Short version of why Morneau was a lousy choice

By | December 04, 2006

Sorry it’s taken me so long to get to this. Unlike most people, I don’t feel as strongly about the American League MVP voting as I do about the NL voting, partly because I like Albert Pujols more than I like Derek Jeter, and partly because the AL doesn’t play real baseball. But anyway, here’s the short version on why Justin Morneau was not the correct choice for MVP:

When talking about value, you have to take position into account. Offensive production from a first baseman is not nearly as valuable as offensive production from a defensive position (middle infield, catcher, center field). You pay a first baseman to be an offensive force and try to catch as many balls as possible when the other infielders throw them to you. You pay the other guys to play solid defense and hopefully not be too terrible at the plate. (As Adam Everett shows, sometimes you pay a guy just for his defense, even though he IS terrible at the plate.) So if a shortstop and a first baseman have identical offensive stats, the shortstop is automatically more valuable (assuming, of course, that he’s at least average defensively).

So Justin Morneau has to be pretty special to be the MVP. And yes, he had a great season. But if you look at stats other than batting average (an overrated stat, by the way), his season was no better than Jason Giambi’s. A few more RBIs, a few fewer home runs, a lower OPS and OBP, a slightly higher SLG. Basically, Giambi and Morneau were interchangeable offensively, and you can throw Paul Konerko and Mark Texeira into the mix and not have much of a dropoff.

The other three guys who were in the conversation for MVP were Derek Jeter, Joe Mauer, and Johan Santana. Mauer was head and shoulders above every other catcher in the American League, and you can make a very strong case for him. Santana was so much better than every other starting pitcher in baseball that it’s ridiculous. And Jeter provided an amazing amount of value from a shortstop batting second in the lineup (lineup position is another value consideration, similar to defensive position).

In my mind, the MVP award should have gone to either Jeter or Mauer, because based on their positions and their spots in the lineup, they provided far more value to their teams than Morneau did. Look at it this way: if you were going to make trades based on last season’s performance, there are other first basemen you would consider trading Morneau for, but there is not a shortstop or a catcher you would trade Jeter and Mauer for, respectively.

If I had had an MVP vote, my ballot would have gone like this:

1. Derek Jeter
2. Joe Mauer
3. Justin Morneau
4. Johan Santana

Why Jeter over Mauer? Because with three guys in the top four, it’s tough to say that one Twin was the most valuable player in the league. (On a side note, imagine how good the Twins could have been if they had gotten contributions from ANYONE else.)

On the other hand, if the voting had gone Mauer, Jeter, Morneau, Santana, I would have no arguments.

5 thoughts on “Short version of why Morneau was a lousy choice

  1. Generic Sara

    Pffffffffffft! What is “real baseball?” If you want baseball the way nature intended it to be played, we’d be playing with sticks for bats and balls made out of rolled up socks, held in place with duct tape. A homerun would be any ball hit over the maple bush hedge into the Nelson’s yard, where the baseball players were not keen to tread. It’s a matter of opinion.

    Anyway, how could Jeter have contributed THAT much to the Yankees, when the Yankees would have been playoff contenders without him? I wish I could argue more convincingly, but my knowledge of baseball stats is sorely lacking, because I went to a hockey game recently and all my brain cells were sucked out of my head in the vacuum of intelligence that is an NHL hockey game.

    I was rather tickled to note that three out of the four of your top choices for MVP were Twins players. It ALMOST makes up for your picking Jeter first.

  2. Generic Sara

    Oh, one other thing: If, as you said in your post about the NL MVP, Morneau was a “lousy” choice for AL MVP, then why did you rank him #3? Wouldn’t “lousy” imply “way down on the list?”

  3. Jeff J. Snider Post author

    I don’t think “lousy choice” implied that he shouldn’t have been in the top three; it just implied that he shouldn’t have won. There are times when the top three guys in the MVP voting all could have won and there could have been a good argument made (some people would say last year’s NL MVP race was that way, with Derrek Lee, Andruw Jones, and Albert Pujols; I would not be one of those people). This year, I believe that Jeter and Mauer are the only people with truly deserving MVP seasons. Morneau had a great season, and I think he deserved to be third in the voting, but I don’t think he should have won, so it was a lousy choice.

    RE: Jeter and the Yankees. I don’t think you realize how bad the Yankees could have been this season. Due to the fact that their starting pitching was a mess, they really had to rely on their offense, and Jeter made that offense go. Johnny Damon had a decent season; A-Rod had a better season than Yankee fan think, but it was still subpar by his standards; Giambi had a good season. But Jeter had a great season, which no doubt contributed to the success of the other guys. He was the anchor of a lineup that lost Sheffield and Matsui early. He drove in a ridiculous number of runs from the #2 spot in the lineup. In short, yes, the Yankees probably would have been playoff contenders without him; but with him, they were the best team in the league.

    RE: Real baseball. It’s simple: the DH is wrong and stupid. It is ridiculous that there are different rules between leagues. Until the AL drops the DH, it will not be real baseball.

  4. Generic Sara

    The AL exists; therefore, it is real.

    I’ll concede the point that the DH point is stupid, because I’ve heard your argument on that before, but defining it as “wrong?” Who determines what is “wrong” and “right” in baseball? Whoever, or whatever governing body, has determined that the DH is not wrong, and has allowed its use in major league play. Therefore, the DH is not “wrong.”

  5. Jeff J. Snider Post author

    The people who decided to use the DH were wrong; the players’ association that refuses to let it go away is wrong. Who decides that? I do.

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