Monday, November 17, 2008

What is Valuable?

The baseball award season concludes with the announcement of the Most Valuable Players of each league. While the other awards certainly can lead to disagreement, the MVP may be the most argumentative. Most of the discussion involved the word “valuable”. People often point out that it’s not a “Player of the Year” award, so it’s not just about numbers. The voters need to take into account the player’s value to the team he plays on. What exactly does valuable mean? It appears to mean different things to different voters.

Curiously, some people link a player’s value to a team’s success. I even heard an EEIdiot say that a player who did not play on one of the playoff teams should be automatically eliminated from consideration. The similar argument is used to eliminate players from last place teams. The rationale given that how valuable can a player be on a last place team. Without the player, the team would still be in last place. Oddly, this argument isn’t used for a player on a first place team. It’s never suggested that a team would be in first place, even without the player. Let’s try a little scenario. Imagine a local high school team was playing a college team. They’d probably get beat. Right? If they played 100 times, would the high school win any? Maybe 5 flukes? So, in a 100-game season, the college team would finish 95-5, 90 games ahead of the 5-95 high school team. Now, let’s give the high school team Josh Beckett. He pitches every fifth game, so he makes 20 starts. I’d imagine it’s safe to predict a shutout almost every time out. I’d also imagine he’s a good enough hitter to account for a run or two himself in those games off average college pitchers. So, let’s say, Beckett goes 20-0 in his starts. So, now the high school team finishes 25-75. That’s only 50 games behind the 75-25 college team. So, assuming everything else was identical between the two seasons besides Beckett, would Beckett be the MVP? With him, his team was still in last place just like they were without him. But, they were a full 40 games closer than they were without him. Would he be eliminated because his team was in last by so much? The EEIdiot would say yes. The MVP of the league would have to come from the first place team. But who? In either scenario the first place team won the league by a landslide. How valuable can any one of them be? Wouldn’t it be safe to say if they replaced any college team member with any other college player the records would be about the same? I could make the argument that a great player on a bad team is even more valuable than a great player on a good team. The good team has more margin for error. Take Beckett away, and the high school team stinks. He’s the one player who even makes their season even marginally acceptable. That’s pretty valuable to me.

So, what does this mean in real life? That Josh Hamilton should get just as much consideration for the award as Dustin Pedroia. Maybe even a bit more since without Pedroia, the Sox would still have Youkilis. Without Hamilton, the Rangers might as well not even show up.
Personally? I still like Quentin from the White Sox. He’s a little bit of both arguments. He has raw numbers, like Hamilton. But, his team benefited from them even more. I could go for Morneau for the same reasons on numbers plus results. KRod? No way. Closers are the more overrated position out there. He’s no more valuable than any other bullpen guy. So, if I needed to rank the players I’ve mentioned? Quentin-Morneau-Hamilton-Youkilis-Pedroia-Krod. But, with some more research, I’d probably find some guys to stick in the middle there.

Krod would be at the bottom of just about any list I make.

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