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What Exactly is an MVP?



By Mike Silva ~ August 17th, 2009. Filed under: Mike Silva.

I never thought suggesting that Mark Teixeira should be AL MVP would be such a controversial topic. I am not sure if the outcry is from fans of Joe Mauer or by the sabermetric crowd who are still upset with my questions regarding modern statistical analysis. My big takeaway from yesterday’s discourse over at BBTF was that we really don’t have a clear understanding of what an MVP should be.

According to wikipedia the MVP is an award given to the outstanding player in each league. A poster at BBTF found the actual criteria for voting.

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.

Nowhere in that criterion does it say you need to follow a logical statistical formula. What exactly does strength of offense and defense mean? Also, if I am so off base, how do you explain MVP awards given to Kirk Gibson in 1988, Terry Pendleton in 1991, and Dennis Eckersley in 1992? I am not questioning any of those choices, but rather, wondering how those three examples were players that had the most value, on offense and defense, in that respective season. Tom Haudricourt, of the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel, says it best in this November of 2008 blog post which explains why put Albert Pujols seventh on his ballot:

I choose to not be a slave merely to statistics. If you want to pick the MVP solely on statistics every year, we can hire a statistical outlet to name the winner and just do away with balloting. We can call it “Most Outstanding Statstical Player.” And, certainly, Pujols had great statistics, as he always does.

That is exactly what I was saying when explaining my choice, in August of 2009, why I would vote for Teixeira over Joe Mauer. Listening to the discourse over here and BBTF made me look up to see if David Wright in 2007, Mike Piazza in 97 and/or 2000, and Derek Jeter in 2006 won the award. The answer is no and you can argue both sides in those respective seasons as to why those individuals deserved the award or not.

I will take this argument a step further. Let’s look at another sport, the NBA for instance, where you have tons of individuals put up gaudy numbers each year. There hasn’t been an MVP from a losing team in the leagues history. Also, Michael Jordan didn’t always have the best statistics. As a matter of fact, the years that he did, the award went to someone else. The NBA understands what an MVP should be.

I don’t think the critics of my thinking are wrong. For every 2007 Jimmy Rollins there has been a 1987 Andre Dawson awarded the MVP. The guilt is with MLB who has yet to clearly define what an MVP should be. Maybe that is done on purpose to keep it open ended. Think about it, debate is the best publicity any league can hope to achieve.

There is no “right” or “wrong” answer based on the criteria and history of the BBWAA voting. I am all for a “best offensive” or “silver slugger” award that is solely based on a statistical formula. Heck, use WAR if you like, I don’t care, but that doesn’t mean the individual is an MVP.

That is why on August 17th, Mark Teixeira gets my vote for MVP. I have a feeling that many members of the BBWAA would agree with me. So rather than attacking the messenger, why not debate the infrastructure put in place. What exactly is an MVP? It all is in the eyes of the beholder.

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Mike Silva has hosted sports shows on 107.1 FM Champions ESPN Radio Long Island ,1240 AM WGBB , Blog Talk Radio and live from Mickey Mantle’s Restaurant. He’s also built and maintained two popular social media hubs: New York Baseball Digest and Sports Media Watchdog. Mike has broken national and local stories, as well as been mentioned on the YES Network, SNY.tv, WFAN, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, NY Daily News, New York Magazine, Journal News and the NY Post. Contact Mike professionally at mikesilvamedia.com

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28 Responses to What Exactly is an MVP?

  1. James K.

    To anyone reading – don’t bother commenting on this. All of these silly points (citing the voters making past mistakes, the ridiculous NBA comparison, etc.) were nicely debunked in this thread at BBTF:

    http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/newsstand/discussion/nybd_silva_neyer_way_off_on_mauer_vs_teixeira_for_mvp/

    Rather than address the points made by commenters there, Mike chose to make another blog post in hopes that this gets linked again. Save your energy.

