. But by my count hes currently fourth in the National League, behind Carlos Beltran, Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera. Why, you ask?


Because baseball involves more than just the long ball.


There simply is no argument for Howard being the MVP, unless you consider home run hitting to be such a valuable and important tool it trumps batting average, on base percentage, general extra base hit numbers and of course, defense. Or if you also think it trumps things like value based on position or importance to a team.


But then dont take my word for it. Lets take a look, starting with the offensive numbers.


Pujols: .330/.431/.682/1.113 (1st), RC: 137 (1st), RC/G: 11.5 (1st)


Howard: .312/.413/.673/1.082 (2nd), RC: 122 (5th), RC/G: 8.9 (6th)


Pujols has a better average, on base and slugging percentage than Howard. If youre into stats like runs created and runs created per 27 outs (courtesy of Hardball Times), then Pujols easily trumps Howard as well. The Phillies slugger isnt even second to Pujols in either category. Im not sure how anyone can make the argument Howards been more valuable offensively than Phat Albert this year. And since they do play the same position, lets take a look at them defensively.


Pujols: RF: 10.58 (1st) ZR: .849 (9th)


Howard: RF: 9.38 (6th) ZR: .835 (11th)


Defensive statistics are not exactly the best, but at least according to range factor and zone rating, Pujols is a superior fielder to Howard. So if Pujols is a better offensively and defensively, why should Howard get the hardware over him?


And of remember this is the most valuable player award, which means the player who means the most to his team. That in my opinion means the player who, if you lost him tomorrow, would be the hardest to replace. And while Howards prolific production would be hard to replace, the Phillies could still find a pretty good offensive first baseman.


In the National League this year, six first baseman, including Howard, posted an OPS over .900. Thats six of sixteen teams. In addition 11 NL first baseman had an OPS over .800. Obviously first base is a premium offensive position, so you need to be truly spectacular to separate yourself from the pack. (Never mind that theres still a first baseman hitting better than Howard)


Now lets compare that with Carlos Beltran, who despite a recent slump dropping his OPS under 1.000, still has a pretty good argument for the MVP award because hes a centerfielder. As of right now, only one NL centerfielder has an OPS over .900. That would be Beltran. The nearest player OPS wise is Andruw Jones, whos .866 OPS trails Beltran by 120 points. And it drastically falls off after that, as Mike Cameron and Eric Byrnes are the only other NL centerfielders with an OPS over .800!


And to bolster Beltrans candidacy, he plays a defense first position and excels at it. He currently has the number one range factor among NL centerfielders and second best zone rating. In other words, if the Mets lost Beltran, theyd have not only have to replace far and away the best offensive centerfielder in the NL, but also the best defensive centerfielder as well. In a league where the best hitters are not often the best fielders, especially at defense first positions, a player like Beltran is immensely valuable.


Like it or not Howard supporters, you could come closer to replacing Howards contributions far quicker than you could Beltrans. And just to pound that point home, we can look at Win Share ratings. (again courtesy of Hardball Times)


Beltran: Batting- 29.2 (3rd), Fielding- 7.6 (1st), Total-37 (1st)


Howard: Batting-27.2(6th), Fielding-0.9, Total-28 (6th)


I didnt list Howards ranking fielding wise, because it didnt come anywhere near the top fifty in the NL. Not everyone will buy Win Share ratings, and there still is some skepticism about defense, but there is no question that when youre talking about a difference of this much, Beltran is far more difficult to replace than Howard. For the record the difference between Beltran and Howard Win Share wise, is the difference between Howard and Orlando Hudson, Chris Carpenter, Brian McCann and Dave Roberts. Again, difference between Beltran and Howard equals the difference between Howard and Dave Roberts. Thats how valuable a great offensive and defensive centerfielder is.


And then finally the argument exists that Howard is instrumental in his teams drive to the playoffs. Thats true, but since most people discriminate based off a teams record, isnt that case with most MVP candidates?


Or if you want a better case of a guy being irreplaceable in his lineup, check out Miguel Cabrera, manning the hot corner for the Florida Marlins. Well do that by first looking at the players and the teams OBP.


Cabrera: .340/.431/.577/1.008


Marlins team: .265/.332/.436/.768


Howard: .312/.413/.673/1.082


Phillies Team: .265/.344/.446/.790


The Phillies have the second highest team OBP to the Dodgers and the third highest slugging percentage behind the Braves and Mets. Because theyre just two and three points behind the leaders respectively, they boast the highest team OPS in the National League, despite the presence of Sportszilla favorite Abraham Nunez in their lineup. Part of that is Howard, but part of that is also Chase Utley, Pat Burrell and Jimmy Rollins.


On the other hand, the Marlins have the ninth best OBP and fifth best slugging, overall ranking seventh in team OPS. So the Marlins lineup is clearly weaker than the Phillies. If you take Miguel Cabrera off that team, it suffers more than if you take Howard off the Phillies, thus making Cabrera more valuable. In addition, there are four third baseman currently with an OPS over .900, and eight with an OPS over .800. Its not a bad hitting position overall, but not as deep as first. Cabrera is the only third baseman to have an OPS over 1.000, where as Howard is one of three first baseman with that mark. And Cabrera plays half his games at the best pitchers park in baseball, Howard, one of the best hitting parks.


So tell me why Ryan Howard deserves it over Miguel Cabrera? Because the Phillies and their 87 million dollar payroll are a whole four games better than the Marlins and their 14 million dollar one? Thats four games better despite 6.2 times more money invested in their players.


This is not a cry about payroll inequities; its just a statement of facts. The Marlins being where they are is remarkable because of their resources, where as the Phillies have generally been considered a disappointment. If the Marlins overachieve and finish three to five games behind the Phillies, who underachieve but still make the playoffs, are you really going to tell me that Howard deserves the MVP because he made the playoffs and Cabrera didnt?


And to refer to those unconventional stats again, Cabrera ranks second in both runs created and runs created per game and third in total Win Share rankings, behind Pujols and Beltran. So, who would be more difficult to replace?


Bottom line, Ryan Howard is an excellent hitter. Hes one of the best players in baseball, no doubt. Hes very important to his teams success and without him the Phillies probably wouldnt be where they are. But guess what?


You can say that about Albert Pujols. You can say that about Carlos Beltran. And you can say that about Miguel Cabrera. And no matter which angle you take, each one stands in the way of Howard and that MVP hardware. That means, that one of those three is deserving of the award, not Ryan Howard.


No matter how many home runs he hits.



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