Victorino and Ellsbury: Having the Same Season

Jacoby Ellsbury is having a terrific year, and has been one of the best all-around players in baseball this year. He’s been one of the main reasons the Red Sox have rebounded from a slow start, and is rightfully getting attention as a legitimate MVP candidate. He should absolutely be part of that discussion.

Over in the National League, though, Shane Victorino is performing at the same level and, at least by my perception, is getting roundly ignored. This should not be. Let’s put them side by side, shall we?

Ellsbury: .314/.369/.508, .387 wOBA, 142 wRC+, +11.2 UZR, +6.2 WAR
Victorino: .313/.390/.536, .406 wOBA, 157 wRC+, +6.5 UZR, +5.7 WAR

At the plate, Victorino’s been a bit better, posting the same average while drawing a few more walks and hitting for a little more power. UZR prefers Ellsbury as a defender this year, and he has a better reputation than Victorino, but both are valuable assets with the glove in center field. Both are also top-of-the-lineup hitters for teams that are performing extremely well and are essentially locks to make the playoffs. So, why the dramatic difference in recognition?

It basically comes down to counting stats. Victorino has had two separate stints on the 15-day DL this year, so he’s missed just a little less than a month of the season. Because of that, he only has 408 plate appearances, while Ellsbury has 541. The playing time gap gives Ellsbury an advantage in most of the counting stats – he has 41 more hits, 16 more stolen bases, 11 more runs scored, and eight more home runs. There’s also a drastic difference in RBIs, but hopefully voters would realize that there’s a huge disadvantage in hitting at the top of the line-up in the NL in that regard and not really use those to evaluate Victorino’s performance.

I don’t want to downplay the extra value that Ellsbury has been able to accrue since he’s stayed healthy. Certainly, he should get credit for playing the full season while Victorino loses points for the games he spent on the DL. However, value is a balance of quality and quantity, and Victorino’s performance has been a bit better when he’s been on the field. That’s why the gap in WAR isn’t so large, even though Ellsbury has played 26 more games than Victorino.

Since they’re in different leagues, they won’t actually be compared by voters this winter, but I do hope that the fact that Ellsbury is being touted as an MVP candidate (again, rightfully so) encourages NL voters to look at their league’s version of the same player. While he’s overshadowed by some ridiculously talented teammates, Victorino’s monster year is near the top of the list of reasons why the Phillies have run away with the NL East.

Center fielders who can hit, run, and field are remarkably valuable. I’m glad guys like Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson are getting the recognition they deserve in the American League. I just hope that National League voters realize that they have a very similar candidate on their side of things.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


81 Responses to “Victorino and Ellsbury: Having the Same Season”

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  1. Anon21 says:

    I don’t know anything about Ellsbury, but the NL MVP voters are morally obligated to knock some points off of Victorino for general insufferableness.

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    • Muggi says:

      Why is that? I know this seems to be a common feeling outside of Philly, but I never understood why.

      What has he done to earn such a reputation? He plays hard and is a pillar of the community off the field.

      Asking honestly.

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      • Anon21 says:

        Answering honestly: very difficult to articulate. Part of it is that he’s good and fast, both annoying qualities to have matched against you. Part of it has to do with the way he carries himself, his facial expressions and mannerisms. I’m sure he’s a lovely human being, but as Poz puts it, I Clemenate the shit out of that guy.

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      • Anon21 says:

        I should specify a little further re: the tangible, baseball production aspect. He’s good at getting on base and fast, so it seems like he’s always flitting around, distracting the pitcher, and scoring runs. That’s annoying in a way that HRs aren’t, so much, because it’s a constant, ongoing irritant.

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      • cs3 says:

        Honest answer:

        Did you see the game vs SF where he started the brawl?
        That incident made him look like a little bitch and just confirmed many peoples preconceived notions about him…

        He started to charge the mound after being hit by a pitch from Ramon Ramirez. But as soon as Victorino started coming out, RAMIREZ left the mound and went to meet him. At that point Victorino got scared and hid behind the umpire until his teammates all came pouring out of the dugout. Then when there were enough guys between him and any danger, he finally decided it was time to get involved in the fight that HE started. Pretty weak.

