Ichiro and the MVP

Dave · September 8, 2004 at 11:18 am · Filed Under Mariners 

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.

They’re wrong.

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.


47 Responses to “Ichiro and the MVP”

  1. Dash on September 8th, 2004 11:26 am

    The simplest reason that Ichiro won’t win the award, or garner much consideration, is that players on last place teams don’t win the MVP award. Kind of a silly idea, but historically true.

  2. Jim Thomsen on September 8th, 2004 11:28 am

    Whoa, careful there … if they accept Ichiro’s non-sabermetric attributes, they might also have to accept the validity of traditional scouting. And who knows what a slippery slope that might be.

    I think even “enlightened thinkers” still lapse somewhat into traditional images of what an MVP should be. The most obvious cliche is that he has to play for a winning team, but also inherent in that anachronistic thinking is the idea that he MUST be a slugger. If Ichiro was everything he is right now numerically, but happened to have 23 HRs instead of 8, the Phil Rogerses of this world would vote for him twice. People who don’t hit lots of home runs are just never going to get the same level of respect … witness debates over the years about Ozzie Smith, Tony Gwynn, Alan Trammell, Rod Carew and many others.

    I don’t know if Ichiro is the MVP, because, after some 30 years as a baseball fan, I’m not settled on how to quantify “most valuable.” But I do know he is the number-one reason right now to turn on Sportscenter or Baseball Tonight every night.

    He is, in my opinion, the most exciting player in baseball. Maybe there should be an award for that.

  3. Troy Sowden on September 8th, 2004 11:31 am

    Well said Dave. Very well said. Here’s hoping the statistical community will wake up to their personal blind spots that are easily exposed by the metrics they develop and espouse. Personally, I’m surprised and disappointed in them. Neyer’s argument seemed more like a seat of the pants comment than actual analysis, but he should know better than shooting from the hip armed with nothing but OPS.

  4. Anthony on September 8th, 2004 11:39 am

    These supposed shots Sheehan and Perry took…where are they? Sheehan mentioned Ichiro once in his MVP column, saying that he and Mariano Rivera would get some votes, potentially knocking Guillen out of the top ten. That’s it. He also wrote in his “Race To 258” column that Ichiro is just 16th in the AL in EqA (note: that was written 8/30). Is it really unreasonable for him to dismiss a player who was–at the time–the 16th best hitter in the league?

    Searching through the BP archives, I can’t find anything Dayn Perry wrote about Ichiro recently. What exactly did he write?

  5. Dave on September 8th, 2004 12:02 pm

    My mistake. Dayn had it published at FoxSports. I’ve included a link now.

    Joe’s second paragraph in the Race to 258 column contains this opening: “In his best seasons, he’ll be an above-average player wrongly considered an MVP candidate. In others, he’ll be an average player called “above average.”

    You can’t defend the accusation of Ichiro as an above average player with any kind of rational thinking. It just can’t be done.

  6. Sergey on September 8th, 2004 12:05 pm

    If Ichiro hits .400, he will be an MVP!

    Even if he doesn’t, his numbers are better than 2001 MVP campaign and thus he must be considered.

  7. Steve on September 8th, 2004 12:08 pm

    You write that Ichiro “excels” at defense — but if he’s so great, why does he play right field? I’m not buying it. Is he a better defensive right fielder than Manny Ramirez? OK, maybe. But not everybody is a right fielder. Carlos Guillen is a SHORTSTOP, remember, and he’s hitting about as well as Ichiro. Ichiro is a good, if a bit overrated, defensive outfielder who smacks a ton of singles, and runs the bases well, but rarely walks and has no power. Right now, the way he’s hitting, he’s just now moving into MVP contender status — but he’s not there yet.

