Tuesday, August 20, 2013

MVP Predictions

Some time back I did early predictions for the MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year voting. I was going to wait until September 1st to update these but decided to get an early jump and state my predictions for these awards a full two months or so before they're awarded. I'll discuss the MVP races today (Tuesday, August 20th), Cy Young tomorrow and Rookie of the Year on Thursday. These were my MVP predictions back in June:
AL       Chris Davis
NL       Andrew McCutchen

American League
All numbers for this post and the next two are from Baseball-Reference.com through Monday, August 19th. These are the top 10 position players by WAR in the American League:

This table is ranked by WAR, and to the right of the WAR column are the offensive and defensive contributions. I find it very interesting only three players are listed with negative defensive contributions--and they're found at the TOP of the list. There are two reasons for this:
1. The obvious, in that for Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis their offensive contributions leave any defensive issues in the dust.
2. Davis in particular gets a negative just for playing first base--not in HOW WELL he plays it (which isn't bad--he's right in the middle as measured by UZR/150). Most of the players listed on the WAR list play positions that get bumps like catcher and second base. None of this matters since the next MVP to be awarded for fielding prowess will be the first.

Let's do the quick rule-outs--Dustin Pedroia is the closest to a tools MVP selection as has been seen in some time, and he's surely played a major role in the Red Sox surprise season, but MVP voters won't reward the same behavior twice. His offensive numbers aren't enough--it's one thing to hit 17 home runs like he did in 2008, but unless he goes on a major surge, that's not going to happen. Evan Longoria might be the modern-day Eddie Mathews or Al Kaline--an outstanding player that will never win an MVP, but in his case it will be because he plays in Tampa Bay. Jason Kipnis has no shot, Josh Donaldson has cooled off considerably (four home runs, 16 RBI and a .255 average since July 1st), and Joe Mauer plays for the Twins, but it is good to see him return to some semblance of the form that led the Twins to pay him $115 million through 2018.

Robinson Cano will have a very interesting off-season, since the bar for second base contracts is very recent with the new contracts for Pedroia and Chase Utley. He's worth more than Pedroia, but the question will be how much more and how much longer, and I'm willing to bet it's going to be less and less that what he and his agent are currently thinking. A solid MVP vote could help his case (it shouldn't, but emotions are just as prevalent in baseball as anywhere else), and I think he can finish 4th. Manny Machado is rated as high as he is due to his defense, and both Cano and Machado will be dragged down by their teams not making the playoffs--as of this writing, the Orioles are four games out of the wild card and the Yankees seven.

Which brings it down to the top 3, and how the rest of the season plays out will be the final determinant. I eliminate Mike Trout first because he plays for the Angels, the reigning poster children for how NOT to build a franchise. This leaves the race between Miguel Cabrera and Chris Davis, but at this point I'll point out that with an 18-1 record that will be dissected gleefully in the next post, Max Scherzer will certainly get MVP votes and could easily make it into the top 5, possibly top 3 in voting. He's putting up weird numbers on a good team and it will have an impact on the vote. If he finishes the year with a record of 22-1 or something ridiculous like that, all bets are off.

But I'm not going with Scherzer. Unless he goes on a home run streak, it would appear that Cabrera will not repeat as a Triple Crown winner, and even though it's an overrated number from a bygone era, if he had been able to do that, something NO ONE had ever done before, that would have been pretty tremendous. Even so, he's had back-to-back offensive years that rival anything Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays put up and is a primary reason why Scherzer is 18-1. Chris Davis is having a solid year and could be poised to have a career every bit the match of Cabrera (and that's saying something), but he'll be the Mike Trout of 2013--every bit deserving of the MVP but ultimately the runner-up to Cabrera.

AL MVP--Miguel Cabrera
2nd          Chris Davis
3rd           Max Scherzer
4th           Robinson Cano
5th           Mike Trout

National League
Here's the table:

There's been some movement since I last wrote on this topic in June. Matt Carpenter has emerged as a very solid second baseman for an already-good team and is under team control for some time--he's not even eligible for arbitration until 2015. Yadier Molina was one of my sleepers but had a brief spell on the DL that derailed his chances. He's still very much in the thick of the batting title, to the extent that matters since any time a catcher bats .330 is a plus. Starling Marte is beginning to come on, as is Andrelton Simmons. Carlos Gonzalez has faded a bit from his blistering start, but since he plays for the Rockies it doesn't matter. All of these players will receive votes but have no shot.

As in June, I find this race to be oddly uncompelling. MVP voters love home run hitters, WAR not as much, which is why this list is populated with players at center field or second base and leaves off home run hitters like Pedro Alvarez (31 HR, .234 BA), Domonic Brown (plays for Phillies anyway), Jay Bruce and Justin Upton. Paul Goldschmidt needed the Diamondbacks to stay in contention to have any shot at the MVP, and that's over, and David Wright just might join Evan Longoria as someone who will never win an MVP but that's more because he's doomed to play for a bad Mets team. Carlos Gomez was never going to win an MVP with this year's Brewers, but since July he's tanked as well (6 HR, 18 RBI, .231 BA). 

Just as in June, it's a race between Andrew McCutchen and Joey Votto. I saw this tweet earlier today from MLB Network's Brian Kenny (@MrBrianKenny):
I don't think Kenny was suggesting that work on Votto's Hall of Fame bust commence vs. putting Votto's numbers in historical context. Votto's power numbers are very pedestrian (18 HR, 58 RBI) for an MVP voter to automatically place the check mark by his name, particularly when he plays a power position. He'll end up the season in the 22-80 range and quite likely lead the NL in walks (yawn) and OBP (better) and will be recognized as the leader of the Reds, a playoff team.

And it won't be enough to overcome the stories that will be written about Andrew McCutchen. The Pirates will end their playoff AND losing season drought in the same year and McCutchen will be widely considered the best player on the team, and rightly so. The pitching should not be overlooked, and I've already mentioned the contributions of Pedro Alvarez and Starling Marte, but McCutchen is the face of the franchise. He has every bit the numbers of Carlos Gomez but amassed them for a winning team that will generate HOURS of air time for ESPN and the new Fox Sports Network (they'll need it), and I see no way this tsunami of coverage won't translate into the MVP.

NL MVP  Andrew McCutchen
2nd          Joey Votto
3rd           Clayton Kershaw
4th           Yadier Molina
5th           Paul Goldschmidt

Every word I've written is predicated on the idea that these players won't have season-ending injuries, go on swoons or magically appear on the PED list--anything CAN happen with six weeks left in a season, just like someone can go on a historic tear and dramatically lead his team to the playoffs. It's hard to predict the unpredictable, which is why I base my selections on what has been accomplished and what can reasonably be inferred to occur through the end of the season. We'll find out in a couple of months if I'm correct.

1 comment :

  1. did I just read someone mention Andrelton Simmons in an MVP discussion? A .646 OPS and you want to say he is "coming on" in an MVP race?

    voters do NOT check to see dWAR when filling in their ballot. and with good reason. explain to me how Trout was an all-time great defensively last season and bad this season?