Wednesday, November 19, 2008

City of Dust

Dust - it's tiny, seems practically insignificant, yet it's all over and can have a severe impact on even the largest of bodies.

Pretty apt description for the Red Sox latest winner of the MVP award. One of the smallest players in the majors, Dustin Pedroia is, in his second season, the most decorated member of the Boston baseball team over the first two years of his career since Fred Lynn won the Rookie of the Year, Gold Glove, and MVP awards in 1975.

Pedroia now has a ROY, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, and MVP award to show for his work as one of the men in the middle for the Sox. It's as much a testament to the little man's gritty determination as it is Theo Epstein's and Terry Francona's dedication to standing by the little man's side when he struggled at the beginning of the 2007 season.

Their faith in Pedroia has paid off in spades.

Pedroia's win is one of the few times that the Baseball Writer's Association has gotten this right.

The award is for the Most Valuable Player, not the guy who is statistically the best - which is what I think happened over in the National League.

I always felt that the key word in the award was "Valuable."

Sure, it could mean a number of different things to different people, however, the bottom line, I've always believed, is how valuable was the player to a team's success. It's a difficult question, and seldom is a player on a team that misses out on the playoffs deserving. There are exceptions - When Steve Carlton rocked 27 wins with a sub-2.00 ERA for a Phillies team that won only 62 games back in 1972, he certainly should have beat out Johnny Bench for the award. Any lesser pitcher would have struggled to get to double digits in wins, considering the Phillies lack of run support, making Carlton, far and away, the most valuable player to any success his team had that season. Consider the following - if you had a pitcher that couldn't even half his total of wins - at say, 13 wins, and those other 14 games are losses, the Phils finish 1972 with 48 wins.

I digress.

As to the question - what would have happened to the Sox had they lost Pedroia for an extended period of time? He picked up the slack when others went down - when the team lost David Ortiz, and JD Drew. When Mike Lowell was playing through injury, and the team suffered injuries to the starting rotation. If they lose Pedroia, do they still get to the post-season? I have my doubts.

It was nice to see the voters get it right, the voters that are enamored of stat machines.

Don't believe that about the voters? Consider the following about Alex Rodriguez (this was from one of my previous posts, but I have since updated it for current numbers)...

“Once each of his previous teams, the Mariners and the Rangers, rid themselves of A-Rod, those teams averaged somewhere around eight more wins per season for the first three seasons after Rodriguez’s departure. The Yankees averaged 95.5 wins per season with A-Rod in their line-up (with decreasing numbers the last three - 97, 95, 89). The three seasons prior to his arrival? 99.67. Sure, a drop-off of four games per year isn’t huge, but it’s still a drop off and when combined with the following fact, it’s a serious indictment of what his impact on a team really is - for the three seasons he played for the Rangers, Texas won 73, 72, and 71 games respectively (the Yankees won 101 his first season with the team, a total down to 89 this season), but for the first three seasons after A-Rod left the confines of Arlington, the Rangers 89, 79, and 80 games respectively - an average improvement of eight games per year.”

So, A-Rod won the award three times on teams that had lower win totals with him than without. How valuable is that? The Sox, on the other hand, jumped from 85 wins in 2006 to 96 wins in 2007, and 95 this past season.

I know that it's not fair to lay the improvement or decay at the feet of one player, but in the case of A-Rod, the improvement/degradation has followed him through his career. It happens to one team, it's coincidence, it happens with three teams - well, that's a career trend.

In other Sox news -

I just want to bid a quick farewell to Coco Crisp who is now officially a member of the Kansas City Royals. While the trade affects depth in the outfield, it bolsters the bullpen, an issue in the post season, with the acquisition of Ramon Ramirez. Ramirez appeared in 71 games, going 3-2 with a 2.64 ERA for the 75 win Royals last season.

Happy trails Coco.


Anonymous said...

As always, winning in the post season is not about offense, it's about pitching.

The teams Alex left had payroll limitations that the Yankees don't have with him on the team.

Another flaw in your argument is despite winning more games in the regular season, they didn't have post season success so what did those extra wins really mean.

If a team can't figure out how to win with a 3 time MVP playing for them, maybe the MVP isn't the problem.

Anonymous said...

Coco got traded for Ramon Ramirez not Martinez. Ramon Martinez is Pedro's brother.

Kevin Smith said...

My apologies, thank you for the correction - will take care of it (brain freeze).

As for A-Rod - his last season in Seattle, the team had the second lowest team ERA in the league. They did not have the payroll limitations of the Rangers, because A-Rod had yet to get the break the bank sort of contract. The team leaped to 116 wins the season he left and jumped from fourth to first in runs scored.

The Yankees with A-Rod have consistently been in the top ten in the league in pitching (every season he's been there, and he's won two of those MVP's with the Yankees), but their record has pretty much worsened almost every year he's been there. And there's no flaw in the argument as the MVP is solely based on what the player did in the regular season (which is why I haven't brought up his post-season failures) - once the 162 are done, voters are not to consider anything past that.

Look at where he hits his homers - with the team up by eight or down by six in winning, or losing efforts respectively. He seldom manages to come through in the clutch, he wilts under pressure. The Yanks have the payroll for him and the pitching, but have deteriorated with him on the team. To paraphrase your own notation - what do those stats really mean if his production doesn't help the team win? Where's the value?

I think the issue is that there are two separate things that get voted on in relation to the award - those who vote for the most valuable player, and those who vote for the one with the best stats. Sometimes they match, but often they don't. The fact that K-Rod was even in the running is proof that it's an award based on stats more than anything else.

Any objective observer that looks at the nature of his saves knows that any half-decent reliever could have put up the same sort of numbers.

If they want to give an award for the player that puts up the best numbers, I'm fine with that - it just should be a separate award from the MVP because the best numbers doesn't always translate into most valuable. If there happens to be some cross over in who wins the award, so be it.

Kevin Smith said...

And to address the flaw in your argument - if a team has to sacrifice other tools they need in order to win to retain that player, then what is the player's value? A decreased number of wins?

If that's the case, how valuable could that player be?

Strikes me that's a detriment to a team's chances to win. Not very valuable, is that player?

So, in essence, by your own argument, A-Rod shouldn't have won when with the Texans, because that money spent on him would have been MORE VALUABLE spent elsewhere.

Just a little more to consider in regards to the man's overall value.