  8. bob mong on September 8th, 2004 12:19 pm

    It is one of my pet peeves that BPro writers often ignore their own, heavily-hyped stats when writing articles. For example, the mid-season awards roundup piece a couple months back almost completely ignored Jason Bay for ROY since he missed the first month (or so) of the season. Never mind that he was third among NL rookies in VORP at the time. Only two authors even saw fit to put him on the ballot. I read the article, wondering the whole time: do these guys even believe in their own stats?

    To be fair to Neyer, though: Ichiro! is 15th in Win Shares as of this writing – and Neyer is, at least sometimes, a Win Shares guy. So his comment is excusable, I think.

  9. Dave S. on September 8th, 2004 12:31 pm

    The worst thing about Perry’s article was this line:

    “Put it all together, and you have a good — not great — player. According to the Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) statistic developed by Baseball Prospectus, Ichiro is “only” the 13th-best player hitter in the game this season. That’s commendable, but he’s not, as one analyst recently called him, an MVP candidate on a bad team. Keep in mind, this is shaping up to be the best season of Ichiro’s career, and he’s not even one of the ten most productive hitters in baseball.”

    Perry ignored the very real fact that, at that point, the top eight hitters in baseball were in the National League. This is faulty logic. When discussing whether or not Gary Sheffield is an MVP candidate, we don’t bring up Barry Bonds or Adrian Beltre’s stats to discredit him.

  10. Paul Covert on September 8th, 2004 12:36 pm

    Dayn’s column was at http://msn.foxsports.com/story/2898514.

    One of his points was valid: that VORP won’t account for the fact that a lot of Ichiro’s singles won’t score a runner from second. Unfortunately, he didn’t take the time to estimate how much this has affected Ichiro’s value to the team.

    I don’t have time to go through the play-by-play records either, but some slicing of ESPN splits leads me to conclude that this has happened six times with a runner at second and two outs, and possibly once or twice with runners on second and third and two outs. (The impact is less with no outs or one, because then the runner going from second is likely to score later in the inning anyway.)

    Since a runner on third with two outs will score thirty-some percent of the time, Ichiro’s apparent six infield singles in this situation (with a runner at second and two out, he’s been 14/31 with 8 RBI) have probably cost the team about four runs, relative to what “normal” singles would have done. Adding other, less frequent or less significant, situations into the mix, we can guess that Ichiro probably loses five or six runs of value due to the effect that Dayn identifies. So it might put him a little behind the other contenders, but not so much that he can’t make up for it with defense or other factors.

    As for defense: Tango Tiger’s estimates, weighted from 2000-03 play-by-play data, show the following estimated defensive run contributions per 162 games:

    Vlad +12
    Ichiro +9
    Guillen +1
    Tejada 0
    Sheffield -22

    Mora doesn’t have enough experience to show up in Tango’s estimates, but Davenport puts him at -12 for his work at 3B this year. Likewise, UZR doesn’t work for catchers; there again I look to Davenport, and for I-Rod he shows -1 this year (!?), continuing a slow dropoff over the past several years (he’d been at +7 the previous couple years).

    Even allowing for the inexactness of even the best defensive value estimates, this would certainly seem to knock Sheffield out of the picture, and probably Mora as well. I-Rod ranks a bit behind the others on offense, and given the realistic possibility that his defense may not be as stellar as it was in his prime, I’m not inclined to boost him into the mix due to defense.

    Vlad, on the other hand, gets a boost from defense, and probably Ichiro also (Davenport shows him at -2 for this year, but I’m taking that with a grain of salt until further confirming evidence comes forward). Guillen and Tejada seem about neutral (Davenport shows Tejada at +12 this year, but this contradicts his historical trend and, I would say, this also needs to be confirmed by other independent estimates or more detailed data.)

    Another interesting candidate is Johan Santana. VORP puts him about equal with the top hitters (Wolverton’s about a month behind on SNWL, so that can’t help us here).