        Later on during the fighting he punched the Giants hitting coach Bam Bam Muelens in the head with a blind-side cheap shot. Also pretty weak.
        (Thankfully Pablo clocked Victorino in the face towards the end of the skirmish to put him in his place)

        Really confirmed the notion that Victorino is an annoying little prick with little man syndrome.

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      • Charlie Manuel says:

        @cs3 At least he wasn’t as bad as whiteside, bouncing around like a fucking pogo stick and attempting to tackle Polanco (at which he failed miserably) who was coming in to break up the fight.

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      • John says:

        just for the record, my name shouldn’t be listed as charlie manuel there. That was still there from another comment. … awkward.

        And to be fair, Victorino has ADD so I imagine it’s tough for him to handle getting beaned like that.

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      • jim says:

        there’s also his famous incident of nailing clint barmes in the crotch while going into second

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      • Matt says:

        I’ve also seen him get in a run-down more than once and run straight into one of the fielders on purpose to try to get interference called on them. Bush league.

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      • Scott G says:

        I can’t believe the series of comments that I just read. Victorino didn’t start the brawl. He started toward the mound, and then probably realized he didn’t want to get tossed. He wasn’t a coward waiting for his teammates. Did you see any of this? He is being held back, and you can see him watching Pablo Sandoval cheap shot Carlos Ruiz in the middle of the pack, and then he breaks away and runs into the middle of the brawl to help his teammate. Doesn’t seem too cowardly to me.

        @Matt, First of all, Victorino and players that do that are trying to draw an obstruction call, not interference (interference is on the runner interrupting a fielder, not the other way). Running into a fielder is a smart way to get on base. Playing smart baseball is bush league? Are you too good for trying to help your team win at any cost? More players should play this way (read smart). In a similar sense, fielders should charge the ball through the runner to get an interference call. Too many times, a fielder will sit back and wait for the ball, and then not be able to make the throw to first base in time to get the runner. This happened to Jimmy Rollins last night.

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      • cs3 says:

        @Scott G

        you must be delusional if you dont think Victorino started that brawl.
        Youre trying to tell me that a guy who gets hit by a pitch and starts to charge the mound is not responsible? Interesting.

        And dont tell me he was being “held back”. When has an umpire EVER stopped a player from doing what they really wanted to do? Thats just absurd to claim. The simple fact is that when he saw Ramirez actually leave the mound to come meet him, Vicotrino realized he would probably get his ass kicked, and hid.

        Maybe you should watch it again at mlb.com and see if your opinion changes

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      • Scott G says:

        First of all I have a feeling you’re trying to get technical here. 1) There would be no reason to get angry had Ramirez not intentionally thrown at Victorino, and 2)How can you start a brawl without throwing a punch or doing anything other than walking a few feet in front of home plate? Obviously he didn’t head directly toward first base, but I’ve seen numerous examples where all that occurs is words being exchanged. The Giants definitely started the fight. Whiteside was the first player to come into any sort of contact with an opposing player, and it wasn’t even Victorino. I’ve watched the video enough by now to know. Ramirez escalated the situation. If he stays on the mound, the Giants players have no need to run in toward the plate.

        The umpire (AND A GIANTS COACH) held Victorino for an extended period of time. If Victorino is soooooooooo scared, then why did he run into the pack to help out Ruiz who was getting cheap shotted by Pablo Sandoval? He was being held back by a Phillies coach at the time, so he had a perfect “excuse” to stay out.

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    • BDF says:

      I had no idea non-Phillies fans felt this way about Victorino, and I can’t understand it. The price you pay for excellence, I guess.

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      • Anon21 says:

        I mean, maybe. Pujols really doesn’t seem to attract the same level of antipathy. I think it really is something about the way Victorino carries himself, which is probably interpreted as confidence or grace or something by fans and as arrogance by opponents.

