AL MVP and the DH

Ok, so it looks like the AL MVP in major league baseball is down to two guys: Alex Rodriguez, third baseman for the Yankees and David Ortiz, DH for the Boston Red Sox.

Now, not to take anything away from Ortiz who is a hell of a hitter, but how is this even an issue? I’m not going to go so far as to say that a DH should never be the MVP, but if we’re going to go that route then that DH better damn well be much, much, much better than the next closest guy.

Arod’s numbers:

Avg - 320
HR - 47
Runs - 121
RBI - 129
SB - 20
SLG - 608
OPS - 1029

Ortiz’s numbers:

Avg - 298
HR - 47
Runs - 117
RBI - 146
SB - 1 (how in the hell did that happen?!)
SLG - 605
OPS - 999

Am I missing something? They’re essentially the same numbers except a few more RBI for Ortiz, and a hell of a lot more SB for Arod. And, Arod could compete for a gold glove at third base to boot.

Why is this a difficult decision?

I’m with you, and no doubt those baseball fans with an interest in measuring the true value of a player are also of the opinion that A-Rod is by far the most valuable player in the American League.

There are still those legions of fans and sportswriters that believe that putting up huge RBI numbers (I mean, once you get close to, or over, 150 ribbies, that impresses the MVP voters greatly) makes you a serious candidate, regardless of the competition.

I heard a sportscaster say tonight that it comes down to whoever wins the A. L. East. If it’s the Yankees, A-Rod’s the MVP, but Ortiz gets the nod if Boston takes the title.

I think, regardless of the season’s final outcome, Ortiz should get the Hank Aaron award and Rodriguez the MVP.

Hell, I think I could make a compelling argument that Arod deserves both, but I wouldn’t complain too much if Ortiz gets the Hank Aaron.

There is, of course, the old argument that says the MVP award should not be based on stats, but on a player’s value to his team.

I’m not quite sure which of these two that argues for. If you yank Rodriguez off the Yankees roster and Ortiz away from the RedSox, which team drops further?

I agree.

But, since both players have very similar offensive numbers, and both teams have very similar (maybe the same in an hour…) records, then remove either player’s offensive numbers from either team, and you essentially have the same drop in team winning percentage. Ortiz has this aura as a “clutch” player, though I’d like to see that backed up with statistics because I believe Bill James debunked that concept.

So, the only differentiating factor is defense.

I’m a Yankee fan, so it probably won’t be possible for people to believe I can be objective.

Ortiz is the clutchest hitter in the AL this year. He has 19 HR that either tied the game or won the game. He is a monster of a hitter and probably the best batter in the AL.

A-Rod is a great hitter, the best all-around hitter in the AL and an excellent base-stealer.
He is not a particularly clutch hitter. He plays very good defense on the hot corner and is contending for the gold glove. This makes him a more valuable all around player.

Traditionally the MVP goes to the player you leads his team to the post season. So if either team fails to make the post season, they are close enough to eliminate the loser.

If both teams make the postseason, it should probably go to the fielder over the DH.

I’d give it to Rodriguez, but I will quarrel with the OP that “that DH better damn well be much, much, much better than the next closest guy.” Rodriguez is probably helping the team by DHing. If the guy #1 is a DH, and guy #2 is a typical mediocre-to-bad 1B/LF/RF slugger (as most MVP candidates are), I’d call it a wash.

“Clutch” hitting is overrated. A HR in the first inning is no fewer runs than a HR in the bottom of the ninth, it’s just less dramatic.

So, then, if this series goes to a one game playoff, then shouldn’t the MVP just go to the guy who gets the game winning hit in that game and not either Arod or Ortiz?

I’d be amenable to amending my statement to encompass that. Essentially, many LF/RF are just DHs who stand around an extra hour or so per game. Though, a good fielding 1B is quite a nice thing to have.

But, in this scenario, this is not an issue, as Arod is a fantastic fielder at a tough position.

