November 18, 2003

Superman, again

I have been (rightly) accused of being a pessimist many times. Sometimes by people who know me personally and lots of times by people who read this website. The nice thing about being a pessimist is that occasionally you are pleasantly surprised. The last two days have been good examples of that.

As I have said in this space previously, I feel Alex Rodriguez and Barry Bonds were the Most Valuable Players of their leagues this season. At the same time, I also had a strong feeling that the voters probably wouldn't actually give them the awards. As I discussed in yesterday's entry, I was wrong about Rodriguez and the AL voters, and yesterday afternoon I learned that I was also wrong about Bonds and the NL voters.

I often give the people responsible for voting for these awards quite a bit of criticism and usually deservedly so. This year, however, I think they have actually done a pretty good job picking the winners.

Of the six guys I chose as my winners for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year, three of them (Bonds, Rodriguez and Angel Berroa) actually won. Two other winners (Eric Gagne and Roy Halladay), while not guys I would have voted for, were perfectly reasonable selections in my opinion. Basically, I think the voters only completely screwed up one of the six awards this year (Brandon Webb!). Of course, whether or not you think "only" completely screwing up one out of six awards is a good thing is debatable, I guess.

As I did with the AL voting yesterday, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the complete NL results and see what information can be taken from them...

- While the NL had 34 players who appeared on at least one ballot, compared to 27 in the AL, the voting at the top was far less splintered, despite there being six more total voters in the NL. No player in the AL got more than six first-place votes and a total of 10 guys got at least one first-place vote. In the NL, just three guys got first-place votes.

- Barry Bonds has now won six MVP awards, including three in a row. He received 30 of 32 first-place votes in 2001, all 32 first-place votes in 2002 and 28 of 32 this season.

- Amazingly, someone other than Bonds and Albert Pujols managed to get a first-place vote. I honestly thought it was impossible, but Gary Sheffield was #1 on one of the 32 ballots. I'd like to hear an explanation for that, just for the hell of it. Interestingly, Sheffield's first-place vote came from a writer from the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

- Pujols finished second in the voting for the second straight year. It is just the 10th time in baseball history someone has done that. If Bonds wasn't in the picture, he would be the back-to-back MVP at age 23 and he'd probably also have two MVPs if he had been playing in the AL this whole time.

By the way, does anyone remember who finished third in last year's NL MVP voting, behind Bonds and Pujols? I had to look it up, because I definitely didn't remember. In fact, I think you could have given me a dozen guesses and I wouldn't have even thought of the guy. Go ahead, think it over. Think you know? Click here to find out how wrong you are.

- Players in either the AL or NL West divisions have now won 14 of the last 16 MVP awards, including eight in a row in the AL and four in a row in the NL.

- Of the 34 total players who received a vote, seven of them are from the Florida Marlins. Juan Pierre, who hit just .305/.361/.373 (with 65 stolen bases) on the year and ranked seventh among NL center fielders in "Runs Above Replacement Position," was 10th in the balloting and got a fifth-place vote on one ballot.

Other Marlins receiving votes: Mike Lowell, Ivan Rodriguez, Luis Castillo, Miguel Cabrera, Dontrelle Willis and Derrek Lee. In case you're wondering, Cabrera played in a grand-total of 87 games this year. I was under the impression that all ballots had to be mailed in prior to the start of the post-season, but I'm starting to doubt that now.

- In the AL, pitchers accounted for just four of the 27 vote-getters (15%). In the NL, there were seven pitchers out of 34 total vote-getters (21%).

- Unlike in the AL, there weren't really any incredibly weird votes in upper parts of the ballot in the NL. In addition to stuff like Shannon Stewart and David Ortiz each getting multiple first-place votes, the AL also had Jason Giambi and Miguel Tejada getting voted first and had Derek Jeter getting onto a total of two ballots while receiving a second-place vote.

Meanwhile, the weirdest thing atop the NL is probably either Sheffield getting that one first-place vote or Pierre getting that one fifth-place vote.

- There were a few weird votes in the bottom part of the NL ballot though...

Mark Grudzielanek, who missed 41 games this year and hit .314/.366/.416 when he did play, was voted 8th on one ballot, the only vote he got. Grudzielanek's teammate, Kerry Wood, who had a 3.20 ERA in 211 innings, didn't find his was onto any ballots.

Edgar Renteria, my #5 selection in the NL, finished 15th in the actual voting, appeared on only seven of the 32 ballots, and got just one top-8 vote. Meanwhile, Jeff Bagwell finished one spot ahead of him.

First, consider the following numbers:

              G      AVG      OBP      SLG     RBI

Renteria    157     .330     .394     .480     100

Bagwell     160     .278     .373     .524     100

Next, consider the fact that Bagwell plays in a great hitter's park, while Renteria plays in a pitcher's park. Renteria's "Equivalent Average" (which adjusts for ballparks) was .309, compared to Bagwell's .297.

Finally, consider the fact that Edgar Renteria plays shortstop, and plays it very well, while Jeff Bagwell is a first baseman.

The fact that they are back-to-back on a ballot, with Bagwell first, is incredible. It's almost as mind-boggling as Renteria finishing 15th.

- Renteria isn't the only St. Louis player who got shafted. Scott Rolen is a Gold Glove third baseman who hit .286/.382/.528 with 28 homers, 49 doubles and 104 RBIs this year. He ranked #1 among all MLB third basemen in Runs Above Replacement Position this season and his total of 57.5 RARP ranked him eighth among all NL hitters. Rolen ranked 10th among all NL players in Win Shares. I voted him as my #8 pick for NL MVP.

34 players got at least one vote for NL MVP. Scott Rolen was not one of them.

- Finally, some fun Superman facts...

* Bonds has now won six NL MVPs (1990, 1992, 1993, 2001, 2002, 2003). He has also finished second twice (1991, 2000) and in the top-5 on three other occasions (1994, 1996, 1997).

* Since 1990, Bonds has not finished in the top-10 of the MVP voting just two times - 1995 and 1999.

In 1995, he hit .294/.431/.577 with 33 homers, 104 RBIs and 109 runs. He led the NL in on-base percentage and OPS (on-base % + slugging %), finished second in adjusted OPS+ and fifth in slugging percentage.

In 1999, he hit .262/.389/.617 with 34 homers, but played in just 102 games.

* For his career, Bonds has led his league in adjusted OPS+ eight times - four straight years from 1990-1993 and four straight years from 2000-2003. In the six seasons in-between, he finished 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 2nd and then was injured in 1999.

* Bonds has led the league in on-base percentage seven times, slugging percentage six times and walks nine times. He is the active career leader in on-base percentage, total bases, home runs, runs batted in, adjusted OPS+, extra-base hits and, of course, balls hit into a body of water directly outside of a ballpark.
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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