MVP: It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means
In a couple of days, perhaps tonight, the World Series will be over. One of two storied franchises will have emerged victorious, finally shaking their decades- or even century-old demons. There will be one last piece of conversation to be had reflecting on the 2016 season after the Postseason ends before all eyes and ears begin preparation for 2017. It will be time to discuss awards, and most importantly the MVP — Most Valuable Player.
Every iteration of the conversation will go a little something like this:
“This guy is the best player in baseball.”
“But he didn’t play for a winning team.”
“The team shouldn’t matter. It’s called the most VALUABLE player award…”
If you have spent more than five minutes on Twitter the last month of the regular season, you have a pretty good idea of the conversation’s direction. Moreover, you likely know someone on either side of the debate. Not to mention, you have probably got a solid opinion on how to conduct this MVP-award-giving-out business.
We are at a pivotal time in the game of baseball. The emergence of new statistics has given us a better, closer look at individual player’s performance. As we introduce these new metrics and ways of thinking, we are beginning to realize there is more than just one effective way to measure a player’s worth.
Now, this statistical renaissance has been happening long enough that I see no need to lecture anyone on the importance of WAR. If you have been around the game at all in the last five years, you understand that the crux of the MVP discussion no longer revolves around who had a better season. Instead, the debate centers on the NAME of the award and what it means to receive it. So you have also probably been lectured on the importance of WAR.
The reason the MVP is so hotly debated is that nobody can decide what it means. From my observational analysis, four different definitions are floating around, each of which is correct, but also incorrectly attributes what it means to be named the Most Valuable Player.
Let’s take a look at each of these four definitions, and let’s talk about which Ranger best fits that description:
This is a popular way to define what it means to be the Most Valuable Player. You know, sports have been around for a minute. If you take the time to look back on a list of MVP winners, you are going to find yourself studying a list of the greats. So nobody is wrong for suggesting that the highest individual accolade we can give out at the end of the season should go to the player who had the best one.
Considering the 2016 Rangers, three players come to mind when I analyze who the BEST was:
Each of these guys had a remarkable season. Elvis finally blossomed into the offensive star we have longed for at shortstop, hitting over .300 for the first time in his career. Cole was an ace at a time when we had nobody else to anchor the rotation, posting a 1.51 ERA in June.
Then, there’s Beltre.
We have come to expect a certain level of excellence from Adrian over the years and after 2015, it looked like his age might be catching up with him. However, Adrian Beltre is unencumbered by the wears of time. He rose to the occasion — slugging .521 and clobbering 32 home runs (at age 37, mind you), all while playing his usual lockdown defense. I think there have been plenty of articles about how much we all love this man. Adrian Beltre was the best player on the Rangers this year. I am giving him what I am calling the MBP or the “Most Best Player.”
Most Tangibly Valuable Player
When I think about value, I think about Walmart’s line of sensibly—priced products. Maybe you have heard of it. It’s called “Great Value.”
When you buy the Great Value brand, you get a quality product, for a good price, often comparable to a name brand. That is what value is all about, getting something great and not overpaying for it. This is the kind of value you can put your finger on. You can look at it and say, “This dishwasher soap cleans all my plates to the highest level of cleanliness. I cannot believe I paid $1.29 less for it than the leading competitor.”
With that in mind, here’s whom I consider being the Rangers’ most tangibly valuable players this season:
For the first half of the season, it looked like Ian Desmond might have been the steal of the century as an $8 million veteran player posting career numbers. His second-half decline brought this deal back down into orbit but still a considerable gain to get so much production from a guy who didn’t have a team coming out of the offseason.
Oh, and he also learned how to play the outfield.
Then there’s Carlos Gomez — an All-Star-caliber outfielder who was starting to actually play like it. Note that we pretty much got him for free.
Then there’s Rougie. The Punch™ alone was worth every dollar he earned in 2016. Nevertheless, putting up 30+ home runs at age 22, while playing for the league minimum is just a great deal. Odor is my recipient of this year’s MTVP.
Most Intangibly Valuable Player
When a sport romanticizes itself as much as baseball seems to do, you end up with discussions centered around the things you really can’t put into a box. “Heart” is not quantifiable. Neither is “chemistry” or “leadership.” Yet, we all know that those things can sometimes factor into performance for teams and individuals alike. For this one, here are the three Rangers I felt like provided that kind of value, you cannot quite put into a box, but can only understand by watching.
Listen, Bobby Wilson hit TWO grand slams for the Rangers this year. TWO! He provided adequate, if not better than adequate at times, offensive production from the catcher position and helped the Rangers win some important games early in the season.
That being said, when Lucroy arrived on the scene, it was immediately apparent how an elite catcher can transform a team. He made our pitchers better and could HIT for crying out loud. He even threw out 36 percent of attempted base stealers. Lucory is the Rangers MIVP. Also, shout out to Claudio who seemingly bailed out every struggling starter at least once with some solid long relief efforts this season.
Most Compelling Player
This is the least discussed definition of the four, yet it seems to be the one that can most accurately predict the winner. You see, in baseball, sometimes it’s about the story. It is about the narrative. Sometimes, as painful it is to say, being so consistently good can get old and tired.
Being an electric player on a career year with a dominant team can make you the most compelling player. Sometimes, accomplishing a statistical feat, or putting up eye-popping numbers will do the trick. Nevertheless, this seems to be the trend among MVP voters, and it does not appear to be changing anytime soon. So which Ranger had the most compelling season? Here are my three candidates:
- Adrian Beltre
- Elvis Andrus
- Matt Bush
Last fall, Elvis Andrus was sitting in an empty dugout, head down. The ALDS was over and he had just made a pair of perhaps the costliest errors of his career. He came into spring training ready and focused and made a career season out of the adversity.
Matt Bush was out of baseball in 2015, serving time for a DUI. He catapulted his way into a big league bullpen and more than held his own. Bush faced 243 batters over 61.2 innings and allowed only 17 earned runs.
However, there’s still Adrian Beltre. An offensive and defensive juggernaut, still playing his best baseball, playing fun baseball. The undisputed, but unofficial, captain and clubhouse leader. This is your most compelling Ranger. Adrian receives my vote for this year’s MCP award.
Who would be the American League recipient of each of these four? For me:
MBP: Mike Trout
MTVP: Jose Altuve
MIVP: David Ortiz
MCP: Mookie Betts