The Real NL MVP
By John B Holway
For the next five minutes, I’d like to ask you to take off the baseball hat you’ve worn since you were a kid and put on a new one. The old stats – BA, HR, RBI – and even the new ones – OPS, WARs – measure Excellence. But they are not primarily aimed at measuring Value. Yes, they are indicators of value: If you knock in the most runs of have the best WARs rating, you certainly have a lot of value. But maybe someone else, with less RBIs and lower WARs is actually helping your team win more game on the field. You may be looking at him and don’t see what he’s doing.
For example, who would you vote for as National League Most Valuable Batter last year?
Adnan Gonzalez, the RBI king?
Giancarlo Stanton, the home run king?
Justin Morneau, the batting champ?
Andrew McCutcheon, the WAR king?
Setting aside pitcher Clayton Kershaw, here’s how the writers voted:
I voted for …
None of the Above.
If you read these pages last week, you know why. My yardstick is a stat I made up 71 years ago, in 1944. I call it Games Won At Bat – GWAB.
If your team wins by one run, then everyone who scored or batted in a run gets a GWAB. If it won by two runs, it takes a total of two scored or driven in. (A homer does not count as both a run and a RBI.) A three-run margin requires three runs produced, etc.
Most of the traditional numbers – batting average, homers, RBI – look good on paper. They help you choose the MEP, the Most Excellent Player. These are the guys you want on your computer league team.
The writers seem to go for the MPP, the Most Popular Player.
So what happened to the V in MVP?
His name was – drum roll –
Matt Holliday of the Cardinals. He even outscored baseball’s newest glamour boy, Mike Trout, the GWAB champ of the American League.
Trout won 30 games. Holliday won 32.
He showed that it’s not how many hits, home runs, or RBIs you get. It’s when you get them.
Who’s in second place? Casey MCGEHEE?! Giancarlo Stanton’s Miami teammate hit only four home runs, compared to Stanton’s 37. Yet he won one more game than the celebrated Stanton, and the writers didn’t consider him at all. Neither dud the Florida management; they let him get away over the winter, and they’re hurting without him.
Washington had no less than five men with 20 or more GWABs. This may be a record. So what did they do? They let the best one, Adam LaRoche, go. Well, the writers didn’t think much of him either; they didn’t give him even one tenth-place vote.
As of this writing the Nats are in last place.
Meanwhile, Andrew McCutchen came in second in the writers’ vote. But 15 other men had as many GWABs or more.
The Sound of Harper’s Homer
Next morning the Washington Post spent its first 17 paragraphs describing the sound of Harper’s blow. The writer was obviously writing with an eye to being selected for a future book called Great Baseball Writing of 2014.
If you were still reading to the 18th graph, the reporter mentioned that Danny Espinosa (.219) scored one run and batted in two. I guess I was the only person in the world, including the Washington management, who knew that Danny had just won the game. Bryce had won nothing. For the season, Harper won a total of seven GWABs. Espinosa won six. Bryce was paid $2.1 million, or $300,000 per win. Danny took home $500,000, which was only $85,000 per victory.
Two years earlier, Espinosa (.158) had actually led all Washington batters with 17 GWABs. And nobody saw him do it. Sometimes you can sit in the stands or the press box – or even the owner’s box or the dugout – and look at the game without really seeing it.
I offered these numbers to the Nationals last winter. I don’t think they even opened the letter.
Now I don’t say that GWABs is the only way to measure value. It may not even be the best way. But it should be one of the ways. Before a writer goes to vote, or a GM swings a shrewd trade, they should know as much as they can. If they don’t even know about GWABs, they go in with a patch over one eye.
The 2014 National league leaders – ranked by GWAB on the left and by MVP on the right
|Ranked by GWAB||Ranked by MVP|
|32 Matt Holliday||STL||11||Stanton||26|
|27 Casey McGehee||MIA||0||McCutchen||21|
|26 Giancarlo Stanton||MIA||1||Lucroy||21|
|24 Chase Utley||PHI||0||Rendon||20|
|23 Adam LaRoche||WAS||0||Posey||18|
|23 Hunter Pence||SF||9||Gonzalez||22|
|22 Carlos Gomez||MIL||13||Harrison||7|
|22 Matt Carpenter||STL||0||Rizzo||8|
|22 Ian Desmond||WAS||0||Pence||23|
|22 Adrian Gonzalez||LA||6||Martin||10|
|21 Jonathan Lucroy||MIL||3||Holliday||32|
|21 Andrew McCutchen||PIT||2||Puig||16|
|21 Johnny Peralta||STL||12||Gomez||13|
|21 Aaron Hill||ARI||0||J Upton||14|
|21 Jayson Werth||WAS||15||Werth||21|
|20 Neil Walker||PIT||0||Span||20|
|20 Christian Yelich||MIA||0||Mesoraco||7|
|20 Ryan Howard||PHI||0||Duda||19|
|20 Freddie Freeman||ATL||20||Freeman||20|
|20 Lucas Duda||NY||19||Morneau||15|
|20 Starling Marte||PIT||0||Gordon||16|
|20 Denard Span||WAS||0||Tulowitzki||12|
|20 Anthony Rendon||WAS||4|
|18 Buster Posey||SF||5|
|17 Pablo Sandoval||SF||0|
|15 Yasiel Puig||LA||16|
|15 Justin Morneau||COL||21|
|12 Troy Tulowitzki||COL||20|
OK, thanks for your patience. You can put your old hats back on. But I hope I’ve given you a little something new to think about:
It’s not only important how many runs you produce.
It’s more important when you produce them.
Next: How good was the Babe? GWAB champs, year by year.