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.