Pedroia Tabbed as AL MVP

Well, I cannot say I am surprised, or even that upset. No, not because Dustin Pedroia was worthy of being named MVP, he wasn’t. It’s because I just cannot muster up much surprise when the BBWAA returns votes in this manner. Pedroia played in a big market, he had teammates and media members talking him up, he found himself to qualities like hustle, clutch, undersized, and the like. Despite the overwhelming stumping going on in his favor, he came across as the underdog candidate.

He should have been the underdog candidate, because he wasn’t the best choice for MVP. You want to talk numbers? Pedroia was 10th in RC/27. He played in a park skewed in his favor. He was 16th in WPA/LI. You want to talk pure value? Pedroia ranks 9th in WPA among AL-only players, 10th if you toss in Mark Teixeira‘s combined figures. Here is the entirety of Dustin Pedroia‘s case to be named the AL MVP: He was first in clutch. That’s it. Joe Mauer (superior to Pedroia in nearly, if not all, meaningful category, was second. Joe Mauer is a catcher, a position worth about an extra win’s worth of value over second base.

Let us repeat our exercise from yesterday. Sorting by WPA, here’s the top five players in the AL for 2008 with their finish in the MVP voting in parenthesis:
1.Cliff Lee (12th)
2.Joe Mauer (4th)
3.Carlos Pena (9th)
4.Justin Morneau (2nd)
5.Carlos Quentin (5th)

I can excuse Cliff Lee from not getting more recognition. I am of the belief that the Cy Young is the award for pitchers and thus they shouldn’t be in the discussion for MVP. And overall, it looks pretty solid. The screw-up is that the actual MVP winner isn’t among those five names.

Now here’s the top five vote getters for MVP in the NL with their WPA rank in parenthesis:
1.Dustin Pedroia (9th)
2.Justin Morneau (4th)
3.Kevin Youkilis (21st)
4.Joe Mauer (2nd)
5.Carlos Quentin (5th)

Clearly, these people were good beyond any quantifiable means, and were able to single-handedly will their teams to contention by the sheer force of their personality and courage and valor. That’s why they got these MVP votes. Defense? Value? WOBA? BRAA? Nah, those have nothing on grit and scrappiness.

For the umpteenth time, even though it will not deter people from claiming it, I am not saying that Dustin Pedroia is bad or that he didn’t have a great season. He isn’t and he did. I am saying he wasn’t the MVP by any reasonable (and even most unreasonable) criteria. Joe Mauer probably should have won and even though he wasn’t above his league to the extent that Albert Pujols was, that doesn’t put a damper on Pedroia being the wrong choice.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

31 Responses to “Pedroia Tabbed as AL MVP”

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  1. Marcel says:

    Look, I get that you like WPA. But it has no position adjustment or defensive component. To cast a vote based solely on WPA is nearly as bad as voting solely based on RBI.

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  2. Marcel says:

    FWIW, I don’t think that Pedroia was the MVP either. (If the writers insisted on a Red Sox player, I think Youk was a better choice.) I just think if you’re going to make an argument, you should make a complete argument and take all factors into account.

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  3. colin says:

    Well since the WPA criticism has been taken out, I’d just like to point out that Jinaz’s total value stat had him as 3rd best in adjusted runs above replacement including defense and position adjustment. So he’s very much a reasonable candidate.

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  4. Matthew Carruth says:

    “I don’t ask for the latter list to be identical to the former list. Okay, I sort of do (with some WPA/LI and defense thrown in), but for knowledge’s sake, at least make it close in the first three spots.”
    -Me from the NL MVP entry, mentioning defensive skill

    “Joe Mauer is a catcher, a position worth about an extra win’s worth of value over second base.”
    -Me from this entry, mentioning positional adjustment

    Please refrain from putting words in my text. I specifically said that I wouldn’t vote for MVP based solely on WPA.

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  5. BraveBronco0121 says:

    I’m rather surprised that you didn’t even mention Sizemore – .268/.374/.502 with above average defense at a premium position AND 38 steals whilst getting caught only 5 times? To me, there isn’t even a decent argument for anyone else.

