AL MVP Award

One of my responsibilities (privileges) as a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is to vote on the year-end awards (MVP, Cy Young, ROY, and Manager of the Year). As an Orioles blog, I’ll be voting only for the American League awards (but I may do NL anyway at some point). For the Most Valuable Player award, the official criteria is the following:

“There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier. The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

  1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
  2. Number of games played.
  3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
  4. Former winners are eligible.
  5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from one to ten. A tenth-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all ten places on your ballot. Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, and that includes pitchers and designated hitters. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.”

I’ll add that despite pitchers certainly qualifying for the award, I’m not really going to give them consideration. They’ve got the Cy Young, and position players (note: I didn’t just say hitters) get the MVP (in my opinion).

10. Zack Greinke (SP, KCR)

The previous paragraph not withstanding, Greinke’s season was just way to good to leave off the ballot entirely. By Wins Above Replacement, Zack (9.3 WAR) was actually the most valuable player in all of baseball this year.

9. Miguel Cabrera (1B, DET)

.323/.395/.541, 33 HR, 679 PA, .399 wOBA, +2.3 UZR, 5.2 WAR

After a down year in 2008, he comes back to put up a largely classic Miggy Cabrera season. Then - the day before the Tigers’ play-in game against the Twins – it comes out that Cabrera recently got drunk and got into a fight with his wife.  You stay classy Miguel.

8. Kevin Youkilis (1B & 3B, BOS)

.305/.413/.548, 27 HR, 588 PA, .413 wOBA, -0.6 UZR, 5.3 WAR

Youk has not only established himself as a middle-of-the-order hitter, but his versatility (he also got in a couple games in LF) is a huge asset to the Red Sox.

7. Mark Teixeira (1B, NYY)

.292/.383/.565, 39 HR, 707 PA, .402 wOBA, -0.6 UZR, 5.4 WAR

Led the league in HR and RBI (122), which should get him a lot of support from the BBWAA. Tex, Youk, and Miggy were all pretty much interchangeable.

6. Chone Figgins (3B, LAA)

.298/.395/.393, 5 HR, 729 PA, .358 wOBA, +15.3 UZR, 6.0 WAR

Not a bad time to have a career year, since Figgins will be a free agent this offseason. He’s really improved his plate discipline, and swung at the second lowest percent of pitches out of the zone in the AL this year (14.9%). He also had the 3rd best UZR (after adjusting for position) in the league.

5. Franklin Gutierrez (CF, SEA)

.283/.339/.425, 18 HR, 629 PA, .337 wOBA, +27.1 UZR, 5.7 WAR

The M’s got Guti to track down balls in the outfield and he did just that. His defense was almost a win better than the next closest player’s, and the slightly above average offense was certainly a welcome bonus. Plus, he was by far the clutchiest player in the league according to FanGraphs.

4. Evan Longoria (3B, TBR)

.281/.364/.526, 33 HR, 671 PA, .380 wOBA, +18.2 UZR, 7.3 WAR
The gap from #5 to #4 is huge. Longo improved offensively and kept up his strong defense (2nd best in the AL amongst all positions, behind Gutierrez and ahead of Figgins). The guy is the cornerstone of that franchise and is signed to a ridiculously cheap contract.

3. Derek Jeter (SS, NYY)

.334/.406/.465, 18 HR, 716 PA, .390 wOBA, +7.2 UZR, 7.4 WAR

Looks like the Captain has still got it. Best year he’s had in a while, largely due to the improved defense. Don’t know why people are pushing for Teixeira over him as the Yankees’ MVP.

2. Ben Zobrist (Everywhere, TBR)

.297/.405/.543, 27 HR, 599 PA, .408 wOBA, +25.4 UZR, 8.5 WAR

Raise your hand if before the season you though Ben Zobrist would lead the AL (position players) in WAR this year. He had a career -0.5 WAR coming into 2009. The guy saw time at first, second, third, short, left, center, and right. He played crazy-good defense. He crushed the ball. He was awesome, and in many years I would have put him at the top of the list. This has to be one of the most out of nowhere things to happen in baseball history.

1. Joe Mauer (C, MIN)

.365/.444/.587, 28 HR, 600 PA, .438 wOBA, 8.2 WAR

Number of AL catchers not named “Joe Mauer” to have won a batting title: 0. Mauer, meanwhile, has won his third (and second in a row). He also led the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (obviously, but by over 100 points), wOBA, and sideburns. After having only 6-13 homers every year of his career, Mauer employed some serious power in 2009 – belting 28 longballs.

Also – because BBWAA voters love their story-lines – Joe put the team on his back down the stretch (not really; he was better in May) and carried them passed the Tigers into the playoffs*; all while Justin Morneau was out with an injury for the final few weeks.

* I actually wrote this before that amazing 163rd game where the Twins beat the Tigers. I just really believed in that Metrodome Magic.

Mauer’s 2009 season may very well be the best ever for a catcher, depending on just how much credit you want to give him for his defense.  I think that’s definitely worthy of an MVP award.