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      • Vic Torino says:

        It is probably something akin to how Phillies fans feel about Reyes.

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      • Scott G says:

        Except Victorino doesn’t run from 1st to 3rd after hitting a home run with his finger in the air like a jerk.

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  2. Tony says:

    Unfortunately, I don’t think he will get much consideration. The top 5 will probably be (in no particular older) Braun, Fielder, Kemp, Upton, Berkman.

    I feel like Ellsbury should be the AL MVP though. If not him, Bautista or Granderson. Gonzalez doesn’t get my vote – which is an imaginary vote anyway.

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    • Tony says:

      And Ellsbury has another homer and 3 more RBIs today.

      MVP.

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      • Derek says:

        No thanks. Still not the best player on the team. Pedroia for MVP

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      • Tony says:

        What is your logic behind Pedroia being the MVP?

        Ellsbury has a better AVG., more hits, more runs, more homeruns, more RBIs, more SBs. Add to that his defense in CF…

        I don’t care who the best player on the team is. It’s who was most valuable THIS SEASON. That’s Ellsbury.

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      • Ari Collins says:

        Not attacking you, but those stats are bit cherry-picked. Pedroia has a sizable lead in OBP, which makes up for the smaller edge Ellsbury has in slugging. When you put the offensive pieces together, Pedroia slightly edges Ellsbury, in wOBA and wRC+. And while Ellsbury plays CF, Pedroia plays 2B, and most would agree he’s better at it.

        It’s not a big enough difference between their seasons to get upset if one wins the MVP over the other, though. They’re pretty close in value this season.

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    • MauerPower says:

      The voters will find a way to get Howard in the top 5

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  3. Kirsh says:

    Center field is stronger now than it’s been in some time. Ellsbury, Victorino, Granderson, Kemp, and McCutchen are elite players. Rasmus, Bourjos, Maybin, Jones, Stubbs, and Upton are an echelon below but still solid.

    The common theme with every player I just mentioned is ridiculous athleticism. Ellsbury and Victorino are good posterboys for that characterestic, I think. And really, the vast majority of them are solid defensively.

    Just about all of the most exciting players — not best ,exciting — are in CF again. It’s great.

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  4. Max says:

    Ryan Howard will get more MVP votes than Shane, because MVP voters are stupid.

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  5. Vic Torino says:

    Victorino’s a wonderful player. And a massive d-bag. Also, at risk of stating the obvious Ryan Howard (inexplicably) gets the lion’s share of credit over there, along with the pitching staff.

    That’s probably why he’s getting overlooked.

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    • Tony says:

      Just curious, why do you think Victorino is a d-bag? I’m guessing that’s the outside perspective due to the brawl? Couldn’t be further from the truth…

      He’s a class act. Very fan-friendly, and is one of the most liked and respected guys on the team. He’s also very humble.

      Trust me, Howard doesn’t get the majority of the credit around here. A major topic on sports-talk radio is why Howard isn’t as beloved as players like Utley, Victorino, Rollins, Chooch, and obviously the aces. I think it has to do with his contract. But yea, he’s very under-appreciated.

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    • hunterfan says:

      Why is Victorino a d-bag? I don’t think he’s a d-bag along the same lines as a Zambrano, Bradley, etc.

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      • Vic Torino says:

        Let me walk this back a bit. I’m sure he’s a great guy; I do think he can come across as a d-bag on the field. The brawl; getting tossed for arguing balls and strikes from CF; this play (http://www.metstoday.com/3362/shea-what/was-obstruction-the-right-call/). So on and so forth.

        So you’re right — nothing close to a Zambrano or a Bradley. He’s not a bad seed or anything like that.

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      • Scott says:

        I think it’s mostly the pictures of him sliding into 2nd base to break up a double play and grabbing the fielder’s leg/crotch and doing other unsavory things.