Well, I’d say the Yankees would drop further. I base that on the stats. He’s just as good a hitter and he’s a vastly more valuable defensive player, for obvious reasons.

Rodriguez should win the award, but Ortiz wouldn’t be a TERRIBLE pick, like George Bell was or Juan Gonzalez.

Two cents from a tepid Yankees fan who never liked A-Rod.

David Ortiz has had a hell of a year, and if he wins the MVP award, it won’t strike me as a cosmic injustice.

But if I had a vote, I’d give it to A-Rod, the skunk.

I admit, I’m hesitant to vote for a DH, but if Ortiz had numbers that were far and away better than those of Rodriguez, I’d vote for him, even though he rarely plays the field. But since the numbers are very close and very comparable, I think Rodriguez’ superb play in the field puts him over the top.

It’s ironic though, that if Ortiz were just another big stiff playing first base (poorly) every day, he’d probably win by a landslide.

But not many HRs in the first inning win the game, either. Not only does Ortiz hit a buttload of game-tying and walk off HRs, he gets the base hit to drive in the tying and winning runs seemingly every game. And maybe the fact that he DOESN’T put on a glove every game, possibly becoming a bit of a liability at 1B, is more of a help to his team than A-Rod’s great play at third. :smiley:

Furthermore, given the choice of having to pitch to Papi with the game on the line and having to pitch to A-Rod – while neither choice is a walk in the park – I’d be willing to bet that more pitchers would give Ortiz the free pass and pitch to Manny Ramirez, even though his numbers in and of themselves are phenomenal. More pitchers seem willing to take their chances with A-Rod and Ramirez than give Ortiz much of anything to hit. And with his pickings being as slim as they are, Ortiz is doing some serious damage.

Base on Balls:
Rodriguez- 90
Ramirez- 78
Ortiz- 98

For the record, Manny’s numbers, typically behind Ortiz:
Avg. .289
HR 42
R 108
RBI 138
SB 1 (Also a HUH?? )
SLG .579
OPS .963

While I agree that either would be a fine choice, I wouldn’t start engraving Alex Rodriguez’s name on the trophy just yet. It’s probably his to lose, but it may not take all that mediocre of a game for him to lose it.

Again, though, that assumes, incorrectly, that if your team wins 5-4, the guy who got the fifth RBI is more important than the guy who got the first. But that’s just not true.

Surely you are not suggesting that Ortiz having 98 walks and Rodriguez having 90 means anything in terms of pitchers’ willingness to pitch to them? There’s even less of a difference in intentional walks (9 for Big Papi, 8 for A-Rod, as of 1 Oct.) Eight walks is a miniscule difference and in any event it’s just as likely to be a product of David Ortiz being more selective, not that pitchers are less willing to pitch to him.

There’s also the fact that Ortiz is lefthanded and Ramirez is righthanded; if you have a righthander pitching there’ll frequently be situation where you’re better off pitching around Ortiz to get to a righthander. Rodriguez is (usually) followed by Gary Sheffield, also a righthander, so there’s never a platoon reason to walk Rodriguez. I mean, we can play this game all day.

If one team of the other is eliminated by Cleveland, the player on the team that makes the playoffs will win the MVP.

If both make it, it’ll be a super-close vote.

Again, in this instance, Ortiz and Rodriguez have very comparable numbers. So close, in fact, that it seems fair to take fielding into consideration as a tiebreaker.

But assume A-Rod didn’t exist. In that case, Ortiz’s numbers would certainly make him the strongest contender for the award. But there would still be SOME voters who’d be unwilling to vote for a guy who’s primarily a DH.

Is that fair? I’m not sure. I mean, there have been MANY lousy outfielders and sub-par first basemen who’ve won the MVP award in the past, just because of their stellar numbers at the plate.

