Yasiel Puig. Clayton Kershaw. Zack Greinke. Adrian Gonzalez. Yasiel Puig again, and again, etc.
There are certainly no shortage of names when it comes to candidates for the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ team MVP, with the narrative mostly centering on one young Cuban phenomenon who took the league by storm and saved the team from being the biggest disappointment not only in L.A. (which would be quite a statement), but perhaps in baseball history.
Here’s there the narrative’s got it wrong, though. The torchbearer of the Dodgers’ turn around has been Puig, but he isn’t the team’s MVP — and it isn’t even close.
Let’s just let some numbers do the first bit of talking with a little comp game:
Player A: 99 GP, 416 PA, .326/.397/.549, 19 HRs, 64 R, 42 RBIs, 11 SB, 4.2 fWAR
Player B: 83 GP, 327 PA, . 347/.401/.646, 20 HRs, 62 R, 57 RBIs, 10 SB, 5.1 fWAR
Surely, Player A has had a season to remember at the plate, but it’s Player B that’s topped him in nearly every single aspect of the offensive performance here … and they’ve done it in 89 fewer plate appearances. You see what I mean? It’s the difference between great and truly season-changing, and while Puig (Player A) has been the former, it’s hard to call him the MVP of the Dodgers when he hasn’t even been the best positional player on his team.
If you’be read as far as the headline, you already know who player B is: Hanley Ramirez.
It’s funny what a couple of down season will do for a player’s stock, because his success in L.A. should be of little surprise here. After all, it was only a few years ago when he was not only the best shortstop in the game, but a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate as a spry young man at 25 years of age.
What’s that? He’s only 29-years old and still well in his prime? My, how time flies in baseball years.
Yes, I get it. Puig’s arrival and his monstrous impact as the rookie star who saved the Dodgers make for a truly compelling narrative, but it was Ramirez — you know, the guy who they traded for and whom they’re paying $15.5 million in 2013 to do exactly what he’s done so far — that’s made the biggest difference.
The expect might not make a great story, but facts are facts, yes? Having had his season start in earnest one day after Puig arrived to L.A. thanks to multiple injuries, it’s not as if HanRam was needed to be pushed be Puig’s offensive output. Puig was undoubtedly the spark plug, hanging around no. 1 or no. 2 in the order for most of the season, but it was Ramirez who finished the job in a higher-leverage spot as the cleanup man.
And unlike Puig, who hasn’t posted a 1.000-plus OPS month since June and is hitting just .229 in September, Ramirez has been consistently dominant with his only sub-1.000 OPS month being in August, ans is hitting .383 in the final month of the season.
That’s not to mention that Ramirez is a plus defender at 4.5 fielding runs above average at a premium position compared Puig’s 0.4 runs below as a corner outfielder.
In fact, that Hanley has done what he’s done as a shortstop can’t be understated, and may be the biggest boon to his team MVP candidacy. Consider who the Dodgers’ replacement would have been if he would have missed an entire season. Luis Cruz, the -0.4 fWAR player who posted a .344 OPS in 128 PA before being dumped off to the New York Yankees, or Dee Gordon, the Baby Flash who was a -1.4 fWAR failure in 2012?
If you were to take Hanley’s 5.1 fWAR production this season and and replace it with Gordon’s -1.4 from last season, that’s difference of 6.5 wins. In comparison, if Puig would have never arrived, the guy would would have been in right field, Andre Ethier, is a 2.9 fWAR player this season. That makes a 1.3-win difference.
Yes, the math isn’t perfect because because they’re all partial seasons and some extrapolation would be required. Still, if it was Puig who brought the Dodgers back from the dead, it was Ramirez who got them to the top — you know, where Los Angeles expected to be all along before they even played a game in 2013?
You know, maybe the expected isn’t such a ho-hum narrative after all.