  2. sheyhey

    If you dislike WAR and other stats so much, why do you mention it in every other Mets post? It’s starting to look like the only reason you post this year is in the hope that you tick off enough baseball fans so that you can them to post about you. Do you ever have any points of your own, or will it always be; MetsBlog said this, and Sherman said that, and Neil Best wonders this, and Sickels wonders that… If you’re gonna blog, then blog. If you got nothing original to say, then stop posting on the shoulders of another site’s original posts.

  3. Mike Silva

    Obviously, Joe D from Mets Memorized you don’t read this site enough. I think I have as much, if not more, original thought than most sites. All the ones you have mentioned are great as well.

    I have strong opinions and, well, if that ticks off people I guess there is nothing I can do. I am not here to make friends so we can hang out at the bar. I am here to do my thing.

    You don’t have to hide behind a fake name. It’s ok to criticize. I won’t hold it against you. You have a great site as well.

  4. Yankee1010

    It’s mostly “original thought” because it’s retarded. I wouldn’t trumpet your “original thoughts” because most people who have a clue about baseball wouldn’t say 10% of the things that you do.

  5. James K.

    Rob Neyer is awesome

    http://myespn.go.com/blogs/sweetspot/0-4-176/More-on-Tex-vs–the-World.html

  6. MetsKnicksRutgers

    I am going to directly copy and paste my post last night from the Victor Rojas thread since i garnered no response from Mike.

    Mike i gotta bone to pick with you:

    “Amazing how I am called anti Yankee over at RAB the same day I am advocating Teixeira for MVP. Of course, those that haven’t watched him play are bashing me at BBTF citing WAR and UZR. Real good ways to evaluate the MVP award. Thank god we have members of the BBWAA making these calls and not give the vote to the fans. That is how we get the same nonsense All Star starting lineups.”

    Why are you so antagonistic towards the SABR world? I just don’t understand it. You ask to learn more about these measures and then you don’t give them any consideration, followed by the drivel above that you wouldn’t think of posting at BBTF or AA. Your eyes deceive you much much more than numbers do. And you want the most clear cut numbers possible for the Tex vs Mauer?

    Mauer OPS: 1077

    Tex OPS: 947

    In a much smaller ballpark playing a much less demanding position. Is it mauer’s fault that the Twins aren’t that good? What about Pujols not winning the MVP when Howard did? Pujols is a god amongst men, and because La Russa is a crappy manager or the cards had a crap team should he be discounted from the MVP voting?

    This is an INDIVIDUAL team sport. Pitcher against batter. Because one player is other-worldly (as Mauer has been) doesn’t mean the team will be amazing. Especially when compared to a near 200 million dollar payroll team.

  7. NoMoreGuidos

    I love it…the use of past horrible MVP choices to justify more horrible choices.

  8. Ryan

    Guys, just give it up. Mike does not seem to have the mental capacity to grasp a few very simple concepts:

    1) Catcher is a MUCH harder position to play than 1B
    2) Joe Mauer does not have CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, Derek Jeter, ARod, and a 200 million dollar payroll to back his MVP case

    Look, I’m a Yankees fan, and I absolutely love Teixeira. He’s been a great addition to the team and has performed well in some memorable games. That said, the only offensive edge he has over Mauer is RBIs – he’s also had way more chances to drive in runs. This is ignoring the fact that Teixeira isn’t even the most valuable person on the Yankees (hello Jeter).

    My other pet peeve is that you claim that Mauer supporters can’t be right because they don’t watch Tex on a daily basis. Do you watch Mauer everyday? I didn’t think so….

    Mike people are roasting you in the comments because your logic is flawed and your reasoning is not supported with facts. There is no conspiracy against your opinions, they just aren’t any good.

  9. tjwilliams

    I am going to repeat what I said in the other thread because it bears repeating. If Mauer loses the MVP award this year it will be because the Twins’ pitching staff is worse than it was last year. How can you possibly make an argument that an offensive player should win or lose an award base on the quality of his team’s pitchers? Mauer is on pace to hit .370+ with 30 homers, 100 runs, and 100 RBI. Only two players have done that in the last 60 years and they were both Rockies playing at the height of the steroid era (Larry Walker in 1999 and Todd Helton in 2000). To pull off that feat as a catcher is just unheard of.

