Thursday, November 13, 2014

What Makes a Player Valuable?

It’s an important question. After all, if I don’t know what player is “valuable” how can I ever hope to decide who the Most Valuable Player is?

So, what is value?

People are very eager to point out that Major League Baseball isn’t giving out a “Player of the Year” award today. It’s a Most Valuable Player Award. Apparently that’s different.

How, exactly?

Valuable means giving the most value to his team. But, that’s somehow different than putting up the best stats. Could it mean the player that best fits the needs of the team he’s on? Take the 2013 Red Sox. Jacoby Ellsbury was pretty valuable.The Sox really needed a speedy guy to get on base a lot in front of Pedroia, Ortiz, and Napoli. Ells was perfect. He was on base all the time, and his legs attracted a lot of attention. That was pretty valuable. But, if he was on the Astros, without the bats behind him, that might not have mattered as much. Or, at all. A guy at second is of no value if nobody drives him in. Someone like Mike Napoli might have been more valuable to the Astros because he can drive himself in more often. Napoli might have been more valuable to the Astros than he was to the Red Sox, who also had Pedroia and Ortiz to fall back on.

Does that mean Ellsbury was more valuable than Napoli, just because of the team they played on? That’s weird. Shouldn’t the most valuable player in the league be the most valuable to every team? That would make sense.

That’s where I have trouble with the whole “MVP needs to come from a playoff team” argument. A valuable player should be a valuable player, right? Frankly, as I’ve said before, a good player might be even more valuable to a lousy team than a playoff team.

Say I have a baseball card collection…which I do. Say I have a Ted Williams rookie card in my collection…which I don’t. That right there makes my collection as a whole pretty impressive. That would be a pretty valuable card to my collection. Without it, the Jim Rice rookie led collection isn’t all that great. But, what if Keith Olberman had the Ted Williams rookie…which he might. He also has the T-206 Wagner card, and any number of fantastic cards. The Williams rookie might be a throwaway card to him, and not valuable at all. So, the decent card is more valuable to a lesser collection.

Isn’t the same true for a player? If the Giants had Giancarlo Stanton, would they have performed any better this season? Hard to see how. But, the Marlins were only is even marginal contention because they had Stanton. Isn’t that pretty valuable?

So, what should the voters be looking at when they vote for “most valuable”? They player who happens to fill his specific team’s specific needs? Is that value? Or, the player that would add the most to any team he was on? Is Mike Trout just as valuable to the Angels as he would be to the Red Sox? Is that important?

Is that “valuable”?

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