    As for the contender/MVP debate: My view there is that we wouldn’t look kindly on a player who said, “Okay, my team’s out of it, so I’ll see you next spring”; and that therefore we *do* consider games, even by losing teams, to have value. The contribution to the pennant race I do consider valid to use as a tiebreaker, however (i.e. if two players have comparable contributions to their team’s win column, pick the one on the postseason qualifier, or at least on the contender). This also argues for Vlad (and perhaps Santana) over Ichiro, since they’ve contributed about as many wins, but to teams that are still in contention.

    So at this point I think my ballot (as if!) would stack up something like:

    1. Vlad
    2. Santana
    3. Ichiro
    4. The Shortstop Formerly Known as “Glass”
    5. Tejada

    However, all of these guys and more are within the range of “statistical uncertainty,” especially with defense in the mix. I could see a vote for any of about twelve guys– the above, plus Mora, Sheffield, Hafner, Ortiz, I-Rod, Ramirez, and maybe Schilling– as realistically defensible. Unless a bizarre groundswell gets going for somebody like Doug Mientkiewicz, I don’t think there can be a truly “wrong” choice for AL MVP this year.

  11. Dave T. on September 8th, 2004 12:46 pm

    I think anything that a commentator hates subconsciously more is someone who doesn’t fit a defined criteria. Model baseball player or MVP=high OBP and SLG with at least adequate to good defense. Ichiro’s unusual in so many ways; an excellent defender at position that doesn’t call for it, high AVG and OBP but low walks where his speed and bat control are his best weapons, a monster arm from a slender body, cocky, arrogant but in an understated way. He forces people to try and break away from defined categories but it take too much effort for a single byline. If Ichiro despite all odds hits .400 for the season, then sportwriters’ brains will be having conniption fits all over. How do you not give him at least the American league MVP, despite playing on such a crappy team?

  12. Dave S. on September 8th, 2004 12:47 pm

    Which is, btw, exactly what a writer at THT recently did. When bringing up Ichiro’s WS total, he compared it to Barry Bonds.

    One of the worst things that Baseball Prospectus has brought about is this attitude of warfare between tools and stats. When Alfonso Soriano was starting at second base for the Yankees, BPro was screaming for D’Angelo Jimenez. Soriano ended up becoming one of the best second basemen in baseball (though his defense leaves much to be desired).

    This is just another symptom of the SABR crowd getting drawn into a war with the tools crowd, when in actuality, they should be on the same page.

  13. Tommy on September 8th, 2004 12:50 pm

    Here are a couple of articles that I thought might be of interest to some folks. The first is from Alan Schwarz of the New York Times. He basically argues that stat heads are prone to overlook Ichiro’s value because he lacks the two P’s.

    However, over at the Hardball Times, there’s a recent article that in fact counters the assertion. Their bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how many walks Ichiro takes. What matters is how often he gets on base. (That’s a very simplistic summation).

  14. eponymous coward on September 8th, 2004 12:51 pm

    I was pretty down on Ichiro! in May…but even then I said he was a great player when he hits over .350, just not when he hits .290.

    Those Win Share stats are scary for the M’s: Ichiro’s at 20, Winn’s at 14, nobody else on the team now is over 8 (the two best pitchers, Freddy and Eddie, haven’t pitched for us in months). Ugly, ugly, ugly.

  15. DMZ on September 8th, 2004 12:55 pm

    Um, as someone who has tried to reconcile the war and frequently argues bizarre views counter to what’s considered stathead dogma, I have to say that I’m really disappointed that people lump all BP writers and all statheads together in a way that I’ve been striving to not do to those who disagree with me.

    Anyway, I don’t really want to wade into that debate much further. I think there’s something about the nature of debate that I’ve been trying to write about but haven’t done a good enough job to publish yet (and if anyone’s curious, I’ll be happy to talk about the amount of work that goes into a Breaking Balls column at some point).

  16. Pete on September 8th, 2004 1:01 pm


    Just a small point: Yes, as you say, Ichiro is a better right fielder than Manny Ramirez….Manny’s manning left.