        Also, against the Giants in Lincecum’s debut, he got caught in a rundown and ran directly out of the baseline (as in, between 1st and 2nd base, he ran toward the pitcher’s mound) to collide with the fielder. The fielder was standing on the grass, but the umpire awarded Victorino 2nd base because of fielder obstruction.

        He’s a great player, and if he was on the team I liked I’m sure I would love him, but to fans of other teams, these types of actions make him a d-bag.

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    • Telo says:

      I hate the Phillies and all things Philadelphia with a fiery passion, but I never really got the d-bag vibe from Victorino. In fact, there a bunch of guys on the team who I really like… much to my dismay.

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      • Tony says:

        I don’t know if the average fan knew how bad the extension was at first, but they definitely grew to understand it.

        His 40/50 HR years turning into 30-35 HR years sped up the process.

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    • charles says:

      incident 1: kurodo throws a pitch over victorino’s head in retaliation for something earlier in the ballgame. vic gets mad – the whole throw at my back if you’re going to hit me, not at my head spiel

      incident 2: ramirez nails victorino in the back [intentionally; some may say unprovoked]. vic gets mad.

      This makes him a d-bag?

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  6. OneandOnlyBig Daddy says:

    The total team success will cancel out any chance the flyin’ hawawian would have. Braun having a huge year in all catagories outshines him for starters, Fielder, kemp all above Victorino

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    • Anon21 says:

      Doesn’t it usually work the opposite way? Like, if you’re on an awesome team and you yourself are awesome, the voters are inclined to say “Double awesome, bro!”, do a couple Jager shots, and then vote you for MVP?

      Which is not to say that these cruelly stereotyped voters are especially likely to recognize Victorinio’s awesomeness as compared to Ryan Howard’s stolid competence (or shall we even shade that into sunny mediocrity?).

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      • OneandOnlyBig Daddy says:

        best thing that happened to Victorino was Pence coming over from the worst team in baseball putting Vic back in the 2 hole but completely shuts the door on MVP. No 2 hole guy gets the trophy.

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      • Larry Bernandez says:

        I forget but didn’t Pedroia hit second when he won his?

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      • Jonathan says:

        Yeah, Pedroia’s batted second most of his career so far. He’s also an unsung MVP contender this season too (Tied with Bautista for WAR lead finally, though going 0-fer this afternoon may drop him back).

        I figured I’d cite Jeter to back it up further, but I’m honestly shocked he’s never won an MVP. I guess intangibles just aren’t what they used to be.

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      • JohnnyComeLately says:

        Pedroia did bat 2nd, yes, but it’s considerably different in the AL than in the NL with the pitchers slot being 9th. It allows for a lot more counting stats (read RBIs), which voters still like.

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      • Kevin S. says:

        Then why, exactly, wasn’t the 1998 AL MVP a Yankee?

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  7. OneandOnlyBig Daddy says:

    How about Upton out in Zona who really has no coverage, Montero???? just doesn’t seem to cut it and he still has huge numbers carrying them in the desest into first place, temporarily I am sure!

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  8. Jake says:

    Just wait until Howard is a first ballot Hall of Famer. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

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  9. Boxkutter says:

    I see where you are getting the “Victorino is showing more power than Ellsbury” thing, because he has a higher SLG%, but I think you are allowing yourself to be swayed by a stat that you know is misleading in this case.

    Victorino has a higher SLG because of the high number of triples he has hit this season. Now, correct me if I am wrong, but triples are more a product of speed, not power right?

    Ellsbury will likely finish the season with around twice as many homers and a dozen or more doubles rthan Victorino. Those are the power numbers, not the triples. So say that Victorino has a higher slugging percentage than Ellsbury, but don’t say he has more power because in 2011 that’s not true.

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    • Chris says:

      He has 11 more doubles and 8 more HR’s in ~20 more games. I think their doubles powers are roughly equal but Ellsbury only has a slight edge in HR’s. Even if you say that triples are a product of speed rather than power, those are still doubles that Victorino is turning into triples, so it’d be more worthwhile to say doubles+triples power, no? In which case Ellsbury has 33 doubles and triples, and Victorino has 32 doubles and triples, again, in ~20 less games.

