Pujols Wins Second MVP
Albert Pujols won his second National League Most Valuable Player Award yesterday, capturing 18 of the 32 first-place votes. Ryan Howard was the recipient of 12 first-place votes and finished second. Brad Lidge received the other two first-place votes.
While not surprised by the results, it seems to me that the race between Pujols and Howard was much closer than it should have been. Let's take a look at their rate stats:
AVG OBP SLG Pujols .357 .462 .653 Howard .251 .339 .543
As shown, Pujols smoked Howard across the board, beating his fellow first baseman by more than 100 points in AVG, OBP, and SLG. If you want a single stat to compare the two, look no further than Pujols' 233 margin of superiority in OPS.
Given that Pujols is also a much better fielder and baserunner, it is incomprehensible to me how any voter could cast a ballot in favor of Howard over him. I understand that Howard played for a team that won its division whereas Pujols' club failed to make the postseason. The fact that the Phillies went on to win the World Series is irrelevant in that the votes were due before the playoffs began. Not for nothing, I would argue that Pujols did more for his team than Howard as St. Louis arguably overachieved its preseason forecasts to a greater degree than Philadelphia.
Let's face it, the only way a voter could reach the conclusion that Howard was more valuable than Pujols is by overemphasizing the importance of home runs and RBI at the expense of all of the other evidence, including how well they hit with runners in scoring position (h/t to Rob Neyer).
AVG OBP SLG Pujols .339 .523 .678 Howard .320 .439 .589
But, goodness gracious, if you're into league rankings, let's at least be fair in considering more than just HR and RBI.
• 1st in NL in SLG (.653)
• 1st in NL in HR (48)
Think about it, Howard, who is a net negative when not at the plate, ranked FOURTEENTH in the NL in OPS, yet "earned" nearly 40% of the first-place votes!
Interestingly, the only other time in the division era (1995-on) that a player led his league in HR and RBI *and* his team finished in first place yet failed to win the MVP Award was in 2005 when Pujols picked up his first MVP by edging out Andruw Jones (51 HR, 128 RBI) in a similar vote.
Lastly, I found it hard to believe that Hanley Ramirez (.301/.400/.540) and Chase Utley (.292/.380/.535) wound up outside the top ten in the voting. Did I mention that they played shortstop and second base? And that Utley was not only a Gold Glove-caliber defensive player but ranked first in plus/minus leaders at all positions?
Ramirez, for his part, led the NL in runs scored (125) and placed in the top ten in OBP, SLG, OPS, BB, HR, and SB. If not for Ramirez, where do you suppose the Florida Marlins would have ended up in the NL East? By the same token, Utley had a higher AVG and OBP than Howard and trailed his teammate by a whopping eight points in SLG, yet tied for 14th in the voting (or 12 spots behind Howard).
I'm pleased that the writers got it right with respect to the winner but am disappointed in the overall results.
Player 1st 2nd 3rd Total Albert Pujols 18 10 2 369 Ryan Howard 12 8 6 308 Ryan Braun -- 2 3 139
4. Manny Ramirez, Dodgers, 138
Others receiving votes: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins, 55; Chipper Jones, Braves, 44; Geovany Soto, Cubs 41; Johan Santana, Mets, 30; Chase Utley, Phillies, 30; Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals 17; Brandon Webb, Diamondbacks, 14; Adrian Gonzalez, Padres, 13; Matt Holliday, Rockies, 13; Prince Fielder, Brewers, 11; Derrek Lee, Cubs, 10; Carlos Beltran, Mets, 10; Tim Lincecum, Giants, 9; Jose Reyes, Mets, 3; Jose Valverde, Astros, 3; Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks 2; Nate McLouth, Pirates, 1.