Saturday, August 16, 2008

Soto for MVP?

I have always loved Peter Gammons. I never thought I would ever be able to bring myself to say something negative about him. Even as I write this I feel like I'm breaking some kind of Baseball rule. But after giving it a lot of thought, I came to the conclusion that this is inexcusable, no matter how much I may like the guy.

Rookie Soto a viable MVP candidate

That's the title. I know what you're thinking. It's a typo. He meant to say that Soto is a viable Rookie of the Year candidate. Sure, it seems painstakingly obvious that Soto would be a viable ROY candidate, but at least it's true.

Much to my chagrin, however, it is not a typo.

The thought came out of nowhere. "You should," a Cubs player said, "be talking up Geovany Soto as the MVP. Think about it."

No. Don't do it, Pete. Please. I'm begging you.

A rookie catcher as MVP? "Take his position, take what our pitchers have done, take his production," the player continued. "Who in the National League is more valuable?"

Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Holliday, Jose Reyes, Chipper Jones, Chase Utley, David Wright...

Don't listen to him! It's a trap! Who the hell is this "player" you're talking to anyway? Is it Lee? I bet it's Lee. He's probably pissed off he didn't win the MVP in '05 and now he's out to to fuck up the whole voting process. Fuck you Lee for putting this idea in Peter's head.

The first point is that on the Ides of August there is no clear choice for MVP. Albert Pujols (.342 BA, 24 HR, 75 RBIs, 28 intentional walks, 1.053 OPS) and Ryan Ludwick (.304, 30, 90) have carried the Cardinals to contention in a year when no St. Louis lead has been safe. Lance Berkman is hitting .333 with 25 homers and a 1.042 OPS, but the Astros' dash is for .500. The two leading home run hitters, Ryan Howard and Adam Dunn, are hitting in the .230s.

It comforts me a little bit when someone like Gammons--who's been around the game for 263 years-- has the open-mindedness to cite statistics such as OPS. It's no VORP or EQA, but it's something that still tends to take a back seat to stats like Batting Average and RBI by almost every ESPN "analyst."
It puzzles me, though, that Gammons chooses to post Pujols' OPS but neglects to do so with guys like Ludwick and Dunn. If he did, then you would see that Ludwick trails Pujols by 76 points and Dunn, despite having the .230 average, has an .896 OPS.
Although, I do think that Gammons is right in one regard. As of now, I don't believe that there is any real clear choice for MVP. I think at this point it's pretty much between Pujols and Berkman, with Hanley Ramirez slowly sneaking into contention.

Chase Utley is certainly in the race, with 30 homers and 80 RBIs. So is Ryan Braun, with similar numbers. One magic September might push David Wright past everyone.

Ryan Braun??? The guy with an OBP exactly at league average? That Ryan Braun?! I really wish someone that I blatantly disliked wrote this article.

So when one looks at Soto and sees that his 18 homers, 69 RBIs and .870 OPS are second among catchers to Atlanta's underappreciated Brian McCann (21 HR, 69 RBIs, .933 OPS), then appreciate what he has done as a rookie handling the Chicago pitchers. In total, the suggestion that he be considered for MVP is at least thought-provoking.

So... there's a player at Soto's same position (catcher) who is producing considerably better than him. Also, I can appreciate what Soto has been able to accomplish, I just don't think it should make him a viable MVP candidate. And I also think the fact that he's a rookie should have absolutely nothing to do with it at all.

The larger issue is catching itself. And how remarkable it is that Soto, who signed as a third baseman, converted into an All-Star rookie catcher and became the frontispiece of what right now is the best team in baseball.

Russell Martin was also signed as a third baseman and converted into a catcher. It's cool, but it's not like it's unheard of. And it certainly should have no bearing on the MVP.

If Geovany Soto doesn't wear down in September and ends up with close to 30 homers and 90-something RBIs and "Go, Cubs, Go" is ringing down Waveland Avenue, perhaps he'll end up in what appears to be a muddled MVP race. Odds are that he won't end up in the MVP finals, but in mid-August it is an intriguing thought, especially when the thought itself comes from one of his pitchers.

Perhaps he will end up in the MVP race. Crazier things have happened. Jimmy Rollins won the MVP last year despite not even being the best player at his position, or his team. Andre Dawson won the MVP during a year in which he got on base like 16 times all season (maybe it was 17, I don't remember). Somehow Juan Gonzalez won twice! So yeah, it's plausible that the voters could give Soto some kind of ridiculous chance to win the MVP. Is he in any way, shape, or form deserving of that consideration? No. Not by a long shot.

This marks the first and last time I will ever post anything negative about Peter Gammons. I already feel like less of a person for doing so.


Goose said...

I love these "say something counterintuitive, then I'll sound smart (hopefully)" pieces.

The reasoning behind this seems more from the story that can be told about Soto rather than his actually contributions. It's not as if he's unfamiliar with the pitchers or that he brought something extra to make them pitch so well. They did have a 115 ERA+ last year.

Grif said...

Any time Peter Gammons says something dumb, I blame it on ESPN for making him.