Quick thoughts: 2010 MVP Awards

I didn’t post any quick thoughts on the NL MVP vote yesterday because the only thought I had was: Perfect. Nothing jumped out at me at the way it turned out. To me, Joey Votto should have won, and he should have won easily. He did both.

If pressed to find something, I suppose I would question putting Albert Pujols second over Carlos Gonzalez. It’s the most valuable player award, not the most prolific player award or the most outstanding player award or the best hitter award. Pujols would be hard to beat in any of those. But the way I would look at an MVP vote if I had one would be which player’s absence from his team would have had the biggest effect on that club’s season. Clearly, without the season Votto had, the Reds are not NL Central champs.

Of course, without Pujols, the Cardinals do not sniff a pennant race, either. But Pujols had a very similar season to the one he had in his 2009 MVP campaign, yet the Cardinals missed the playoffs in 2010. In other words, I guess I look at it as whether or not they had Pujols, the Cards weren’t winning the division this year. (Also, I find it interesting how Pujols has had three seasons — including the last two — of exactly 700 plate appearances but has never had any more than that.)

1 Joey Votto 1.024 150 648 547 106 177 36 2 37 113 91 125 11 16 .324 .424 .600
2 Albert Pujols 1.011 159 700 587 115 183 39 1 42 118 103 76 23 14 .312 .414 .596
3 Carlos Gonzalez .974 145 636 587 111 197 34 9 34 117 40 135 9 26 .336 .376 .598
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/23/2010.

As for the American League, again I have trouble coming up with an argument in support of anyone else. Had Josh Hamilton played more than 89 games in 2009, the Rangers might have overcome the Angels, or pushed them deeper into September instead of finishing 10 games back (in second place). This wasn’t a full season for Hamilton, either, but in 133 games and 571 plate appearances, he had better numbers (except for 30 fewer RBIs) or negligible deficits in many key categories compared to his 2008 breakout All-Star season. The true difference in the Rangers winning the division and previous years may be their pitching, or simply just their pitching philosophy, but for a single most valuable piece of Texas’ AL West title, you have to look at Hamilton.

Miguel Cabrera probably deserved more second-place support for another spectacular season. If he hasn’t already, he’s close to taking the torch from Alex Rodriguez as the American League’s best and most reliable player, the guy you can pencil in for 150 games, a .300 average, 30 homers and 100 RBIs at the start of the season and then wait to see when he reaches those numbers and how far past them he goes.

As for Robinson Cano, kudos on a breakout year for the Trenton Thunder alum. If there’s anyone on the Yankees who should be getting a six-year, $100 million contract this winter, it’s him, and not Derek Jeter (same goes for three years, $45 million). But absent a 50-homer, 140-RBI season or a Triple Crown-contending campaign, it remains hard for a Yankee to garner enough support for the MVP award because the team is loaded, year in and year out. I have no problem with that, because on a team full of All-Stars, how do you determine which one is the most valuable? Take any one of them away for a significant portion of the season, and the Yankees will hardly miss a beat.

I’m trying to say that the MVP Award has to go to a player on a playoff team or contending club every year, but so long as there are singular performers on such teams, it’s going to take video-game like numbers from anyone else to garner support. In a year without Hamilton, Cabrera or Cano, Jose Bautista might’ve been the favorite, or a top-two contender. Maybe a few more than 109 runs or 124 RBIs would’ve lent more weight to his 54 home runs. Or maybe his .260 batting average pulled him down in voters’ eyes (indicating that BA still has more influence than wins do for pitchers in the eyes of those who judge these performances). Or perhaps the cloud of doubt in this post-BALCO age eliminated Bautista in June.

1 Josh Hamilton .359 133 571 518 95 186 40 3 32 100 43 95 8 1 .411 .633 1.044
2 Miguel Cabrera .328 150 648 548 111 180 45 1 38 126 89 95 3 3 .420 .622 1.042
5 Robinson Cano .319 160 696 626 103 200 41 3 29 109 57 77 3 2 .381 .534 .914
42 Jose Bautista .260 161 683 569 109 148 35 3 54 124 100 116 9 2 .378 .617 .995
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/23/2010.

With the announcement of the final major award for the season, I like to consider this day the final one of the 2010 campaign. We also saw the last managerial opening officially filled today with the Mets’ introduction of Terry Collins. (I may get into my thoughts on that later.) Today is the arbitration deadline, which will put a final stamp on the makeup of this winter’s free-agent crop, and Thanksgiving is upon us. On the other side of the holiday is December and the Winter Meetings, so soon we’ll be looking forward to 2011 in earnest.

Time to turn that Hot Stove up to 11.

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