The IPI Awards: NL MVP
By Jim Piascik
October 12, 2012
To celebrate the conclusion of another baseball season, we here at Indians Prospect Insider have decided to give out our picks for the major awards. In the coming days, IPI will be rolling out our picks for Most Valuable Indian and Least Valuable Indian.
IPI writers Charlie Adams, Jeff Ellis, Tony Lastoria, Sean Mahon, Adam McGavin, Stephanie Metzger, Steve Orbanek, Jim Pete, Andrew Zajac, and yours truly all voted on these awards. Not all of them supplied write-ups, but those who did are listed below.
While it may not be getting as much hype as the two-horse AL MVP race, the NL MVP award is a tossup between an varied assortment of worthy players. One could make a strong argument for any of six players could win the award, similar to the NL Cy Young race we voted on earlier in the week.
Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, the 2011 NL MVP, arguably had just as good of a season in 2012 than he did last year. His numbers were remarkably consistent, while he added eight more home runs to lead the NL with 41. Regardless of what you think about Braun's PED testing from last year, he has been great this season and nearly led the NL in fWAR (7.9).
Braun's greatest competition comes from the two catchers in the MVP race: the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey and the St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina. Posey had the better offensive season, posting a .336/.408/.549 slash line with 24 home runs and 103 RBI, though Molina's .315/.373/.501 slash line, 22 home runs and 76 RBI are nothing to sneeze at.
Posey led the NL in fWAR, posting an 8.0 mark, but there is reason to believe Molina's 6.5 mark is a little too low. Considering how catchers handle the baseball on almost every play in a game, it is next-to-impossible to quantify their defensive impact. Molina is considered the best catcher in the game, but right now, we are not equipped to give him full credit for that statement.
Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen was leading the race through August and he finished the season with an impressive .327/.400/.553 slash line, 31 home runs, 96 RBI, 107 runs scored, and 20 steals, but voters may hold the Pirates' midseason swoon against him. A similar argument can be made to discount New York Mets third baseman David Wright, whose .306/.391.492 slash line, 21 home runs, 93 RBI, 15 steals, and 7.8 fWAR certainly merit consideration.
The final competitor for the NL MVP is San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley. Headley was one of the most dominating hitters in baseball this season (.286/.376/.498 slash line, 31 home runs, 115 RBI, 17 steals, 7.6 fWAR) and he did it in Petco Park. The Padres may not have been a playoff team, but when you perform like Headley did in one of the premier pitchers' parks in the league (31 home runs!), you get noticed.
IPI's NL MVP is... Buster Posey
This race was as close as they come, with Posey taking five votes, Braun capturing four, and McCutchen only managing one. For me and others, Posey being one of the best hitters in the league (he was only behind Braun in weighted runs created plus, or wRC+, an all-around hitting statistic) while also playing the catcher position quite well sealed the deal.
Here is what the rest of IPI has to say:
Charlie Adams: Buster Posey. His team is in the playoffs, he has great counting stats, he plays a difficult position, he will win the NL batting title, and he is a comeback story. These things add up to a great campaign and add-up to a deserved MVP-coronation. Braun gives him a run for his money with more HRs and a surprising 30 SBs, but his power isn't that much more (.595 slugging percentage versus .549) and he plays lackluster defense in left field while Posey plays great defense at catcher. Also, a surprise to many would be that Posey has played an incredible number of games this season (145, with 112 behind the plate), which is absurd for a catcher.
Jeff Ellis: This was an easy choice for me as well. Buster Posey, because he is a catcher and the fact that he performed as he did at the position gave him even more value to me. If Joey Votto had been healthy or Andrew McCutchen had not collapsed, then this might have been harder. I don't care about Ryan Braun's drug tests from last year either. Posey led the NL in WAR. He got on base, produced over 20 home runs and nearly 40 doubles, and did it all while playing the most challenging defensive position. I just thought: who would I rather build my team around? I will always take the star catcher over a right fielder or a first baseman.
Tony Lastoria: This one will likely come down to Ryan Braun and Buster Posey. The biggest difference here outside of the stats is that Posey and the Giants made it to the postseason while Braun and the Brewers did not. Had the Brewers gotten in, I think Braun would have been a unanimous decision. Posey led the NL in hitting, but Braun was just 17 points behind and finished third all while hitting almost 20 more homers and several more RBI than Posey. He also stole 30 bases and had his second straight 30-30 season. Both players have good all-around games, so to me in this case offense is the separator, and I side with Braun.
Sean Mahon: Boos and jeers embraced Ryan Braun for the first two months of the season, but that feels so long ago now. After the turmoil of last offseason and PED accusations, Braun came out and had his best season ever - even trumping his MVP campaign of last year. The ability to put the past behind him and carry a mediocre Brewers squad speaks for itself. His numbers and contribution were atop the NL. An argument for Buster Posey would be equally as acceptable considering he serves as the quarterback for his squad and put up numbers quite similar to the '99 MVP catcher in Pudge Rodriguez.
Adam McGavin: I have to admit that I was seriously tempted to give Andrew McCutchen my vote for NL MVP, thanks to his .327 average, 31 home runs, 96 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. However, you just can’t ignore Ryan Braun’s .987 OPS, 41 homers, 112 RBI, and 30 steals. That’s a filthy combination of speed and power; playoffs or no playoffs, he’s a flat out beast in all offensive facets. If the voters favor a young superstar, who came back from a brutal season-ending injury in 2011, Buster Posey and his NL-best .336 average should have a very good shot at taking home the crown. David Wright (.306 average, 21 homers, 93 RBI) rebounded nicely from a disappointing 2011 campaign, as well. Yadier Molina deserves some votes for helping fill the offensive void left by Albert Pujols’ departure, recording a .315 average, 22 homers, and 76 RBI, while maintaining his status as the best defensive catcher in the game.
Steve Orbanek: This is another easy one. Buster Posey trailed only Melky Cabrera in batting average and he also led the league in wins above replacement with 7.2. Plus after considering his 24 home runs, 103 RBI, and the fact that he led San Francisco to a division title, it's easy to see why Posey should get the nod here
Jim Pete: To me, this is an easy one, with the clear choice to me being Milwaukee's Ryan Braun. He led the NL in runs scored, with 108. He led the league in home runs, with 41. He led the league with a .987 OPS. He arguably had a better season than his MVP year in 2011, sending a giant F-U to the powers that be that said he took PEDs. You can make a serious case for guys like Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey and even Yadier Molina (I especially like Posey here, as a catcher that had to carry his team after Melky Cabrera enhanced), but at the end of the day, Braun IS the Brewers.
Coming tomorrow: IPI's pick for Least Valuable Indian. The Indians were a disappointment this season, but which player disappointed IPI writers the most? Come back tomorrow to find out.
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