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Handing Out the Hardware NL and AL MVPs

Jones, Pujols, or Lee? A-Rod or Big Papi? While the media has done a number on some of the postseason awards races, I'm here to show you that we are not fooled at all by some of the posturing of the four-letter network as they try to get their personal favorites some much-needed support for the postseason awards. In this article, we're going to answer the toughest questions of baseball's regular season by telling you who will, should, and could win the postseason hardware. We'll start out with what figures to be the closest three horse race of them all, though it actually should be the biggest blowout of the entire postseason awards race!.

NL MVP.Who will win it: Andruw Jones.We'll begin with the media circus of support that is Andruw Jones. Jones had a fine year by his standards, leading the majors in home runs (51) and the National League in RBI (128). He did this while "carrying" his team on his back, or so some of the mainstream media would have you believe.

Can I give that to him to at least some extent? Not really. Let's look at the Braves original lineup in the preseason:.Rafael Furcal - 154 games, nailed his career averages across the board except for stolen bases, where he established a career best 46. also led the Braves with 27 win shares.

Marcus Giles - 152 games, nailed his career averages across the board. placed second on the Braves with 25 win shares.Chipper Jones (the reason that Andruw became so trendy) - 109 games, average was a little low compared to his career average, but his OBP and Slugging were above average.

Hit 21 homers in those 109 games, and was fourth on the Braves with 20 win shares.Andruw Jones - Had a good season. Played 160 games, batted four points below his already attrocious (if we're considering MVP candidates, at least) career average (Jones hit .263), but established career bests in homers, RBI, and slugging. placed third on the Braves with 23 win shares.Raul Mondesi - If anyone thought he'd last, they should be placed in a mental institution.

He tied with Eric Milton for being the worst free agent signing this side of Cristian Guzman. Effectively, he and Milton weren't quite as bad because neither of them had to play in as many games as Guzman.Brian Jordan - Again, I don't think anyone was expecting much.

Johnny Estrada - Only played in 105 games, and his numbers were down significantly across the board from his breakthrough rookie season.Adam Laroche - Laroche saw a significant drop in his average in his second season, but steadily improved on all of his other numbers. His RBI total jumped 33 and his home run total jumped 7.

This could be partially attributed to the fact that he played in 31 more games than he did last season, but he clearly improved a bit.To recap, Jones was third on his team in win shares (23. a full fifteen behind Albert Pujols. that's 2/3 of a season by those ratios!).

Two of the top three players other than Jones achieved (or in some cases improved upon) their career averages, while another one (Chipper Jones) missed fifty games and was significantly better statistically across the board than Andruw Jones was when he was in the lineup. I have trouble believing that Andruw Jones was the best player on his team, and there's no doubt in my mind that he wasn't the Most Valuable Player in the National League.However, I fear that the four-letter network has run a good enough campaign for him so that he'll end up winning the award.

Who should win it: Albert Pujols.This is an absolute no-brainer. If you think that numbers win the award, Jones' absolute inferiority in just about half of the statistical categories should eliminate him. If you think that team success wins the award, we clearly can't give the award to Derrek Lee.

Why do I think Pujols should win it? He was the best player in the league as well as being the absolute dominant force on the best team in the league. Pujols placed second in average and third in home runs and RBI, but we're going to look a bit beyond that.Let's start with this whole carrying the team aspect and look at what happened to the Cardinals' lineup surrounding Pujols:.David Eckstein - Eckstein missed just four games and did possibly have his best season as a big leaguer. His OBP and Average were about fifteen points higher than his career averages, and his power numbers (8 HR, 61 RBI) looked remarkably similar to his 2002 campaign in Anaheim.

He was oustanding, and would have led the Atlanta Braves with 28 win shares.Jim Edmonds - Assuming you want to scrap 1999 (when Edmonds played in just 55 games due to injury), Edmonds had his worst season at the plate since 1994. Edmonds hit 28 points below his career average, hit ten less homers than he's averaged over the past two seasons, and slugged 28 points lower than he has in any season since 1999. Regardless, like Eckstein, he would have led the Braves with 28 win shares, but was a distant second in St. Louis.Albert Pujols - The most feared hitter in the league (when the league is without Barry Bonds), Pujols showed us again how ultra-consistent he is, matching his career averages virtually across the board.

Again, he placed second in average (.330), third in homers (41), and third in RBI (117). He also achieved what he says his goal is every year and led the league in runs scored (129.

34 more than Andruw Jones), and he even threw in a ridiculous 16 steals in 18 attempts (both by far were career highs. for the record, Jones, who is known for being more fleet of foot, stole 5 bases in 8 attempts). He led the majors in win shares (by 1 over Alex Rodriguez and Derrek Lee) with 38.Scott Rolen - Anyone remember this guy? Yeah.

he finished fourth in MVP voting last season, and he played all of 56 games (or roughly a few more than Chipper missed for Atlanta). Rolen looked like a shadow of himself when he was on the field, batting 50 points and slugging 130 points below his career averages. But, trust the four-letter network, his production wasn't missed.