Juan Gonzalez was no Gold Glover, but he still won 2 MVP awards. If David Ortiz were playing left field every day, he’d be about as capable a glove man as Manny Ramirez (another superb hitter who’s an embarrassment in the field. If he were playing first base every day, he’d probably be bad, but no worse than many other first basemen. Let’s face it: first base and left field have long been places where teams try to hide defensive liabilities.

If David Ortiz were a bad left fielder or a bad first baseman, he’d probably win the MVP award easily (right now, he’s just a maybe). But would he be of any greater value to his team doing that? Probably not.

But both awards were a mistake. Alex Rodriguez should have won the 1996 award, not Gonzalez. Bernie Williams should have won the 1998 award.

I agree that Ortiz probably would run away with it if he was out there at first base stinking the joint up, but that doesn’t mean he’d deserve it.

It’s going to be a close vote, since Cleveland is choking big time and it now looks as if Boston and New York will both make the playoffs.

Sox fan here.

I honestly don’t think I’d be particularly angry if it went either way. I think Ortiz means a lot more to his team - in terms of presence in the middle of the lineup, total “clutchness” (the statistician in me is revolted at the thought of such a thing, but the empirical data… well…), and especially clubhouse presence. Ortiz is a team leader; Rodriguez isn’t, though at least partially because he doesn’t have to be (because of Jeter, among others). There are reports that actually put A-Rod as divisive in the clubhouse, though I don’t necessarily know if I believe them.

I will tell you that, as a Red Sox fan, if it’s the bottom of the ninth, two out, tying runner in scoring position… A-Rod isn’t the most feared guy in that lineup, not even close. Sheffield, Jeter, and quite possibly Posada and Bernie all scare me more when the chips are on the line. It’s often said around Boston that when the Sox are preparing to face the Yankee lineup, Sheffield is the guy that concerns them the most, though I don’t know how much that’s completely true.

There’s also an extremely convincing (IMO) argument to be made that Rivera has been more valuable to the Yankees than A-Rod.

I think Rodriguez will probably win the award, mostly because of anti-DH bias; as others have said, I think if Ortiz was out there playing a sub-par (we’ll call it a Millar-esque) first base every night, he’d walk away with it.

I don’t have a link, but someone else will undoubtedly find the stats I’m talking about.

David Ortiz HAS won some big games with “walk-off” homers, and moments like that stand out in our minds. But is he really a better “clutcH” hitter than most of his competitiors?

Most serious baseball statisticians scoff at the idea that there are clutch hitters or chokers. Serious stat geeks will tell you that, over the long run, players almost always perform in the clutch exactly as they do the rest of the time. A few weeks back, the Sports Illustrated web site was comparing A-Rod to David ORtiz, and trying to analyze whether either man was a better “clutch” hitter.

We can debate what qualifies as a clutch hit, of course, but for the sake of this argument, the writer looked only at plate appearances by Ortiz and A-Rod under the follwing circumstances:

  1. It was the 7th, 8th or 9th inning
  2. The Yankees or Red Sox were trailing
  3. There were runners in scoring position

So, what do you suppose their batting averages were? Again, I can’t swear I have these numbers exactly right, but I’m pretty sure they showed Ortiz batting right around .296 and A-Rod batting right around .316.

In other words, in “clutch” situations, both men had roughly the same batting averages they’ve had all season.

Not surprising to me, but of course, their are rabid fans who’ll insist that “clutch hitter” and “money pitcher” are meaningful terms.

I mean, Yankee fans I know still call Reggie Jackson “Mr. October,” and insist he shined brightest in the post season. In reality, Reggie’s performance in the post-season was almost exactly the same as it was in the regular season.

Don’t believe me? He had 281 career at-bats in the post-season. That amounts to half a full season of baseball right? So, we can double his stats and get a pretty good idea of how productive he was in the post-season.

What do we find? If we treat the post-season like a regular season, we find that Reggie would have ended his “season” with 36 homers, 96 RBIs and a .278 average. Very good? Of course. But not magnificent. Really, that’s just about what Oakland A’s fans and Yankee fans expected from Reggie in a typical season.

