At 2 PM today the BBWAA will announce the NL MVP. In years past I've compared the candidates and invited debate on the matter. Increasingly I've come to realize that these exercises inevitably deteriorate into people talking past each other. Everyone has their idea of what the MVP is. So let's look at how this year's candidates match up to the justifications.
For the record here are the voting guidelines:
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.
UPDATE: It's Pujols.
If Albert Pujols is your MVP:
Your MVP doesn't have to come from a playoff team. You see the MVP as the "Most Outstanding Player" award and Pujols was easily the best player in the league. You may look at both offense and defense and use advanced stats to determine value, or you may simply base your determination on traditional triple crown stats. Pujols dominated by any measure.
Bernie Miklasz of the St Louis Post Dispatch carries the flag: Being a man of limited intellect, I've tried to simplify the MVP process. It comes down to this for me: the best player with the best overall statistics has the most value to his team. What I refuse to do in MVP voting is penalize a great player because the team around him is deficient.
You adjust for "value" based on team standings, but don't draw the cutoff point at the Playoffs. Pujols' Cardinals led the Wild Card into August and they finished with a respectable 86 wins.
As Ken Rosenthal writes: But while I prefer my MVP to at least experience pennant-race pressure if he does not play for a postseason qualifier, the Cardinals contended practically all season, greatly exceeding every expert's (ahem) expectations. Remove Pujols from the equation, and the team would not have been nearly as competitive.
If Ryan Howard is your MVP:
You like your MVP to be from a playoff team. Furthermore you want him to guide his team into the playoffs by hitting well down the stretch. You believe the games in September are more important than the games in April. On Sept 15 Randy Miller from phillyburbs.com wrote: Howard is doing his part and more with a .356 average, 10 homers and 25 RBIs over his last 19 games. In September, he's batting .354 with seven homers in 13 games, which is typical. Like Hank Aaron you might be impressed by Howard's superior HR and RBI totals (and not be bothered by his low batting average). You're not one of these posters from The Good Phight: Ryan Howard is not a legitimate MVP candidate, and it's not even close.
If Brad Lidge is your MVP:
You don't buy into the recent theory that closers are inherently fungible. You're impressed with perfection--41-41 in save chances (plus the playoffs, though that shouldn't count). You probably favor Francisco Rodriguez in the AL. Like Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News you like talking about mental toughness and where a team would be without a player. Like Brian Joseph of USA Today's Baseball Digest Daily you may be trying to be contrarian (actually that's true of many of the non-Albert picks): Where Lidge ranks among the candidates for this year's NL MVP is somewhere near the bottom of the barrel -- probably even below teammates Ryan Howard and Chase Utley -- but make no mistake about it, Brad Lidge is the right choice for this year's MVP.
If Manny Ramirez is your MVP:
You love a good storyline. You want your MVP to drag his team into the playoffs. Manny has the stretch kick of Howard with the added excitement of the big acquisition. You may, like Gerry Fraley of The Sporting News, believe Manny made his teammates better: Juan Pierre hit a home run. For that reason alone, Dodgers left fielder Manny Ramirez merits strong consideration in the National League MVP race. You don't view value as a counting stat (or pay little attention to voter guideline #2). ESPN's Scoop Jackson: True, it's only been 48 games of impact, but he's done more for one team in 48 games than any of the others have done (with possible the exception of Pujols) over the season. Tim Montemayor of TSN and Jon Heyman of SI agree, and agree to ignore the part of the season where Manny--so the story goes--played beneath his abilities to force a trade. It was in the other league after all. You probably think Manny's biggest competition is CC Sabathia.
If CC Sabathia is your MVP:
You like the good story. You like the stretch kick. You have no problems going with a pitcher who didn't throw many innings. You like it when your candidate's good play correlates with the team's winning streak. Basically you're Mike Greenberg (perhaps to save face the site mike-greenberg.com which hosted his argument no longer exists. Here's the BTTF discussion of it).
You certainly aren't LaVelle Neal of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune or George King of the New York Post, who left Pedro Martinez completely off their 10-deep ballots in 1999 because he was a pitcher who only appeared in 31 games.
If Carlos Delgado is your MVP:
You've been in a coma since mid-September. Ok, no one thinks Delgado is the MVP anymore. But before the Phillies pulled away from the Mets many were advocating his candidacy. If you were one of them you probably like Ryan Howard or Manny Ramirez now. You liked the redemption story. You discounted the beginning of the year when Delgado hit horribly. You liked that he OPSed 1.049 in September (or slightly worse than Pujols during that period).
If Brandon Phillips is your MVP:
You're a hopeless homer. Also, why no love for Joey Votto?