Reggie Sanders - By all accounts, Sanders had a great year (when he was on the field). He threatened his career averages despite playing in just 93 games, and was arguably the Cardinals' second best hitter this season when he was healthy. when he was healthy.Larry Walker - He's clearly not the dominant force he was earlier in his career, and batted 24 points and slugged 63 points below his career averages. Oh, yeah. he also only played in 100 games.

Mark Grudzielanek - Grudzy hit slightly above his career averages, though his numbers were down a bit from the last two years in Average, OBP, Slugging, and OPS. All in all, they got what they expected. a good defensive second baseman who is a mediocre hitter.

He's certainly no Marcus Giles.Yadier Molina - Molina showed a lot of promise in his first full season as the starter, but missed quite a bit of time himself. Even when he was on the field, he's no better than an average offensive player, though his defense is stellar.Did the Cardinals' pitching staff out-perform what was expected of them? Maybe a little bit. I think most of us knew already from last year that this was going to be a pretty darned good staff. In fact, the Braves had a pretty decent staff themselves, and allowed just thirty-six more total runs than the Cardinals did on the season.

The fact that St. Louis had slightly better pitching has absolutely no bearing on this MVP race. If the Jones' supporters are going to say that Jones carried his team on his back with his bat, then let's examine who lost more from his lineup. It could be argued quite easily that the Braves' primary supporting cast (Giles, Furcal, Chipper) around Andruw was every bit as good as (if not better than) the Cardinals' main supporting cast (Edmonds, Eckstein. was there a third who really deserved to be in that group?) for Pujols. Just because Andruw lost a borderline MVP candidate doesn't mean that it's any more important than Albert losing a borderline MVP candidate and watching another one have his worst season in a decade.

Let's consider Pujols' numbers across the board and compare them to Jones' and see just how they change the statistical makeup of everything you've been hearing on your TV set:.Home Runs
Jones: 51
Pujols: 41.RBI
Jones: 128
Pujols: 117.Average
Jones: .

Pujols: .330.OBP
Jones: .347
Pujols: .430.

Jones: .575
Pujols: .609.OPS
Jones: .922
Pujols: 1.

Jones: 95
Pujols: 129.Stolen Bases/Attempts
Jones: 5/8
Pujols: 16/18.

Jones: 64
Pujols: 97.Hits
Jones: 154
Pujols: 195.Strikeouts
Jones: 109
Pujols: 65.BB:K Ratio
Jones: 0.57
Pujols: 1.49.

Runs Created
Jones: 112.0
Pujols: 147.0.

Runs Created/27 Outs
Jones: 6.56
Pujols: 9.47.Total Bases
Jones: 337
Pujols: 360

In case you're wondering, we just did a quick search of fifteen statistical categories, and Jones won two of them. Pujols' argument for being the best pure hitter in the game can only be enhanced by the fact that he finished third in the majors with a 1.49 walk to strikeout ratio, a ridiculous figure for a power hitter. Only three other hitters in the top fifteen in the National League (Todd Helton [4. 1.33], Lance Berkman[6.

1.26], and Bobby Abreu [14. 0.87]) hit twenty or more home runs this season, and only thirteen players in the majors maintained a walk to strikeout ratio of 1.

00 or better among qualifiers for the batting title.Pujols was a dominant force, and clearly produced better than Andruw Jones in everything except for home runs and RBI, but will be robbed of the award because of the media.Who could sneak it out: Derrek Lee.While there's no doubt in my mind that Pujols is the best player in the National League, it could easily be argued that Lee had a better season. Lee finished first in batting average (.335), slugging (.

662), and OPS (1.080). He also finished second in home runs (46) and OBP (.

418). The fact of the matter remains, however, that he was on a losing team that didn't even sniff the playoffs. I'm all for believing that a player who has that caliber of season should be eligible and possibly even win the award, but not if there's a similar candidate on a winning team. In this case, Pujols put up similar numbers everywhere and still beat him in a lot of categories (which I'll gladly post as a follow-up in next week's column if this illicits a response, but I have a feeling it's not really necessary in this case) and would clearly be neck and neck in an MVP battle with Lee if their teams had similar records.

Jones wouldn't be in the same league, even if the media had made the same monster of him.AL MVP.Who will and should win it: Alex Rodriguez.Again, let's thank the four-letter network (which is somewhat less than surprisingly based in New England) for making this a bigger deal than it should be. Rodriguez led the league in home runs (48), slugging (.

610), runs (124), and OPS (1.030). He also finished second in batting average (.321) and OBP (.421) and fourth in RBI (130).

