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?

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.