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  6. Matthew Carruth says:

    Sizemore is an incredibly good candidate. However, to say there isn’t even a decent argument for anyone else (i.e. Mauer) over Sizemore is rather disingenuous. I think you are putting far too much value in stolen bases.

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  7. philosofool says:

    Reasonable criteria might include WARP, in which he was the AL leader among non-pitchers.

    The fact is, you’re right, Mauer, Mauer, Mauer. Whatever the positional adjustments that might give Pedroia a hand up over Bradley or A-Rod, the positional adjustment for a catcher is greater. The one thing that you might say against Mauer is that he had almost 100PA fewer than Pedroia, and actual play time certainly does count.

    And another point that you make absolutely rightly is that Pedroia got this award because the media fueled his votes.

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  8. BraveBronco0121 says:

    I don’t particularly see myself as a guy who overrates steals, but when you steal 38 with an 87 percent success rate, you’re creating a not-so-insignificant amount of runs for your team. Mauer is a phenomenal player, no doubt, and my original statement was likely a bit hyperbolous (is that a word? because it should be), but I don’t think anyone is going to convince me that Sizemore isn’t the MVP. Great defense? Check. Power? Check. OBP? Check. Baserunning? Check. Premium position? Check. The ability to walk on water? Damn, you got me!

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  9. I don’t want to turn this into a WPA argument, but I’d say that WPA along with a good defensive metric and a positional adjustment would be my metric of choice for the MVP. With WPA you have his actual, real world (not context neutral) contribution for the season.

    Anyway, I agree with most that Mauer should have taken this one home. This is the 2nd time he’s been snubbed and it makes me really sad that Morneau finished ahead of him. When is the BBWAA going to recognize that Mauer is the best Twin?

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  10. snepp says:

    When is the BBWAA going to recognize that Mauer is the best Twin?

    Probably the same day the Twins’ fanbase does, which isn’t likely to occur until the day Mauer is elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, while Morneau doesn’t get enough votes to stay on the ballot.

    (lifelong Twins fan, fwiw)

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  11. dan says:

    It’s kind of funny that Bobby Abreu had such a similar season offensively to Pedroia but isn’t even welcome back on the Yankees and Pedroia is the MVP. I know they play different positions and have different defensive abilities, but it’s just funny to me. Is anyone saying that Abreu had an MVP-type season on offense? No. And they shouldn’t have said that about Pedroia’s season either.

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  12. Conballs says:

    100 PA differential is not that uncommon of a gap between C and other positional players. The wear and tear is exponentially greater. I agree that Sizemore was phenomenal on the basepaths and needs to be recognized. However, Mauer handled a young and fragile pitching staff. Livan as your #1 for half the year? Liriano coming back late after a year-and-a-half off? Baby birds in Slowey, Perkins, Blackburn and Baker? This guy single-handedly put the Twins atop the division. Be the WPAs what they may, Mauer handled a pitching staff. Soto and Martin should have gotten more consideration in the NL for what they’ve done. You can knock grit and hustle a bit, but I think it counts for something. However, managing 140 games with a precarious pitching staff, minus Neshek, is an absolute tribute to the player Mauer is. I don’t know what more grit one can have? Hands-down this guy is the MVP.

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  13. Willy Loman says:

    I think no matter how you break it down, Mauer was clearly the candidate to vote for, no disagreement there. However, Pedroia did have the best defensive season (at a position where defense is at a premium) of the remaining candidates. Defense should (and does) matter. I realize that you accept that defense should matter, but I don’t understand why people are brushing it to the side in their arguments. The only only problem I have with an otherwise well thought out post is the fact that you mention that Pedroia plays in a park that is “skewed in his favor”. In 08 Mauer’s home/away splits were much more pronounced than Pedroia’s, so one could make the same argument against Mauer.

    As a side note, I can’t help but think that people aren’t upset with the actual winner (for the most part) but rather the voting process. I have no doubt that Pedroia received votes due to his “scrappiness” and size. But that doesn’t mean that he was undeserving.