    Mauer is having the best season for a catcher EVER. Literally. No catcher in the history of baseball has posted an OPS+ of 186. Tex isn’t even the best 1st baseman in the majors THIS YEAR.

    If the Twins’ pitchers were pitching as well as they had last year, Minnesota would be tied for first place (they’ve allowed 58 more runs than at this time last year – 10 runs = 1 win – and they’re 6 games back). So you are saying that the difference between Mauer winning the MVP and Tex winning is the Twins’ pitching staff? How does that make any sense?

  10. Ryan

    @tjwilliams

    You can’t use stats (i.e. facts) to back up your argument. Mike will have non of that here. Instead you must talk about how the Teixeira used his heart and determination to will the Yankees past the Red Sox. Mauer is a scum bag pussy for playing with an inferior pitching staff!

  11. MetsKnicksRutgers

    Ryan, the problem is he is polite at sites like AA or BBTF but then runs back over here and says we “haven’t watched him (Tex) play” or “WAR and UZR. Real good ways to evaluate the MVP award.” Over at AA i believe it was poster anonymous (a great contributor to AA) who was of the first to become fed up with the kiddie hands used on Silva.

    I despise math. I have trouble with logorhythms (sp?) and roots factoring e e to x and all of that mess. I can’t stand it. I am no math guy in any way shape or form. But stats like WAR, UZR and to a much lesser complex extent OPS and OPS+ are the REASONS for RsBI, Runs, Wins etc. Those are the final results of which the advanced metrics play the contributing factor. The numbers DO NOT LIE!

    Finally, to cite bad MVP choices or the NBA (WTF?!?!?!?) as precedent for another bad choice is outlandish. Especially the NBA which is a total team game. And (good) GMs are employing advanced metrics in the NBA now especially on defense which for each and every sport is extremely difficult to quantify. Steals and blocks are no longer the only barometer for defensive success. Bruce Bowen never racked up blocks and he made some steals yes, but his greatest asset to a team was his lock down defense along with his toughness (I hate to admit it, but it plays a huge role in a physical sport like the NBA. Look at the 90′s Knicks).

  12. chris

    Joe Mauer is better than Teixeira at everything, except Ability to Surround Himself With Far Better Players (ASHWFBP), a measurement similar to Wearing Pinstripes (WP). Tex edges out Mauer there as well.

  13. Jason

    Hi I’m Mike Silva, I wrote something stupid…but before you go calling me out on it you need to know that other people have made stupid decisions in the past. See Kirk Gibson in 1988, Terry Pendleton in 1991, and Dennis Eckersley in 1992.

    AND, Tom Haudricourt once voted Pujols 7th. That is obvisously some genius logic that I want tied to my argument.

    AND, to take this whole comparing other sports to baseball argument even further, no center has ever won the MVP award in the NFL. Centers squat with the ball kind of like catchers. Mauer is a catcher. Mauer should be disqualified from winning the MVP.

  14. Mike Silva

    MetsKnicksRangers

    I am well aware of the NBA move to defensive metrics. Houston is one of the first, from what Mitch Lawrence told me, to use that type of analysis. Didn’t need a graph to tell me Bruce Bowen was an excellent defender. I also understand that steals and block shots don’t tell the whole story.

    I have nothing against any of those #’s – I just believe an MVP should be tied to a team winning. Is it harder in baseball to make that argument, sure, but it doesn’t mean you can’t. A mistake happens once, but in the history of baseball, we have seen numerous situations where an MVP was awarded the trophy because of the combination of numbers and team results.

    You guys act as if I suggested Melky Cabrera or Robinson Cano should get the award. I am suggesting Mark Teixeira, one of the best offensive players in baseball.

    Also, just a quick question, if Mark Teixeira, according to WAR, is only worth 4 wins, then why didn’t the Yanks just go with Juan Miranda (a typical replacement level player, or is he?)

    Again, I am questioning the status quo, and I think I have a right to vote for Teixeira and not be called a kook. I believe there are many Yankee beat writers that would agree.

  15. Jason

    Mike, if you were drafting a team from scratch for only this year, would you take Teixeira before Mauer?

