This isn’t me. I’m not whining here or spitting out sour grapes (or whatever that lame phrase is). Yeah, I thought Jimmy Rollins had an amazing year and seemed to be there in so many clutch situations for the Phillies down the stretch, but he’s not even the MVP of the Phillies. That would be Chase Utley, in my mind. But Utley was overlooked because he didn’t have the numbers, because he missed a month.
But for those of you into WARP and VORP, this might be interesting.
Personally, I think Rollins won because:
1.) He has a big mouth. He said in January the Phillies were the team to beat, and despite one of the NL’s worst pitching staffs, they were.
2.) He plays shortstop.
3.) Voters might have filed their ballots before the final day of the season, and therefore missed Matt Holliday’s central role in the Rockies’ surge. True, they would’ve also missed the Mets’ collapse, but I don’t think Rollins’ case was built around that as much. Ryan Howard won last year without the Phillies’ reaching the postseason.
What the article also illuminates is the changing definition of “valuable,” led by the new and innovative ways of looking at performance and statistics. Batting average and home runs (and wins and ERA) don’t tell the whole story anymore, but so long as the voters are two sportswriters in each league city who have been on the baseball beat for two decades, those statistics are going to be the ones that carry the weight. They aren’t going to look at VORP or WARP or ballpark factors (and I checked — Holliday’s and Rollins’ numbers on the road were pretty similar; both were helped a bit by their home parks but also held up well in the gray unis).
At least with the MVP, “valuable” is part of the definition. The Cy Young Award carries no such caveat, so in some years, the wrong guy wins just because his team reached the postseason or his offense produced a lot of wins. And don’t get me started on the Heisman, which has completely lost its luster and meaning and probably hasn’t been the same award since they moved the ceremony from the Downtown Athletic Club to Midtown. The Heisman, by definition but not in name, is for the “most outstanding college football player.” Not “the most outstanding or valuable player[you could even insert quarterback/running back here] on the best team.” Troy Smith wasn’t the most outstanding player last year; Darren McFadden was. The most outstanding player this year isn’t necessarily a quarterback who throws for 3,000 yards and 30 TDs and leads his team to a BCS game; it’s Tim Tebow, the first player IN HISTORY to score 20 TDs each passing and rushing. Or, as ESPN Magazine argued, it’s perhaps LSU DT Glenn Dorsey. Sure, Tebow may be a product of Urban Meyer’s system, but he still executes against some tough competition — particularly some fast defenses. I wouldn’t knock Colt Brennan (last year) for throwing 58 TDs because of the system (though I would question the competition).
Anyway, enough with the football. I got carried away there. It’ll be interesting to see over the years if the baseball awards continue to be based on home runs and wins (Troy Tulowitzki was the most impressive NL rookie in 2007, because he played the field so much — significantly so — better than Ryan Braun, who had the worst fielding season for a third baseman in something like 80 years). Or will the new stats — kind of like the “new math,” whatever that was — take hold and change the way we look at players. When you look at Rollins’ OPS — which seems to be the new stat most accepted into the mainstream — he was way down at No. 22 in the NL. The top nine were legitimate MVP contenders: Chipper Jones, Prince Fielder, Holliday, Albert Pujols, Howard, Utley, Miguel Cabrera, David Wright and Hanley Ramirez. Ahead of Rollins were guys like Pat Burrell, Corey Hart and, even with him, Jeff Kent.
To end this on a more even note, when you use the question, “Where would [the team] have been without [the player]?” Rollins and Holliday come out pretty closely. Rollins started all 162 games and set a Major League record for plate appearances because the Phillies had no other shortstop. In a pinch, Abraham Nunez would’ve played there, but he’s not much of a shortstop anymore. Rollins also set a Major League record for at-bats in a season because he doesn’t walk enough and makes a lot of outs. So if you took him away from the Phillies, they had no shortstop, but you also only took away an .875 OPS.
But if you took Holliday away from the Rockies, you’re taking away a 1.012 OPS, not to mention an NL-best 142.2 runs created (Rollins had 133.4, fifth in the league).
Still close, but Holliday seemed more valuable to me.