Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

For a Different View . . .

Keith Law at ESPN comes out and says that "Morneau is an awful choice for MVP." It's actually the name of the post on his blog. So, I don't think there's a lot of wiggle room on his position. Interestingly, I'm the kind of person that Law thinks is a baseball idiot - someone who doesn't understand what's going on with the game. Maybe he's right - or maybe he takes himself a little too seriously. I can't get too mad at Law - he seems to like Joe Mauer an awful lot. But, personally, I think that it's Law who doesn't understand what's going on.

So, here's why I think Law is wrong, looking just at his own comments:

1.) "The reality of baseball is that a great offensive player at an up-the-middle position is substantially more valuable than a slightly better hitter at a corner position."

"The AL's voters couldn't even identify the most valuable Twin, never mind wrapping their mind around the whole league."

Essentially, Law is saying that Joe Mauer was a better choice for MVP than was Morneau, because Mauer is a much, much better catcher than Morneau is a first baseman. This is an interesting point, and matches what I do when I draft a fantasy baseball team - I take a guy like Alfonso Soriano, who had 2B eligibility last year, because he was miles better than the next best 2B out there.

BUT - the award is called the "Most Valuable Player" award, NOT the "Best Player Above Replacement Player" award. When you're looking at the MVP, you don't look at how the catchers in the league play. You don't look at how the second basemen play. You look at how the players on any given TEAM play. Look at the stats these guys put up:

Morneau: .321 BA / 34 HR / 130 RBI / 97 R
Mauer: .347 BA / 13 HR / 84 RBI / 86 R

OK, I love Joe Mauer. He's a great, great, great catcher. He did something no catcher has ever done before. BUT, because he's a catcher, he didn't play every day like Morneau did. And because he didn't play every day, he drove in 46 fewer runs, and scored 11 fewer. While Law is correct that it would be easier to find another Morneau than to find another Mauer, he completely misses the point that THIS YEAR, to THIS TEAM, Morneau was more valuable. So, I guess I don't understand "the first thing about baseball," according to Law. But you know what? I'm in pretty good company with the 15 guys who named Morneau as first on their MVP ballot who do this for a living.

Back to Law: "Even going by the stats that the dinosaur voters have favored for as long as the MVP award has existed, Morneau's season wasn't that impressive." In other words, Law is smart for believing in stats like OBP over things like RBI, while the rest of us are "dinosaurs." More on that in a bit. But first, Law again misses the point. Morneau's season wasn't that impressive? Well - again, this award is not named "Player with the Gaudiest Stats Award," it's the "Most Valuable Player" award. Morneau accounted for a far, far greater percentage of his teams runs than did Mauer, or Derek Jeter, or anybody else in the American League, for that matter, other than David Ortiz. If the award was based sheerly on stats, it would have been Ortiz's, hands down. Strike two for Law's analysis, in my opinion.

But there's more: "It's time for some of these voters to put aside their fantasy baseball mentality - one that assumes RBI measure something important . . . "

OK, hold up. Now, I agree, RBI is not the best stat in the world. But you know what? It does measure something important. It measures whether you are hitting the ball with runners on base. Granted, RBI values are going to vary depending on where you hit in the lineup - but driving runners in is what the game is all about. Law would have us be ruled by on-base percentage - but do we really want to give the MVP award to guys who draw a lot of walks and single a lot? His worldview (RBI is meaningless and OBP rules) is just as arbitrary as my worldview (RBI is important and OBP is useful, but only to a point). The problem here really stems from the fact that baseball is a team game - one that needs guys with high OBP as well as guys who drive in a lot of runs and hit a lot of homers. Yet, the team award is given on the field, and is better known as the World Series trophy. Trying to name a winner of an individual award is going to be arbitrary - and once again, Law misses the point.

His vitriol is out of place, and assumes that he is clearly right. Law misses the point that this is designed to be an interesting discussion - one with no right answer.


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