Ichiro and the MVP
Besides mentioning how unbelievable he’s been playing the past few months, we’ve basically stayed away from the Ichiro/MVP debate that has begun to sprung up, simply because I know there’s not a chance in the world he’s going to win the award, nor do I really care who Phil Rogers thinks is “valuable”. The postseason awards are essentially meaningless, pieces of hardware given out by people who have no idea what it takes to win baseball games.
But recently, some people who should know better have started to fire upon Ichiro for no apparent reason. Last week, Dayn Perry wrote an anti-Ichiro piece for Fox Sports. I like Dayn, he’s a good guy and a good writer, but disagreed with the piece. No big deal, though. He’s just one guy. A few days later, Joe Sheehan took a shot at Ichiro in his AL MVP column as well. Today, Rob Neyer made it a trio of supposedly “enlightened” writers jumping on the bandwagon, ending a paragraph on Ichiro with the sentences “There are a half dozen solid MVP candidates in the American League. But Ichiro’s not one of them.”
Apparently, the undying devotion to patience and power is just as blinding to reality as the clubhouse leadership crap that the mainstream media has bought into. The new age of baseball journalists are just drinking a different flavor of kool-aid. Three of the most well respected national baseball writers, writing to thousands of people, have seen it necessary to go out of their way to make sure we all realize that Ichiro isn’t as good as everyone thinks. He just hits singles, so his .380 batting average isn’t as valuable as it would appear. If you look into the real meaningful stats, they say, you’ll find better players.
AL VORP Leaderboard (a BP designed and heavily promoted stat used to measure offensive value to a team):
1. Ichiro, 71.3
2. Mora, 69.4
3. Santana, 67.7
4. Guerrero, 67.1
5. Guillen, 66.5
6. Hafner, 65.3
7. Tejada, 64.4
8. Ramirez, 64.2
9. Ortiz, 63.8
10. Sheffield, 61.0
Those are the only ten players with a value over replacement level of 60 or greater in the American League. The metric measures the amount of runs a player contributes above what any minor league veteran could, so Ichiro has added about 71 runs to the M’s this year. No one else is over 70. Now, the differences between the top 4 or 5 guys are really negligible and easily made up in other, non-hitting aspects of the game. Defense and baserunning aren’t calculated into VORP, so the actual value of players isn’t as easy as reading off the list. But defense and baserunning are things Ichiro excels at, while his competition is mostly lead-glove slugs who should get penalized when taking those factors into account. VORP underestimates Ichiro’s value to the team in comparison to other players. And he’s still leading the American League.
I’m not saying Ichiro should win it or is the clear favorite. There are a bunch of guys of similar value, several of whom play more important defensive positions. But to say that Ichiro is not a “solid MVP candidate” is just as stupid as campaigning for Shannon Stewart due to his sparkplug-effect on the Twins last year.
Three of the more prominant statistical analysts on the planet stopped thinking rationally and decided to campaign for the cause in spite of evidence that goes contrary to their beliefs. It’s this kind of writing that drives me nuts. Dayn, Joe, and Rob oughta know better. If they want to be held in higher regard than the Phil Rogers’ of the world, they need to keep a higher standard and understand that Ichiro’s lack of patience and power doesn’t change the fact that he’s singling his way to unbelievable greatness. Accept his skills for the value that they are rather than condemning him because he doesn’t fit into the sabermetric box of what a great player should be.