Not that I expect such evidence to sway anyone who saw those 3 homers in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series." And no Red Sox fan who’s seen a few of Ortiz’s walk-off homers will accept the fact that Ortiz performs about the same in the bottom of the 9th as he does in the top of the 1st.

But those are the facts.

One detail that no one mentions is this:

Ortiz’s complete and total incompetence in the field means that Manny can’t DH and is forced to play comically bad defense. Honestly if Ortiz weren’t a injury liability I’m certain they’d prefer to have him playing 1B and Manny in the DH role. This is both because without the injury fear Ortiz is not worse than Manny in the field and 1B is a safer place to have a poor fielder than left field (especially in Fenway).

When people ask this question I don’t look at it as simply a comparison of two hitters on similar teams, with one playing great defense and the other not. You can make an argument that Ortiz is the equivalent of the worst defensive player in the league…because he forces Manny to not DH. A bad defender is worse than a DH because he actively costs you runs and wins. Manny has probably cost the Red Sox 6 games this year by making retarded plays in the field and missing the cut-off man. If Ortiz were not so fragile and inept in the field they wouldn’t even be in a race right ow, they’d have run away with the division.

A-Rod will win the gold glove, and should win the MVP. If he doesn’t it’s plain old anti-Yankee/anti-ARod bias. No doubt Ortiz is a great clubhouse guy and has gotten serious hype for hitting homers in movie-like situations, but that does not an MVP make.

Remove every argument other than statistics and I’d still take A-Rod, RBIs aren’t the most important stat. They are situational and have more to do with the quality of the players batting ahead of him. Average and OPS are the key stats here, both have A-Rod with a 20 and 30 point edge, respectively. Thats a HUGE disparity. To argue for Ortiz borders on jingoism.

The only real arguable point to me is the clubhouse factor. If you’re to believe the “experts” when they say Ortiz is the glue that holds the Boston “idiots” together and that A-Rod is a cancer, then you can fight for A-Rod. Frankly, I think these things are more likely just good media fodder and don’t have much of a real impact. Even if they are valid, you’d have to consider it to be more valuable than 30 points on OPS in the heart of the order and the difference between a gold glove 3B and a historically bad LF.

Then your fear’s irrational. Bernie Williams in particular simply isn’t even a good hitter anymore. I mean, this is not something that’s open for debate; if the winning runs are on base, the Yankees are likelier to win if A-Rod is coming up than if Williams is coming up. Or Posada, or Jeter. Jeter’s batting .261 with runners in scoring position - what’s so great about that??

The MVP voters should, I hope, base their votes on objective facts, not irrational fears.

And of course there’s more to being MVP than driving in runs. Rodriguez is likelier to be the guy who gets into scoring position. He’s likelier to save the team with a big defensive play.

Mariano Rivera is a great pitcher, of that there is no doubt, but he isn’t one of the five most valuable players on his team, and isn’t one of the 25 most valuable in the league. I have great respect for him, but he’s pitched just 78 innings. It would be like giving the MVP to a really good platoon player, like John Lowenstein or Rance Mulliniks.

I think Alex Rodriguez was the best player in the AL this year. Now the problem is we’ve never had any real consensus on what the MVP is. Well, basically it’s just an award baseball writers get to give out based on who strikes the most of them as a good pick.

We’ve seen the argument that the MVP is someone who leads their team to the playoffs, but that’s not set in stone as MVP Awards have been given to players who are not on playoff teams. Alex Rodriguez in 2003 for example and Barry Bonds in 2004.

We’ve also had pitchers get the MVP, we’ve had people who were clearly inferior players get the MVP. So it’s not strictly about who was the best player, it’s not strictly about who was the most valuable to their team, nor is it strictly about positional bias (batters vs. pitchers, fielders vs. DHs etc) but all of that sort of combines in the big sloppy mess that is choosing an MVP.