    The three biggest problems with the 08 AL MVP vote were 1. Mauer not winning (I have Pedroia 2nd) 2. Morneau placing ahead of Mauer 3. Sizemore being all but forgotten.

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  14. James says:

    The simple fact is, it’s embarassing for you to play the “grit and scrappiness” card in this situation. Disagree with the result all you want, that’s valid, but you sound childish when you throw in the other stuff. An award that 99% of the time goes to sluggers, and the one time it goes to a second baseman its because he’s 5’7, right? Not because he had good showing in most mainstream stats.

    The stat thing is your only valid complaint, but even that is beating a dead horse. You mean BBWAA members don’t take WOBA into consideration? Wow! Newsflash. Stick to the analysis and leave the editorializing to someone with something interesting to say.

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  15. Matthew Carruth says:

    You don’t judge park factors based on one hitter’s home/away performance. The Metrodome is anywhere from a sizably pitcher friendly park to a nuetral park. Fenway is anywhere from a hitter’s park to a hitter’s haven for right-handers.

    You put Pedroia in a park without a 310′ distance to the left field wall and how many doubles and home runs do you think he loses? According to THT’s park factors which are broken down by result, Fenway inflates 2Bs for all hitters by some 20%, and that’s even higher if you look just at righties.

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  16. JWay says:

    Being from South Dakota, I watched a lot of Twins baseball (M’s just became to hard to watch, unless Ichiro was batting) and after watching Mauer for a few seasons, he has got as much “grit, hustle, etc” as anyone. That’s just fun to watch, but if people want to use that garbage as a measure for MVP I find it hard to ignore Mauer.

    Catchers in general should get a positional adjustment in grit. :)

    I wanted Mauer to win, and its a shame he didn’t.

    Its also a shame that Grady didn’t get more recognition. Or Carlos Silva for helping pad stats!

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  17. Plink says:

    Mauer would absolutely have been a great choice. But Pedroia also had an extra 97 PA, which is significant. I’m not sure you can count the C positional adjustment *and* forgive Mauer the extra PA.

    And, there are certainly plenty of metrics which show Pedroia at or near the top; I really disagree with the statement that “…he wasn’t the MVP by any reasonable (and even most unreasonable) criteria.”

    I’m more open to “alternative” arguments about the MVP, but I can count at least 6 players (Mauer, Pedroia, Youkilis, Sizemore, Lee, Halladay) with reasonable arguments for MVP.

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  18. Eric M. Van says:

    Too busy to read the whole thread, but this was an extraordinarily lame analysis. Actually, that’s kind of an understatement, because you had the right idea and came up with a 180 degree wrong conclusion.

    If you adjust WPA for position and PT and add fielding runs and baserunning runs (which is not a hell of a lot of work), it’s very clear that Joe Mauer is the league MVP.

    It’s also equally as clear that Dustin Pedroia was second, miles ahead of the rest of the pack (Sizemore, Pena, then Youkilis, Morneu, et al). And he was close enough to Mauer to be a viable and arguable choice for MVP.

    dan: “It’s kind of funny that Bobby Abreu had such a similar season offensively to Pedroia but isn’t even welcome back on the Yankees and Pedroia is the MVP. I know they play different positions and have different defensive abilities, but it’s just funny to me. Is anyone saying that Abreu had an MVP-type season on offense?”

    Well, maybe it’s because the defensive value difference between Pedroia and Abreu was 41 runs or more, roughly the same as the offensive difference between Youkilis or Morneau and replacement level.

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  19. Eric M. Van says:

    Fail on top of fail . . . Matthew, what exactly was your point in speculating how Pedroia would have hit if he hadn’t been so well suited to Fenway? Actual value is based on actual performance. This is not a vote for “best player in the abstract.” If a guy is particularly well-suited or ill-suited for his ballpark, that’s real value that he gains or loses. All you do when park-adjusting value is adjust for the run environment.

    I also like the way you defended yourself for considering defense in your analysis . . when you actually and obviously didn’t, except for the positional adjustment of C vs. 2B — which of course is smaller than that between 2B and 1B or corner OF, which you completely ignored.