  16. MetsKnicksRutgers

    Mike

    Please its metsknicksrutgers. I hate hockey.

    It isn’t that Tex isn’t a very good player. We know he is and has been for half a decade now. It is that Mauer is having the better season. You have a right to your opinion yes, but the data doesn’t support it and you then proceed to trash the data (and i am not talking about WAR or UZR).

    The answer to this mysterious Juan Miranda comparison: Because the yankees are spendthrifts and can survive years 5-8 while 80% of baseball can’t. As are the Mets by a wide margin. Was Tex a good pickup? I definitely don’t think so. This team already has 95 million dollars tied up for 2013. In 4 players. Fiscal responsibility anyone? 8 Years for any player is stupid much less a 1b (albeit a damn good one).

  17. Mike Silva

    Jason

    No I would not. But that is not how I am assessing my MVP vote. I would if I was creating a fantasy team.

  18. Mike Silva

    Sorry, I am not a hockey fan either!

    Glad to see a nineties Knicks fan here! Need more of them!

  19. Ryan

    “Also, just a quick question, if Mark Teixeira, according to WAR, is only worth 4 wins, then why didn’t the Yanks just go with Juan Miranda (a typical replacement level player, or is he?)”

    Mike I don’t think anyone here said Tex was not contributing to the Yankees. He’s a very valuable player, just not the MVP (of his own team even). Do you really want someone to explain how being worth extra 4 wins is awesome? Most years that’s the difference in the AL East standings.

    I hate to keep hammering this home but the issue here really isn’t about Teixeira’s lack of value. Mauer is simply producing at historically unheard of levels, the best ever for a catcher. It’s not his fault he doesn’t pitch (although I bet he could do that too in a pinch).

  20. Jason

    Mike,

    So your argument is, yes Mauer is more valuable (you’d take him before Teixeira) but Teixeira should win the most valuable player award?

  21. MetsKnicksRutgers

    Mike,

    90s knicks is what i grew up on. I was 8 in 94 and that is still one of the most painful moments of my life along with Yadier FUCKING Molina in 06.

    All I ask Mike is to stop using these back-handed antagonistic comments. Why would we pay so much attention to this game if we didn’t enjoy watching it. Granted with the current state of the Mets it is difficult to find the motivation to watch every game. We can have a civil discourse, but when we are referred to as “living in our mother’s basement” and similar cliched statements people will respond accordingly in a similar angry fashion.

  22. Mike Silva

    Fair enough.

    I never meant to antagonize anyone. That is far from my nature. My comments over at BBTF started to go along the snarky lines that were dished to me.

    I think the MVP and sabr debate is healthy and, honestly, there is no right or wrong, just different interpretation.

    Sometimes people don’t appreciate my dry sense of humor. As for the “mother’s basement” comment. We all get that in the world of new media. Nothing could be further from the truth. I actually brought that up on the show with Howard. Not sure who said that I believe that, but it’s completely not my position.

    Everyone’s opinion is appreciate here, I learn from it, and want to continue a civil discourse. Even if some (this is not meant for you MetsKnicksRutgers) choose to attack me personally.

  23. tjwilliams

    Mike,

    I don’t think anyone is calling you a kook for supporting Tex for MVP. They are calling you a kook because your argument is almost entirely based on the quality, not of Tex, but of his teammates, and the corresponding lack of quality of Mauer’s teammates. Tex is having a very good season, but if he was on a losing team nobody would be pushing him that hard over Mauer. I know that’s true because Morneau has basically put up identical numbers as Tex and everyone acknowledges that Mauer is better.

    Texeira – .285/.382/.557/.939 30 HRs, 86 RBI, 71 Rs, 143 OPS
    Morneau – .299/.387/.558/.945 28 HRs, 94 RBI, 79 Rs, 152 OPS

    Those two players are, for all intents purposes, equal. Yet one is the “obvious choice” for MVP and the other is an afterthought. Why? Because Tex has the ASHWFBP factor (Ability to Surround Himself With Far Better Players).

