I was thinking about this over the weekend, trying to parse who the local baseball writers would pick to win the Ernie Lombardi Award for the team MVP. I mean, I'm pretty sure I know who is going to win it, but I wanted to post something other than playoff threads, so play along, okay?
It's obvious who will win the Johnny Vander Meer award for most outstanding pitcher. Edinson Volquez has had that locked up since May. But I think there are 4 guys who are contenders for the ELA - well, three contenders and one guy who should get consideration but likely won't. Those four are Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto, Jerry Hairston, and Adam Dunn. Let's look at the case for each:
The Case for Phillips: There is a lot of talk about this being "his team." After Griffey and Dunn were traded, the media pretty much assumed that Phillips was the de facto team leader, and the Reds put up a winning record (albeit just 22-21) after those trades. He lead the team in runs, triples, and stolen bases and he finished 2nd in RBI, 3rd in doubles, and 4th in HR. He is also arguably the best defensive second baseman in the league and likely the best defensive player on the Reds.
The Case against Phillips: Despite missing nearly a whole month of the season, Phillips led the Reds in outs made by 10% over second place. His RBI total is deceptive because Phillips batted in the 4th spot most of the season and had the benefit of nearly 50 more base runners on for him than Joey Votto, who led the team in RBI. He batted just .208/.270/.356 after Dunn was traded before injury finished his season. So, despite the team leader moniker, his performance was not a big factor in the Reds late season improvement.
The Case for Votto: Even though this was his rookie season, he led the team in hits, doubles, and RBI. For qualifiers, he was first in batting average, 2nd in OBP, and 2nd in slugging. He was easily the team leader in Total Value and RAR. From the middle of August until the end of the season he batted .343/.429/.664 with 10 HR in 39 games. Those are Pujolsian numbers. And as we know, when it comes to MVP type votes, all that matters is how you played down the stretch.
The Case against Votto: His 11 errors were tied for second most on the team. His defensive numbers in Justin's system are probably a bit over-inflated because the systems he reports out of do not capture a first baseman's ability to pick it on a teammates throw. Even still, his range makes up a large portion of that difference and it's unlikely that any unrecorded deficiencies in his defensive game will be enough to make up for the 15 run lead he has over all other Reds players. It is also unclear as to whether his Canadian heritage should be held against him for a purely American award such as this.
Jerry Hairston Jr.
The Case for Hairston: In the time that he played, it's hard to argue with his performance. If he had enough at bats to qualify, Hairston would have easily led the Reds in batting average and OBP. He was even better when hitting from the lead-off spot, putting up a .362/.427/.537 in 202 PAs while batting first. The Reds were 35-27 in games in which Cherry started, which is a number that doesn't mean as much as the writers will make it mean when they announce him as the winner.
The Case against Hairston: The only real argument against Hairston is the first number in his stat table above. Injuries and a general reputation of shitty baseball at the start of the season limited his playing time. If Hairston had performed over 600 PAs as he did over 300 PAs, then it would be nigh impossible to vote against him. Heck, even if he had only 100 more PAs, he might have a serious shot.
The Case for Dunn: When he was traded, Dunn led the Reds in HR, RBI, BB, OBP, SLG, and Total Value. Despite playing a month and a half with the Diamondbacks, Dunn still finished 2nd on the Reds in total value. There is precedent for a traded player winning the award as Jose Guillen took home the award in 2003 even after being traded to the Oakland A's (Michael was FURIOUS!).
The Case against Dunn: Let's face it, there really isn't a case for Dunn. I can't find any record of him winning the award when he was in town, so I doubt he'll win it now that he's gone. Plus, Votto's last month torched any record of Dunn having played for the Reds this year. If he had been able to maintain his team lead in RBI or Total Value, then I think you could make a case, but it's unlikely at this point. I just figured if I wanted people to talk about this post, I should bring Dunn's name up.
Does anyone know where I can find a list of past winners? The internet has only given me back to 2001 and I can't find out who won in 2004 (probably Dunn, but who knows?). Here are the winners of the Ernie Lombardi Award that I have found:
2001 - Dmitri Young
2002 - Aaron Boone
2003 - Jose Guillen
2004 - ? Sean Casey
2005 - Ken Griffey Jr.
2006 - Rich Aurilia
2007 - Brandon Phillips
Who will it be in 2008?