    All this talk of Ichiro in center is interesting. I wish management would at least show us a few games with him out there – it doesn’t have to be permanent – just to see what he looks like…

    I think they, or he, may fear that if he shows some small defensive weakness “Ichiro” will lose some of its invincible luster.

    It just seems to me that switching Ichiro and Winn would improve our gap coverage…I guess having Winn’s nothing-arm in right field is a huge liability.

    I wish Winn or Ibanez could play third base…then they could add Beltran and we’d just have to look for first base/designated hitter.

  17. Chris Begley on September 8th, 2004 1:03 pm

    What always bugs me is when Ichiro gets targeted for not drawing a lot of walks. Cmon, when a guy is hitting .380, and getting onbase at a .420 clip – should we be complaining? As his speed goes, I think this will be a significant factor, but until then, let us enjoy a player who seems to defy all that we know about what makes a good hitter

    As an idea, I would love to see him and Vlad in a contest to see who can hit the most “unhittable” pitch, ie balls at eyelevel or in the dirt

  18. ChrisS on September 8th, 2004 1:16 pm

    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.
    I know that I’m wading into dangerous waters when questioning Ichiro’s ability on a Mariner blog, but I take a little exception to claiming, “unbelievable greatness” for Ichiro(!).

    He will not come close to leading the league in steals. He will likely not be in the top ten in runs scored (hard to blame Ichiro for that, but…) He will not come close to leading the league in doubles, triples, home-runs, RBI, but will be in the top 5 in caught stealing. Ichiro is one-dimensional because he does hit a lot of singles, but he is very difficult to get out. And, frankly, his .473 BA since the All-Star break is out of this world. But he is one-dimensional at the plate and gets a little boost from VORP because of his league-leading number of plate appearances (PA were originally put in to differentiate from guys who played 120 games and those who played the full year).

    MVP voters tend to gravitate towards diverse greatness (good numbers across the board) and, yes, power numbers cloud the judgement, but typically the sluggers who do win the award do very good things elsewhere. But the name of the game is scoring runs and driving them in, and Ichiro(!) needs to be making up for his lack of power by dominating another category – stolen bases would be nice, why doesn’t he have 50-60 (or more)? And it shouldn’t be because the age of the stolen base is “over”; he’s a unique weapon and his abilities should be fully used – he should have a constant green light.

    The postseason awards are essentially meaningless, pieces of hardware given out by people who have no idea what it takes to win baseball games.

    That just sounds like sour grapes.

  19. JLoris on September 8th, 2004 1:16 pm

    I’m having trouble reconciling these points from Perry…

    …Ichiro, by dint of his speed and extreme groundball tendencies, logs an inordinate number of infield hits. While there’s nothing wrong with that trend in and of itself, those kinds of hits don’t drive in base runners from second.


    … his career on-base percentage of .382 is merely good. OBP is by far the more evocative statistic, and since Ichiro does not post strong walk rates, his winds up being not much higher than his batting average. His ability to reach base is his strength as a player, but his skills in that regard are widely exaggerated because of his ability to ring up high batting averages.

    So he hits too many infield singles, which often don’t drive in runs from second, but he doesn’t take enough walks, which never drives in a run from second? If his ability to reach base is his strength, isn’t doing it via singles (as he can) more likely to produce runs than by doing it via walks?

    DMZ, I think many people see BPro as having some sort of party platform that the writers adheres to. I doubt it’s deserved, though it may be an easier conclusion to come to if you missed the free days and don’t subscribe. Back when I could afford BPro, it never read like groupthink to me. Is anybody on the site saying anything to the contrary about Ichiro!?