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      • Bobby Ayala says:

        I’m not sure 21HR vs 12 HR is a slight edge, even correcting for Victorino’s DL stints. Projected over a full, healthy season, that’s 10-12 HR.

        Cameron is quick to blow off the counting stats, and I’m sure every fangraphs reader is as well, but Ells also has almost twice as many RBI (despite hitting 1st all year, whereas 2/3 of Vicky’s PA have come in the middle of the lineup,) and more than twice as many SB as Victorino in only about 25% more PA. That has less to do with Vicky’s missed time, and more to do with Ellsbury’s fantastic production this year. Ells’ Clutch score is also over a point better, and situational production has to be a big factor in determining an MVP.

        The closer I look at this more apparent it is why no one else is trying to mention these guys in the same conversation.

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      • Sultan of Schwwingg says:

        Forget SLG% than. I think the point being made is that Ells is more powerful this year, as in, he’s having a career year hitting HR’s while Vic is not. So this is a major advantage for Ells. He is a far better player this year to this guy who values power far more than free passes.

        So, considering how their games are similar except for the fact that Ells is more powerful and steals more bases, Cameron’s right: rate stats call them about even. Except he’s not because Granderson is better than both. He was hardly mentioned.

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      • Luke says:

        Should mention that Ellsbury’s average w/ runners in scoring position is .355 versus .267 for Victorino. Point – Ellsbury.

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  10. Spencer says:

    Interesting argument, how about Ryan Roberts and Victorino?

    Similiar ABs, Roberts is missing some cheddar in the OPS which is more to do with slugging % but still, homers, runs, SBs, even OBP are both great.

    Food for thought

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  11. AA says:

    Does Ellsbury really have a better defensive reputation than Victorino? Victorino’s arm is frequently gushed about.

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  12. vivalajeter says:

    While he’s having a very good season, he doesn’t do anything extraordinary that would warrant any attention. Even with 600 at bats, he wouldn’t have 20 triples or 20 HRs, and he’d barely have 30 doubles. None of those are extraordinary. He wouldn’t have 30 steals. He’s not batting .350. Yes, he’s doing everything well, but there’s no aspect of his game that really stands out. It’s the type of thing that Pagan/Gardner did last year, and Gardner is doing this year. Being solid at everything is much less important to MVP voters than being phenomenal at some things and bad at others.

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    • Jay Gloab says:

      I assume you’re talking about Victorino.

      Projecting for 600 ABs:

      20 3B
      20 HR
      33 2B

      You’re right about the steals, though – he’s only have 25. Against only 5 CS, though.

      (By the way, those numbers are before tonight’s game, in which Vic has another homer.)

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      • vivalajeter says:

        You’re right – when I went to his page I was looking in the PA column instead of AB. Other than 20 triples though, none of them stand out. They’re nice numbers when you look at the whole picture, but they’re not eye-openers that voters look for.

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  13. Dan says:

    “I’m glad guys like Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson are getting the recognition they deserve in the American League.”

    Playing centre field for Boston and New York isn’t exactly toiling in obscurity, even if you suck.

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  14. Jason says:

    I have to chuckle about all the MVP attention Ellsbury and Pedroia are getting. Neither are even the best at their position in the AL East this year. Granderson is light years ahead of Ellsbury, and Cano is better than Pedroia. I figured it was just bizarre bias from the sports media which, outside of New York, is virulently anti-Yankee. Then I take a look at your WAR list and I see where the writers are getting the nonsense from. It is all wrapped up in the silly defensive component of WAR. Any MVP voter that bases their vote on the defensive component of WAR ought to have the privileges revoked!

    For the record, Granderson is a legitimate MVP candidate. Ellsbury, Pedroia and Cano are not.

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    • Notrotographs says:

      I love satire.

