NL MVP preview: it’s a two-man race

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It doesn’t get much closer than this when it comes to a couple of MVP candidates.

  • Player A:  .332/.397/.597, 33 HR, 111 RBI, 109 runs
  • Player B: .324/.399/.586, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 111 runs

But then you add in that Player A played a pedestrian-to-bad left field and Player B played a good center field, and it should tip it in B’s favor.

Except I have a pretty strong feeling that it won’t this time, because Player A — Ryan Braun — played for a division winner and Player B — Matt Kemp — did not.  And when such a state of affairs exists, MVP voters are almost always going to go for the guy on the winning team.  I bet Braun takes the hardware and that’s not nearly as close as it should be.

source: Getty ImagesTo be sure: Braun winning will not be a miscarriage of justice. He had a fantastic season. I’m just saying he wouldn’t be my choice.

I’m more animated — in advance — that a lot of people who cast their ballot for Braun will likely have done so on the basis of his team’s performance, which seems so beside the point to me.  But that’s what you get when you have the word “valuable” right in the title of the award.  It it were about the most outstanding player it wouldn’t be as tricky, but the concept of value seems to demand something for it to serve, and in this case the voters tend to see that as team goals, not individual accomplishments.

Which is troublesome to me because it’s all based on a fallacy that games in which non-contending teams play are somehow less important than games involving contenders. Maybe they are to those of us who write about baseball and thus focus on playoff implications. But are you telling me that Matt Kemp didn’t take the games in which he played as seriously as Ryan Braun did? That the pitchers he faced let up?  I don’t think anyone would have the guts to even ask Matt Kemp what he thought about that concept, so basing an awards vote on it seems silly to me.

Oh well. We’ll see at 2PM eastern.

The Nats are going to sign Francisco Rodriguez for some reason

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The Nationals bullpen is a tire fire. They’re about to add another tire. Per Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, Washington is about to sign free agent reliever Francisco Rodriguez.

K-Rod was released by the Tigers last week after posting an ERA of 7.82 over 28 appearances this season. He has a 1.658 WHIP, is allowing 11.9 hits per nine innings and is posting his highest walk rate in five years. Also worth noting: the Detroit Friggin’ Tigers decided that he was not good enough to be in their bullpen.

So, yeah, good luck with that Washington.

The Giants chemistry is suffering because a guy they all hated is gone

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I’ve spent years arguing with people about team chemistry. You know the battle lines on all of that now: people who talk a lot about team chemistry tend to attribute winning or losing to good or bad chemistry, respectively. I tend to think that characterizing chemistry is a retroactive exercise in which teams that win are happy and then cite their happiness as the reason and vice versa. Jim Leyland agrees with me, for what it’s worth, so I’m pretty happy with my take.

Not that I’ll claim a monopoly on wisdom here. I’ve never played on a professional baseball team. I don’t know what it’s like to try to prepare to play baseball while surrounded by jackwagons who don’t get along with anyone. I can’t imagine that makes life easier. Indeed, based on the testimony of players I have spoken to, I will grant that there is at least some intangible yet real benefit if everyone is happy an gelling. I dismiss team chemistry arguments for the most part, but if I ran a team I’d at least try to get rid of bad seeds if their bad seeding was not outweighed by seriously outstanding on-the-field play. You want your workers happy, folks.

All of which makes me wonder what the heck to do about this passage from Ken Rosenthal’s latest column. It’s about the reeling San Francisco Giants. They have all kinds of issues — their offense is putrid, their pitching isn’t much better and they’ve been without their ace most of the year — but today Rosenthal looks at their team chemistry. It’s a quiet and subdued clubhouse, he notes, and it has a lot of people wondering if something is wrong there. What could it be?

Sandoval, who was an often noisy and boisterous presence during his time with the club, departed as a free agent after that season. Pence has suffered a number of injuries in recent years and declined offensively, making it difficult for him to be as vocal as he was in the past. Some with the Giants muse that the team even misses Angel Pagan, who created an odd sort of unity because most of the players disliked him.

Read that last sentence again. And then go on with your talk about how team chemistry is a legitimate explanatory concept regarding what makes teams win or lose as opposed to a post-hoc rationalization of it.

Not that it’s not a good article overall. There’s some interesting stuff about the Giants’ bullpen culture. And, of course, we now know why no one signed Pagan last winter.