  20. Jeff Sullivan on September 8th, 2004 1:34 pm

    I think the problem that a lot of analysts have with Ichiro is that so much of his OBP is based on his singles, rather than walks. Those of us in the “new generation” have been taught that having patience at the plate is the key to consistent success, and that reaching base via hits (instead of walks) is prone to wild fluctuations in performance. This is indeed true, and it’s one of the reasons why some people are more down on Ichiro! than others. However, whether or not Ichiro! has been “lucky” this year – and whether his approach to the plate portends continued production in future years – means nothing when you’re talking about the 2004 MVP. Right now, Ichiro! leads the American League in VORP and owns a .379/.417/.472 line in an extreme pitcher’s park. These are MVP numbers, and that’s really all that matters.

  21. IceX on September 8th, 2004 1:53 pm


    Ichiro won’t lead the league in runs because of Bret Boone, Edgar Martinez, John Olerud, Raul Ibanez, Scott Spiezio and pretty much everyone else other than maybe Randy Winn.

    Ichiro’s game isn’t driving in runs. His game is to be the run driven in. In this aspect he is better than pretty much anyone in the league. He will score 1st-to-Home on long singles and all doubles at a higher rate than anyone else and also move 1st-to-3rd where most would only move 1st-to-2nd, thanks to his blistering speed. Also because of this, he’ll turn the table more often on low scoring games (Exhibit 1: ATL @ SEA, 2003. Meche v. Maddux. Maddux lost because of Ichiro.).

    Even with all that, Ichiro is among the leaders in hitting with Runners On and RISP. Although he may not be driving in runs, he’s making sure the rally doesn’t die with him.

    Wanna go further? Go look for his stats with Park Normalizations. They’re way north of .400.

  22. Evan on September 8th, 2004 2:00 pm

    Ichiro’s reliance on singles as the source of his OBP means that it will likely fluctuate a lot from year to year, and over time that will make him less valuable than a guy who hits .300 but still keeps his OBP over .400.

    But the MVP only looks at one season. And this season, Ichiro’s extreme batting average (in Safeco – adjusting for park effects Davenport puts his BA at… grr, BP is down so I can’t check, but I remember his .350 in 2001 adjusted up to .381 or so) is pushing his more sabermetric-friendly stats to the upper echelons of the AL. Ichiro is second in the AL in OBP. Ichiro leads the AL in RCAA. Ichiro leads the AL in VORP. Whether his value is predictable going forward is entirely irrelevant – he’s excellent NOW.

  23. studes on September 8th, 2004 2:15 pm

    Re: the Hardball Times piece, I don’t recall saying that it doesn’t matter how many walks Ichiro takes, but how often he gets on base. I actually agree, but I just don’t recall saying it.

    I did compare Ichiro to Bonds in my piece which, in retrospect, wasn’t a fair comparison. I think it’s pretty clear that Ichiro is in the middle of the MVP race along with a bunch of other players. My own choice at this time would be Sheffield, but that could change.

  24. Troy Sowden on September 8th, 2004 2:26 pm

    JLoris – you took the words out of my mouth (or off of my keyboard?). There is just no way to argue that Ichiro’s singles are worth less than a walk. None.

  25. James T on September 8th, 2004 2:30 pm

    Regarding Suzuki as an MVP candidate, shouldn’t it be counted somewhat against him that he was having a rather pedestrian season before the Mariners were all but eliminated from contention for anything?

  26. Dave on September 8th, 2004 2:36 pm


  27. Dave S. on September 8th, 2004 2:45 pm

    Yeah, Derek. I did kind of lump everybody together there, didn’t I? Whoops. Sort of cut a hole in my argument.

    There are plenty of BP authors who understand the difference. But the overall attitude of BP, what comes across to the public, is something that is quite arrogant, in the “I know more than you” sense. That’s just my perception. It’s the reason a lot of people think BP has gone down in quality over the past couple of years.

