Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Stan Musial Award

The final award the BBA gives out is the Stan Musial Award, which is to the player of the year. Any player is, of course, eligible, but for me there are too many great offensive players to really consider any pitchers. That is because I am voting in the National League though; if you ask me, Justin Verlander is the American League's MVP. Here are my choices for the NL.

1. Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers

Here's the thing about Wins Above Replacement. I didn't pay much attention to it before this season, but I finally started to when I realized that it encapsulates what has always bothered me about the MVP race. It seems impossible for baseball writers to give that award to anyone who didn't get his team to the play-offs. But NO TEAM gets to the play-offs on the back of one player. It's not possible. You can have the best player in the league on your team, and if the rest of your team sucks, you will not make the postseason. Should that be player not be rewarded simply because his teammates couldn't pick up the slack? ABSOLUTELY NOT. What's great about WAR is that it quantifies a player's value completely independent of the standings. And that is why I simply must give my first-place vote to Matt Kemp. His WAR was 8.7, better than anybody else's in the NL. The Dodgers finished in third place, 10.5 games ahead of the Rockies in fourth. Nearly all of those games were thanks to Kemp. His .321 average, 32 home runs, and 126 RBI were certainly something, but it's the WAR that tells me that he was the most valuable player in the league this season. Period.

2. Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks

Upton is a player who nearly singlehandedly got his team to the play-offs. His WAR was only 6.4, but he and Ian Kennedy together made up more than the 8 wins the D-backs took the division by. Upton was an indispensable offensive force for the Snakes. 31 homers and 105 runs scored put him right up there with Kemp.

3. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers

I cannot tell you how greatly it pains me to put Braun ahead of Tulo, since the one has been dogging the other since the Rookie of the Year race in 2007. But it is what it is. Braun's stats were just better. .307 average, 33 home runs, 111 RBI, 7.8 WAR. And I can't see the Brewers getting as far in the play-offs as they did without him. Sorry Tulo.

4. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies

That said, it's so satisfying to vote for Tulo here, since he's the only Rockie I was able to give any kind of vote to this season. I hope that doesn't happen next year. For now, it's enough to know that Tulo finished with his first 30-homer, 100+ RBI season. And he hasn't peaked yet.

5. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals

It wasn't that long ago that King Albert was a lock for the MVP multiple years in a row. I'm glad that era is over so that some new guys can shine a little, but that's not to say Pujols is no longer valuable. Despite a small-ish WAR (5.1), he still hit 37 home runs and drove in 99, and the Cards' postseason run is certainly credited in large part to him.

6. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds

Votto was no sophomore slump the season after he won the MVP. He posted very solid numbers: a .309 average, 29 home runs, and 103 RBI. It was a tough year for Reds' fans, but Votto kept hope alive.

7. Lance Berkman, St. Louis Cardinals

Berkman needed the Cards, and the Cards needed Berkman. They are the most valuable team to his most valuable player. He had a comeback kind of season, with 31 homers, 94 RBI, and a .301 average. I would not want to be a pitcher trying to mow down the heart of the St. Louis order.

8. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee Brewers

Fielder is as much to thank as Braun for the Brew Crew's success this year. It was fun to watch those two finally put the pieces together offensively. Fielder's 38 homers and 120 RBI are actually better than Braun's; what stopped me from giving him a higher position on my ballot was his 5.5 WAR.

9. Jose Reyes, New York Mets

If you don't like Jose Reyes, I'm not sure we can be friends. He might be the most fun to watch baseball player I've ever seen. This year, despite injury, he kept the Mets out of the basement, and his .337 batting average was tops in the league. He's got next to no power, but he doesn't need it to be great.

10. Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates

What Reyes did for the Mets, McCutchen did for the Bucs. His .259 average isn't as good as I think it could be, but 23 home runs and 89 RBI is solid. His 5.7 WAR means his value to the Pirates cannot be underestimated.

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