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    • Kevin S. says:

      Give Cano and Pedroia average UZRs each and Pedroia still has more WAR. Cano has more power, but Pedroia gets on base more and steals more bases.

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      • Jason says:

        If you look at their batting lines, it is pretty obvious that Cano has been better. It really isn’t arguable. Maybe in mythical WAR world Pedroia is a 4 foot God, but in the real world, Cano has scored more runs, and driven in more runs. He has the same number of hits, but more doubles, more triples and more home runs all in many fewer plate appearances. Those things actually win you ball games.

        …blah, blah, counting stats, blah, runs don’t mean anything, blah, rbi’s don’t mean anything. I know…. …but those things actually happened, and because of it Cano has been the better player and more valuable to his team. He’s not an MVP candidate though. And Pedroia certainly is not.

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      • Sultan of Schwwingg says:

        Half of NY hates Cano’s approach at the plate, his whiffs on balls 3′ off the plate, his league atrocious P/PA, and you have the audacity to argue that he’s better than Pedroia? Why? because he has 5 more HR’s than him?

        5

        Yours is a stupid argument. They’re not even close.

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    • Sultan of Schwwingg says:

      As much as I hate agreeing with anyone who would ever claim Cano is even in the same stratosphere as Pedroia, your last statement is correct. “For the record, Granderson is a legitimate MVP candidate. Ellsbury, Pedroia and Cano are not”.

      Agon may win that MVP, or maybe Granderson instead, but there’s no way Pedroia or Ellsbury have a shot with as good a year as Joey Bats has had. I don’t think so anyway. Pedroia’s defense (WAR) won’t win it, and I think if Ellsbury had 30 more steals and 10 less HR’s he’d have a better shot because he’d at least lead the league in something. But as excellent a year both those two have had, I don’t believe for a second that, when compared to Bautista, their counting stats will cut it. Granderson’s would though. As would AGon’s if he stops settling for singles.

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  15. Matt says:

    Victorino is a d-bag

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  16. David says:

    I hate Hawaiians

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  17. Bubba says:

    I’m surprised that there are people who don’t hate Victorino.

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  18. Hurtlocker says:

    Keep in mind that Philly fans hated Mike Schmidt when he was there, so there is no accounting for why a player gets a negative vibe. Victorino seems to be a little bit of a hotdog, but he plays hard and fans should appreciate that at least. Nyger Morgan, on the other hand, is an asshole, seemingly going out of his way to incite the fans and the opposing team.
    I agree that Ethe twi players in this article are both having great years, and Ellsbury is three years younger.

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  19. Robbie G. says:

    As there is no obvious MVP candidate in the NL, and as Roy Halladay is having a phenomenal season (as is his team), it will be interesting to see if Halladay emerges as a leading MVP candidate. I like that the MVP award has seemingly evolved into “Best Position Player” since pitchers get their own “Best Pitcher” award already. But is this evolution official? I think we will find out this season.

    Given the fact that there is no leading “Best Position Player” candidate in the NL, and given the fact that voters (stupidly) prefer voting for players on winning (if not playoff-bound) teams, I suspect that Justin Upton winds up winning the thing so long as 1) he continues to play well the rest of the way and 2) the Diamondbacks make the playoffs, particularly since folks looking to vote for a Brewer will be unable to decide between Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Troy Tulowitzki strikes me as another guy who could wind up winning the thing if he stays hot down the stretch; sure, his team hasn’t been great, but he’s arguably the best overall position player in the NL now that Albert Pujols is no longer doing his annual Lou Gehrig impersonation, and he’s having arguably his best season yet.

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    • Mike says:

      I would think Verlander is going to be a bigger test of whether or not a pitcher can win the MVP, assuming the Tigers win the AL Central.

      He’s one more bad Weaver outing away from a possible pitching Triple Crown, has a no hitter this year, and has a pretty good chance to post a really gaudy win total. And if the Tigers sneak in to the playoffs, it’s going to be like, “With any other pitcher in baseball in his place, the Tigers are sitting at home this post-season”.

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