His main competition for the award is a designated hitter named Papi who put up slightly lesser numbers across the board and doesn't play in the field. The four-letter network loves to talk about just how clutch he's been, though, and has many people believing that Ortiz' numbers mean more than A-Rod's. That's a tough sell for me and a tough sell for all of the baseball writers in America, though god knows half the people that have a computer in Boston have written something about how Ortiz should win.I suppose that what many people are trying to reference is how that same network (again, the biggest sports television media organization in the U.S.

) pumped Vladimir Guerrero for having a similar September to lead the Angels to a division title last year, and think that Guerrero won the award based on how "clutch" he was down the stretch. I have bad news for all of them, though. Guerrero's numbers last year were arguably the best in the American League. Ortiz' numbers simply aren't.Guerrero finished third in the AL in hits and average last season, fourth in home runs (just four behind the leader), fourth in RBI (again, just four behind his only real competition for the MVP among the other leaders), and led the league in runs.

The differences? His average blew away all of the other MVP contenders (Sheffield and Ramirez were the two main ones. Vlad hit .337, while Sheff and Ramirez hit .290 and .308 respectively). His stolen base total blew away both Sheffield and Ramirez as well.

Perhaps most importantly, however, Guerrero was the Angels' offense. Guerrero led his team by 36 points in average, 39 in OBP, 12 in homers (and Jose Guillen was the only other hitter to smash more than 20), 22 in RBI (again, Guillen was the only other Halos' hitter within 50 of him), and 32 in runs. Vladimir Guerrero was what the four-letter network wishes Andruw Jones was this year. a player who carried his team on his back into the playoffs, but he didn't just do that in the clutch. He did it from Game 1 to Game 162, unlike some people would have you believe.

Sheffield and Ramirez (again, Guerrero's main competition) played for the two best (statistical) offenses in baseball in each of the past two seasons.Ortiz, again, played with the best offense in baseball (statistically) this season, while ARod played with the second best. The differences this time? ARod finished with better numbers in virtually every statistical category (and no, clutch hitting doesn't count, particularly when it was ARod's team that clinched the division in Ortiz' home park on the final weekend of the season) and played great defense while Ortiz sat in the back and watched tape while his team was fielding. For those who think that the MVP is a hitter's award only, let's let the stats speak for themselves:.Runs
Rodriguez: 124
Ortiz: 119.Home Runs
Rodriguez: 48
Ortiz: 47.

Batting Average
Rodriguez: .321
Ortiz: .300.OBP
Rodriguez: .421
Ortiz: .397.

Rodriguez: .610
Ortiz: .604.OPS
Rodriguez: 1.031
Ortiz: 1.

Rodriguez: 130
Ortiz: 148.Stolen Bases/Attempts
Rodriguez: 21/27
Ortiz: 1/1.Walks
Rodriguez: 91
Ortiz: 102.Strikeouts
Rodriguez: 139
Ortiz: 121.

BB:K Ratio
Rodriguez: 0.65
Ortiz: 0.82.

Runs Created
Rodriguez: 151.1
Ortiz: 139.6.Runs Created/27 Outs
Rodriguez: 9.53
Ortiz: 8.

51.OK. Ortiz is a bit more selective at the plate (more walks, less strikeouts) and he drove more runs in than Rodriguez did. Everywhere else, ARod beat him.

In some cases, they were very minor defeats, but they were still areas where Rodriguez' numbers were better and he plays very solid defense. I'm not saying a DH should never win the award, but Ortiz has lesser numbers offensively anyway. If Ortiz wins this, the award has become a joke in the annals of baseball.Who could sneak it out: David Ortiz, Travis Hafner.

At best, Hafner can provide a similar argument that Ortiz could, though his argument would have to be more on a "per game" basis. Hafner missed 25 games due to injury (which we surely won't blame him for or anything), and it probably cost his team a playoff berth. Since he missed 25 games, his numbers (.305-32-108), particularly in "volume" categories (aka, HR and RBI) simply can't compare with either of the other two.

However, on a "per at bat" basis, Hafner produced numbers that were slightly better than "Mr. Clutch" Big Papi. Like Ortiz, he's a DH who doesn't do anything in the field, so he loses out a little there.Who I think is being totally overlooked, but deserves consideration: Paul Konerko, Manny Ramirez.Konerko had an outstanding season on a team full of slightly above average hitters.

Without him, they weren't even close to winning the AL Central, much less winning it going away. For all of the talk about Ozzie Guillen's small ball, the White Sox were fifth in the majors in home runs (196) and Konerko was a big part of the reason for that. He's the only great hitter on that team, and should at least get a little bit of credit, though I haven't heard his name mentioned once.Manny Ramirez, who is typically the best hitter on the Red Sox, was slightly overshadowed by David Ortiz this season, but only very slightly. Ramirez hit .290 with 45 dingers and 144 RBI and he (not Ortiz) was the Red Sox best hitter down the stretch, hitting four homers in the final four games "in the clutch.


.James Meyerriecks is a senior editor for Fantasy Info Central, a free fantasy baseball news resource.

By: James Meyerriecks

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