Pujols is a lock for the MVP

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The NL MVP, the final major postseason award, will be announced today.  While we could maybe argue about Rookie of the Year and while reasonable people could potentially disagree about the NL Cy Young, the BBWAA has basically gotten the awards right on the money for two straight years now, so there’s very little reason to think they won’t get it right today: Albert Pujols will win it in a walk.

The math, she is simple: Pujols led the league in on base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, home runs, extra base hits, runs created, total bases, intentional walks and adjusted OPS. He probably should have won the Gold Glove. If you want to cut through the specific numbers a bit, know this: he won the MVP last year on a losing team with numbers that are close to identical to those he had this year, and this year he led his team to the division title.  Simply put, there is no reasonable argument for anyone to get the MVP other than Pujols.  If you have such an argument, please give it to me in the comments, but right now I simply can’t see it.

But, in the interests of thoroughness, let’s look at the other people who may receive some voter love:

Hanley Ramirez: He won the batting title, hit 24 home runs, drove in over a hundred, stole 27 bases and improved on defense. Because he’s a shortstop he’s probably got the best argument over any of the non-Pujols contenders, but (a) he’s not a transcendent shortstop; and (b) even with the positional adjustment, he simply didn’t provide as much value to his team as Pujols did to the Cardinals.  If you believe in stuff like WAR — which is a stat that probably best quantifies a player’s value to his team — Hanley Ramirez was about as valuable as Derek Jeter was this year.  That’s great — fine damn season — but it’s not as valuable as Pujols was and it’s not worthy of the MVP.

Andre Eithier: Your token Dodger. Solid all-around season, but not spectacular in any one area (he led the league in exactly zero categories). He’ll get some attention because he had a lot of walkoff hits, and voters tend to like that.  Not as many as used to like it — Miguel Tejada basically won the 2002 MVP because of some late season walkoff jobs — but enough to give him some votes.

The first basemen who are not as good as Albert Pujols: Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Derek Lee, Adrian Gonzalez. While Howard bested Pujols in 2006, that was a function of (a) his novelty; and (b) people not yet being hip to the flaws in his game. Great player, sure, but not a complete one and certainly not one who has ever been as good as Pujols in a given season, including 2009.  Prince Fielder had a nice year too, but Milwaukee didn’t make any noise.  Same with Derek Lee and Adrian Gonzalez.  Given that all four of these guys play the same position as Pujols and don’t play it as well, they have no argument.

Field: Matt Kemp, Ryan Zimmerman, Chase Utley, Tim Lincecum, whoever.  I’m actually going to be far more interested in looking downballot later today to see what people really think about these kinds of guys. Of course, where they fall may simply tell us more about what the baseball writers feel about the bottom half of their ballot.  Weirdness — like say, the way Mariano Rivera got more MVP votes than Zack Greinke in the AL yesterday despite finishing behind him in the Cy Young — will probably be present in abundance.

Maybe it’s boring giving the award to Albert Pujols every year, but it’s better to be boring than wrong, ain’t it?

The Nationals sign Kevin Jepsen

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Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reports the Nationals have agreed to terms with free agent reliever Kevin Jepsen.

Think of this as the latest in what will likely be a series of no-risk bullpen additions. The Nats, basically, collecting as many almost free arms they can find in an effort to fix their bullpen woes without having to give up anything valuable at the trade deadline. Just like the K-Rod signing earlier this week or the Edwin Jackson signing two weeks ago.

Jepsen pitched for Tampa Bay and Minnesota last year, posting a 5.68 ERA with the Rays and a 6.16 ERA with the Twins, appearing in 58 games in all. He went unsigned this past offseason.

Eh, it might work. It probably won’t, but it might.

Rival Executives Expect Justin Verlander To Hit The Trading Block

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About a month ago, a report circulated that if the Detroit Tigers weren’t above .500 by the end of June, they were going to chuck the season, look to trade off veterans and rebuild. It’s now June 29 and the Tigers are 34-42 and sit six games out of first place.

As such, we should not be too terribly surprised to see a report from Jeff Passan of Yahoo that multiple baseball executives expect Tigers ace Justin Verlander to hit the trade market sometime in the next two weeks. Passan notes that the Tigers haven’t formally offered him and that he’s just passing along speculation from rivals, but it’s pretty astute speculation.

The question is what the Tigers can get for Verlander. On the one hand, yes, Verlander is Verlander and has been one of the top starters in baseball for a decade. While he had struggled for a bit, last year featured a return to Cy Young form. He still has a blazing fastball and there is no reason to think he could not anchor the staff of a playoff caliber team.

On the other hand, as Passan notes, his 2017 has been . . . not so good. He looks amazing at times and very hittable at other times. Overall his walk rate is way up and his strikeout rate is down. There doesn’t appear to be anything physically wrong with him — various ailments contributed to his 2014-15 swoon — so it’s possible he’s just had a rough couple of months. Like I said, Verlander is Verlander, and it may not be a bad gamble to expect him to run off a string of dominant starts like he has so many times in the past.

The problem, though, is that anyone acquiring Verlander is not just gambling on a handful of starts down the stretch. They’re gambling on the $56 million he’s owed between 2018 and 2019 and the $22 million extra he’ll be guaranteed for 2020 if he finishes in the top five in Cy Young voting in 2019. Those would be his age 35, 36 and 37 seasons. There are certainly worse gambles in baseball, but it’s a gamble all the same.

If the Tigers don’t find any gamblers out there on the market, they’re going to have to make a gamble of their own: let Verlander go and get relatively little in return if another club picks up that $56 million commitment or eat it themselves and get prospects back in return to help kickstart a rebuild. Personally I’d go with the latter option, but I don’t work for the Illitch family.