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  20. Jake says:

    But Pedroia also had an extra 97 PA, which is significant. I’m not sure you can count the C positional adjustment *and* forgive Mauer the extra PA.

    I don’t think it’s unfair at all to both credit Mauer for hitting exceptionally well while enduring the physical stress of crouching for 9 innings while taking 95 MPH fastballs off of various parts of his body and also credit him for the games he had to miss from said physical stress. It’s not like he missed a lot of games; only three catchers in baseball played more games than he did last year. Even if he’d led the league in ABs by a catcher (Martin did with 553), he’d still have 100 less at-bats than Pedroia did. The fact that he had more positive impact on games than Pedroia with 18% less plate appearances is an even greater testament to Mauer’s superiority.

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  21. Detroit Michael says:

    I thought there were 5 reasonable candidates for AL MVP: Halladay, C. Lee, Mauer, Pedroia, and Sizemore. For my internet baseball award ballot, I started with a spreadsheet of VORP (includes positional adjustments but not quality of fielding), added in the run value of BIS’ adjusted plus/minus rating and sorted. Pedroia was in second, 1.4 runs behind Lee. Given that Lee faced much weaker than average competition and didn’t play for a team in playoff contention, I had no problem deciding that Pedroia would get my first place vote.

    Now, you don’t have to agree with me and I can easily see that if WPA is your favorite metric, then Mauer is your choice. However, your post declares with far too much certainty your opinion (yes it is an opinion not a fact) that Mauer was the AL MVP. This isn’t a Ryan Howard candidacy. There were plenty of rational reasons to have Pedroia high on one’s MVP ballot. There were reasonable criteria for having Pedroia first on one’s MVP ballot and you should have tried to see it from others’ perspectives more before writing such a strident retort.

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  22. Detroit Michael says:

    Oh, and can add a “play-off slot probability added” metric sometime? Producing wins isn’t the only way to measure value. One can look at how wins contribute toward the odds of winning a play-off slot. It seems do-able given that you already track WPA.

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  23. Alan says:

    Now that you added “Value” to the leaderboard statistics, you can see that it is not absurd for Pedroia to win the AL MVP. He is #2 in Value Runs in the AL. So, you can make an argument for Sizemore instead of Pedroia. Given that the Indians did not come close to making the playoffs, it isn’t unreasonable to bump Pedroia’s value a little as well.

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    • Paqs says:

      Well, taking “Value” into account, Pedroia gets a +1 win bump for his defense, and until we can quantify catcher defense, we just don’t know how much Mauer is worth.

      One could certainly claim he’s worth 7 or 8 runs, which would make his overall Value greater than Pedroia’s.

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  24. Joe R says:

    I expect better from this site.
    Voting on WPA alone is as bad as voting on HR alone. Morneau and Pena are 1st basemen, Quentin’s a LF, of course their WPA’s will be higher than a comparable 2B. The only one with legit beef is Mauer, and for him, you can blame his own media giving Morneau up until now the star treatment over him.

    Pedroia’s defense was also worth a win over average. He wasn’t a slam dunk, maybe not even the best pick, but no one was a slam dunk. Using WPA alone to evaluate is embarassing.

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  25. Joseph says:

    How funny is is that Fangraphs came out with WAR like a couple weeks after this article and Pedroia led the AL in 2008. I still can’t believe Matthew basing his MVP opinion on WPA didn’t get him laughed off the site.

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  26. god shammgod says:

    I love that people are still discussing this.

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    • Joser says:

      They’re not. “Joseph” wanders in more than 10 months after the last posted comment and makes a snide remark to an empty room. That doesn’t qualify as a “discussion.”

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    • Chris W says:

      Better yet, he was wrong…Sizemore led the league in WAR (7.1 to 6.7).

      More important than “grit” in this discussion was probably playoff potential…Boston was playoff bound, Cleveland wasn’t. We seem to have mistaken MVP for “most valuable player on a playoff bound team”.

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