  28. Paul Weaver on September 8th, 2004 3:01 pm

    James T – that should factor against him. I hate it when consistent contributors lose to some guy who racks up a bunch of stats at some pont of the season. The guy who gets 8 RBIs in a blow out is less valuable than the guy who gets game winning RBIs in a few games. This is why Bill James’ baseball abstracts like to focus on award shares as opposed to purely OPS in evaluating players’ historical significance and value to their respective teams.

    I wouldn’t call Ichiro’s season pedestrian on the whole. Other than April and his post-AS performance, he was what? .320/.350/.400 ? Good enough not to be a chump. With that in mind, I don’t think his lopsidedly late performance should disqualify him; it should merely just go against him all things considered.

    Wouldn’t it be bitter-sweet irony if Carlos Guillen pulled ahead and won the award? A hot month with a few extra homers, his high profile position, and the Tigers vastly improved offense would make a great case for him.

    Rob Neyer keeps speaking out against Edgar in the HoF. BOOOOOO! I could care less about his rantings on Ichiro. He makes a decision on how to interpret players, then stubbornly sticks to it whilst providing numbers to promote his case and ignoring numbers against his case.

  29. Metz on September 8th, 2004 3:04 pm

    Ichiro! is an extremely valuable player when he hits .350 and above. He’s probably the only player in baseball that can hit .320 and not be a significant asset to his team. His recent tear has elevated him into the MVP discussion and VORP is a perfect tool for evaluating candidates. As he ages his decrease in speed will cause his average to drop, either he’ll compensate or his career will parallel Jim Rice’s with a huge drop off in production one year.

  30. IceX on September 8th, 2004 3:23 pm


    I’m sure you wouldn’t be complaining if the M’s had the talent to do the same thing as in 1995 and Ichiro was leading it.

    It doesn’t matter when you’re performing in stretches. A win is a win anytime of the year.

  31. Dave S. on September 8th, 2004 3:32 pm

    There is no perfect stat, Metz. That’s part of what Dave was saying. 😉

  32. Anthony on September 8th, 2004 3:34 pm


    Perry’s point is not that infield singles are bad and walks are good. What he was saying is that since infield singles are less valuable than regular singles, he’s not quite as good as his batting average. As Paul Covert wrote in #10, it’s probably in the neighborhood of five runs that VORP overrates him by due to the infield singles. In this tight MVP race, that makes a difference.

    The walks comment is unrelated to the singles comment. It’s simply a second, independent reason why batting average overrates Ichiro.

    And for what it’s worth, Ichiro would definitely be on my ten-name ballot. It’s way too close to sort out until the season ends–probably 8-12 players could end up at the top of the AL VORP and WARP leaderboard–but my guess is Ichiro will be in my top five, at least.

  33. Paul Weaver on September 8th, 2004 3:49 pm

    “It doesn’t matter when you’re performing in stretches. A win is a win anytime of the year.”

    Perhaps you would then see that I was saying a consistent provider provides more wins than someone who racks them all up in a small period of time, and is more valuable. I was NOT saying that a player who contributes in a small period of time isn’t contributing. I’ve just seen examples in the past of players who were contributing all year, get lost in the MVP voting to players who rack up high stat totals during a period of “garbage” time.
    1995 is actually a perfect example. Edgar kept the team afloat all year long. Then, once the Indians had already clinched their division, Albert Belle starting hitting lots of home runs in games of little consequence against crappy AL Central pitchers and September call ups. In one month he went from being considered a decent player on a great offensive team, to an “amazing” player thanks to all the stats he racked up – that made little to no more difference. Okay, okay, Mo Vaughn won the MVP award that year, but lots of votes went away from Edgar and to Belle. Point is: situational performance should weigh heavily on MVP voting – it means a lot in terms of wins, and the signifance of those wins.

  34. Steve on September 8th, 2004 3:50 pm

    I didn’t mean to say Manny was a RF; I had a short circuit between “Sheffield or another corner OF like” and the rest of my sentence.

