Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Joe Mauer Has Got to Be Your MVP

It all started with New York Times blogger Tyler Kepner, who tweeted that Mark Teixeira was obviously the American League’s most valuable player.

This drew rapid responses from
ESPN's Rob Neyer and all-around writin' bad ass Joe Posnanski. They both make good points, but I like the way Posnanski puts it best:

Joe Mauer is having a much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much, much better season than Mark Teixeira. I’m not sure I put enough muches in there. Mauer is on pace to win his THIRD batting title as a catcher — and no other American League catcher has ever won even one. He leads the league in on-base percentage AND slugging percentage, the two most important stats going, and the only catcher to ever do that in baseball history was … oh, wait, nobody. He throws out base runners and hits .395 with runners in scoring position (hits .457 with runners in scoring position and two outs) and even runs the bases well.

When those kinds of points come out and stab you, you backtrack a bit,
as Kepner did. "Mauer is a compelling candidate. He leads the league in on-base percentage and slugging percentage, he’s batting .378, and he’s an outstanding defensive catcher on a team that is (sort of) contending. He’s a terrific candidate."

But take a second--Kepner tossed out that .378 as if isn't that big of a deal. No one hits .378 this late in the year, and certainly catchers don't. That stat alone should be eye-popping. Not "compelling". Eye-popping. OBP and Slugging? Just leading the league. Nice stats, but not definitive, or so Kepner makes it sound.

And in the end, he kind of stands his ground: "Teixeira is the most productive player on the team with baseball’s best record. He leads the league in total bases and extra-base hits. He won two games in June with his base running (June 2, with a takeout slide, and June 12, after Luis Castillo’s dropped pop-up), and his defense has been off the charts."

Let me just say that you start talking about takeout slides and base running thanks to a competing team's fielding error, you've lost the argument.

Kepner concludes with "Teixeira is having an exceptional season. There is no disputing that." Well, hold on--there is some dispute there--he's having a fine season, no doubt. Hitting almost .290 with 30 homeruns is a very good year from your first baseman. Is it "exceptional"? Because Justin Morneau is right there with him in just about every category. How exceptional can it be if two other players are right there with him? (Morneau and Miguel Cabrera are right there with him.)

I don't know what we have to do--make a new award? Call it "Best Player" and have the players vote on it? Because make no mistake--Joe Mauer is having a season that is for the ages, quite literally. Stat-head extraordinaire Aaron Gleeman has a great post with Top Catchers Offensive Stats. Joe Mauer is Top 5 in all of them, including Average, OPS, OBP, and Slugging. There is one other catcher from the late 20th century with him on some of those categories--Mike Piazza. Aside from him, there isn't a single catcher on the leaderboard for any of those categories who played after World War Two. This isn't a once in a generation season, it's a once in a century season for a catcher, or for any other position, really. Joe Mauer is going to win his third batting title, more than double his homeruns from his previous career best, and is behind the plate for a young, struggling rotation, complete with a knuckleballer in the bullpen for a good chunk of the season. And Joe is doing it for a team that is competing for a pennant, despite going more than half the year without anyone in the 2 hole with the best 3 hole hitter in the past decade or two. Writers might not notice it in flyover country, but I guarantee you Joe Mauer would get the vote of every pitcher and every catcher in the league for what he's done.

Hell, Mark Teixeira would probably vote for him if it were "Most Outstanding Player" instead of Most Valuable Player.


webberpa said...

The Twinkies "sort of" contending? For what? Get real, dude, they are in 3rd place in the weakest division in baseball this year, fading FAST. They should sell the team to a Canadian city, like Ottowa or Vancouver, give them something back for us stealing their hockey.

Big Blue Monkey 2: The Quickening said...

The Twins just beat the Wild Card AL 2 times in their home park. They are only 6 games back of Detroit with like 10 games left to play against that squad.

Third place doesn't mean anything. Games back is what it is all about.

Fading fast was true, I agree. But this is a team that has come from behind two nights in a row. Don't count them out just yet.

I'd sooner stick a fork in the Red Sox than the Twins.

Andrew Wice said...

With every league's MVP voting, there's always the question of what exactly 'valuable' means.

I think we need a Congressional investigation into once and for all defining what this award means -- the best player on the best team vs. the most outstanding individual season vs. the player who improves the team around him the most ... etc.

And then we can take the Congressional findings out into America for some direct-democracy 'town hall' meetings, where people can casually make references to Hitler and the Nazis while screaming that they aren't being taken seriously.

Brad Templeman said...

When there was a chance that his batting average was going to tank (I guess there still is a small chance with over a month to go), I thought he could lost out again.

Add to that the fact that 16 of the last 17 AL MVPs have come from playoff teams (2003 A-Rod the lone exception), and I thought he might lose out.

There is a bias towards great play at the end of the season, especially if it carries a team into the playoffs, which opens the door for Teixiera, Cabrera and even Morneau.

I can't imagine Mauer not winning the MVP at this point, which is good, because he's maybe the best player in baseball and he deserves it.

Big Blue Monkey 2: The Quickening said...

let me just quickly say "Eat it" to webberpa, who buried the Twins--they are now in second place, 4 games back with 7 games to play with a fading Tigers squad.

Eat it, webberpa.