After nearly 100 years of voting for the MLB MVP awards, voters still aren’t sure who to give it to – is it the best player in baseball? Or is it the one who defines the word value, and his team would not be nearly the same without him?
The two are nearly interchangeable, so what it often boils down to is whether or not the player’s team qualified for the playoffs. For the most, part a player from a team that missed the playoffs does not win the MVP, the argument being that a player can’t really be that valuable if his team didn’t even make the playoffs with him.
To make that argument though simplifies the game of baseball down to a one-on-one game. Case in point: If Mike Trout’s Los Angeles Angels miss the playoffs – as they very well might considering they’re still 3.5 games back of the Baltimore Orioles for the final wild card spot – I certainly don’t think that will be Trout’s fault. Even if Trout bombs out and puts up a miserable performance in the final month, he’s still made an unbelievable impact for the team this season.
Trout has accumulated 8.2 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs, which nearly matches Jacoby Ellsbury’s 8.5 mark that led all of major league baseball this season. The Angels were 6-14 (.300) when Trout was called up; they’re 66-49 (.629) since. Take that .629 mark and prorate it to include the 20 games before Trout was called up, and that puts the Angels at 87.4 wins for the season, which would make them a full five games up over the Washington Nationals for the best record in baseball.
The Angels rank 22nd in the league in OPS from the catcher position and they’re 20th in OPS at third base. They’ve gotten extremely subpar seasons starting pitchers Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, each of whom was expected to be a key piece of the rotation this year, as well as the combination of Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards, plus Zack Greinke since he came over via trade. The team has a collective WAR from their pitchers than ranks 23rd in the game, and I think that might be a much bigger reason that the team could miss the playoffs.
Penalizing Trout for collective woes from the team in other areas is downright unfair; likewise, the Milwaukee Brewers are three games under .500 despite a top-notch season from Ryan Braun. The Brewers aren’t the same team without Prince Fielder, and they have a collective WAR from their shortstops that ranks 29th in the game. They are now without Greinke, they rank third-worst in the National League in team ERA, and I don’t think anyone knows what has happened to John Axford as the closer (4.98 ERA, 5.1 BB/9, and eight blown saves).
They made the playoffs last year with Braun putting up virtually the same numbers (.332/.397/.597, .994 OPS last year and .310/.388/.607, .996 OPS this year). Why in the world should surrounding factors beyond Braun’s control (or Trout’s for that matter) cost either player the MVP?
If they fade down the stretch and either Andrew McCutchen or Miguel Cabrera passes them in numbers, that’s certainly understandable. But denying Trout and Braun the MLB MVP awards they rightfully deserve simply because their team is subpar is unjust.