A Glance at the MVP Candidates
Last week we took a look at how we should go about picking the Most Valuable Player in each league. Now, let's take a look at some of the leaders in a few different stats. You may remember that we broke down the selection process into a few different categories; context-neutral stats, context-dependent stats, and contribution to real wins. The third category is largely unexplored, at least in terms of stats we could use, so we'll concentrate on the first two.
There are plenty of places you can go to find context-neutral stats. They are probably the most popular of the three categories mentioned above. To keep things simple, we'll go with Justin's Total Value Estimates. The great thing about this stat is that it includes virtually everything you'd want to include, like hitting (based on linear weights) and fielding (based on zone rating and revised zone rating). Also, there are adjustments for park, league, position, and players are measured against replacement level. Here are the top 10 players in the American and National League:
Sizemore Cle 76.6 Rodriguez NY 63.0 Pedroia Bos 53.5 Granderson Det 53.3 Roberts Bal 50.2 Mauer Min 49.9 Hamilton Tex 49.2 Beltre Sea 49.0 Youkilis Bos 44.6 Markakis Bal 44.0
Pujols Stl 87.3 Berkman Hou 75.5 Jones Atl 67.4 Utley Phi 66.8 Ramirez Fla 65.2 Beltran NY 56.8 Holliday Col 56.6 Wright NY 53.7 Giles SD 52.4 Braun Mil 48.4
(numbers through September 5th)
As you can see there, Sizemore and Pujols are the clear leaders. There's a similar drop to second place in both leagues and then some bunching up after that.
Conveniently, Sky Kalkman's taken Win Probability Added and incorporated fielding, position, and replacement level to create a stat similar to Justin's. Here's the NL leaderboard, this time in wins above replacement rather than runs:
Berkman Hou 8.6 Pujols Stl 7.9 Beltran NY 7.1 Ramirez Fla 6.8 Holliday Col 6.7 Wright NY 5.7 Burrell Phi 5.2 Lee Hou 5.0 Utley Phi 4.8
So, what's happened in the NL as we've switched from straight linear weight to WPA? Well, Lance Berkman has jumped over Albert Pujols to take the top spot. He's been particularly clutch (1.78 clutchiness points), while Pujols has merely been average in the clutch. Chase Utley's dropped from third to tenth thanks to his struggles in clutch situations, as measured again by Fan Graphs' clutchiness (-2.13, last in the NL). Remember, this doesn't mean he isn't clutch; in fact, in his career, he's actually been above average in clutchiness. It just means that if you believe context (i.e., performance with men on base, in late game situations, etc) should be considered in the MVP voting, Chase Utley probably isn't your guy.
Sky hasn't run the calculations yet in the AL, so here's the poor-man's version (just plain old WPA, without the positional adjustments, fielding, and so on):
Mauer Min 4.16 Morneau Min 4.14 Quentin Chi 3.89 Hamilton Tex 3.63 Pena TB 3.55 Cabrera Det 3.53 Sizemore Cle 3.38 Pedroia Bos 3.23 Huff Bal 2.64 Ibanez Sea 2.55
Remember, the names aren't that important yet. Heck, we've still got a few crucial weeks left in the season. For now, what's more important is that we understand what everybody is talking about when all of the MVP articles role around. A columnist talking about clutchness in Minnesota ... he's in the context-considered camp. A blogger ridiculing the aforementioned columnist's clutch argument ... he's probably in the context-neutral camp.