    I could even argue (though it’s a very flawed argument) that Mauer’s performance on a losing team makes him even a better candidate for MVP. Tex’s 4 WAR on a 74-win team makes him responsible for 5.4% of the Yankees’ wins. Mauer’s 6 WAR on a 56-win team makes him responsible for 10.7% of the Twins’ wins. So Mauer has been twice as valuable to his team as has Tex to his.

    As you have continually failed to recognize, the guidelines for voting for MVP say nothing about the quality of a player’s team. In fact, they specifically define “value” as “strength of offense and defense”. Your failure to acknowledge this is what makes people call you a kook.

  24. Jason

    Mike,

    So your argument is, yes Mauer is more valuable (you’d take him before Teixeira) but Teixeira should win the most valuable player award?

  25. sheyhey

    I’ve been commenting as sheyhey since Bryan Hoch was the only game in town, and will continue to do so. Those who know me know that. I don’t like leaving snarky remarks on behalf of a site that represents 25 other people who all don’t share my opinion. So I leave praise as myself and criticism under my nick.

    But that’s not the point of the comment I left. I feel as though for this entire season you have been taking shots at some other Mets sites who simply disagree with you. This attack on new statistics has become a constant thread, and even though I’m 50/50 on some of those stats myself, you have to have a little bit more respect for opposing opinions.

    I have never had a Mets blog war on my site, just the occasional healthy debate which is a good thing for all involved. I have visited your site and heard your show many times, and still will, but the last few months have been annoying as hell because you are obviously a talented person, but you waste that talent on this constant habit of taking digs at another Mets site that is one of the best in my opinion. Regardless of what the facts may actually be, the perception out there is that you enjoy getting your digs in at them and will continue to do it. I just feel that much of your differences can be ironed out in an email or phone call rather than blogging those differences publicly. I don’t mean to be condescending or offensive, I just think that writing blogs that are original, thoughtful and constructive is time well spent. Lately you just seem to have it out for Lenny Dykstra, AA and any “WAR” friendly site, and Mike Francesa. I happen to like all of them so you can see my dilemma. This off season I actually purchased a couple of books on sabermetrics. Like you, I was oblivious to most of it. But now I see the benefits of using them as one of many different things we use to measure a players performance. I too freaked out when I heard the word replacement player. But I’ve since learned that all the replacement player is is a standard by which you can judge all players equally and fairly. It levels the playing field in a way. Is it perfect? Of course not, but it still is a measure we can use just like all the other statistics which have their own flaws as well. When I really like a player, I’ll sometimes throw all the stats away and just go with something I might have heard a player say or do. The human elements that sometimes don’t get factored in still matter greatly to me. That’s okay too. We’re fanatics… It’s normal. But there is never a good reason to create a divide between the two sides. Sometimes I’ll write something that will offend one or the other, but my comments back to them are usually geared to showing them why I feel a certain way about a player or performance. It may or may not appease them entirely, but they do walk away understanding I wasn’t attacking a particular point of view. We’re having a tough year as Mets fans. Reading blogs and comments all over the Mets blogosphere about what you wrote and what he said, she said, we could really do without. Our criticism should be focused on the Mets and their problems rather than at each other.

  26. Mike Silva

    Not sure what Mets site you are talking about, but never had a problem with you.

    I had a problem with one site, and it was greatly justified, and more importantly, attacked one of my writers. It’s not even a major Mets site, so not exactly sure if it was worth me mentioning, but I am protective over writers that do good work, especially when you have a site run by a wet behind the ears kid running its mouth.

    Sorry you don’t like the discourse. I can assure you that there is more Mets debate to come and WAR, SABR, will not be the primary focus. We have talked before so that is why I was surprised that you weren’t under your usual name. Didn’t know you use Shey Hey

  27. sheyhey

    Hey Mike,

    I really would like to explain more, but I held back some things because I felt your comment thread was not the proper forum. I may have had your email once, but lost many of them a few months ago when my address book became corrupted. You can email me at getmetsmerized@aol.com and I will reply back.

  28. Jackson

    No sane baseball fan who isn’t a Yankee will support Tex over Mauer. Please don’t argue that anything other than your bias towards pinstripes propels your “logic.”

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