    Ichiro in CF is an interesting proposition; if he could in fact hold down the territory I would accept him as MVP without reservation, even if he was a bit below average defensively. Why? Because then he opens up the RF slot for a guy who CAN’T play CF but can hit a ton. Not Randy Winn! But you can hide a monster slugger with a lead glove in RF. Someone like, er, the bald guy who played there for a decade.

    But as long as Ichiro is in RF, he gets measured against the other RF guys, and that puts him in excellent company but not, not, not at the top of the list.

    If he continues to hit .475 for the rest of the season, I’ll change my mind. It’s only September 8. I do think he’s exciting to watch, and I think both the season and four-year hit records are his. I just wish a few more of them were for extra bases.

    As for the supposed fight between the Baseball Prospectus types and the old-fashioned scouting types, I really don’t care. I’m not invested with either group. And I’ve been a card-carrying SDCN for longer than BP has even existed. Their, uh, refreshing style is a deliberate slap at the nerd image, and grew out of the newsgroup, a pastiche of Gary Huckabay’s bluster. I think they were as surprised as anyone when people started paying attention to them. But there were “analysts” before them. The real revolution isn’t VORP and all the rest; it’s the Bill James Method (i.e., “how would you go about finding the real answer to this question?”)That war is being won, slowly, in the GM’s offices around the league. How many MVP votes Ichiro gets isn’t much of an indicator.

  35. hans on September 8th, 2004 4:02 pm

    Just one thing, Dave,

    You say that the postseason awards are essentially meaningless pieces of hardware… Tell that to the players and the agents who have large incentive bonuses written into their contracts.

  36. Thoan on September 8th, 2004 4:50 pm

    Let’s see. We have an award with no established criteria, and Ichiro! doesn’t measure up to them. Say what? Dave hasn’t begun to probe how meaningless this is.

    My view: The award goes to ARod. Why? In America, we measure the value of things by how much they cost. Since ARod costs the most, he must perforce be the most valuable. Puts an end to all arguments, and sets an objective criterion, too.

  37. Evan on September 8th, 2004 5:13 pm

    But the MVP does have established criteria. Value is defined on he ballot. That most of the voters blatantly ignore the established criteria doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

  38. Dave S. on September 8th, 2004 5:13 pm

    Alright. Anyone want to tell me why an infield single is less valuable than a walk? Anyone?

  39. Paul Covert on September 8th, 2004 5:26 pm

    See Anthony’s #32 above.

    (Perry’s point might also be phrased as “infield singles are more overrated than walks are.” Of course, in the absence of a poll of a hundred sportswriters giving their opinions on how much each is worth, that’s a tough one to prove or disprove; but, as long as the context of the supposed “overrating” is clearly understood, it’s an opinion that seems potentially reasonable to hold.)

  40. Dave S. on September 8th, 2004 6:23 pm

    Yes. But as far as determining a player’s value, how is Perry going to hold Ichiro’s infield singles against him on the basis that he’s not advancing the runner? An infield single accomplishes the same thing as a walk, really.

  41. Harry Teasley on September 8th, 2004 7:38 pm

    Dave S, it’s not that his infield singles aren’t different from walks, it’s that he’s not hitting regular singles like every other MVP candidate. No other MVP candidate hits singles that can’t advance someone from 2nd base. Ichiro has hit a few, and VORP doesn’t recognize that. Therefore, Ichiro’s VORP rating is higher than it should be by a couple points. Drop him a couple points and he’s not clearly better than any of the first five guys in the VORP list.

    If he hits .400, people will fall all over themselves to award him the MVP. Aside from that, the M’s terrible season will keep him from consideration.

  42. IceX on September 8th, 2004 8:20 pm

    Ichiro still only has about 50 infield singles, IIRC. That’s not a lot to pull down his VORP.

    If you penalize him for infield singles, then it should only be down to the same value as a walk.

    So, in the end, an infield single becomes the equivalent of a BB, and it really doesn’t affect Ichiro’s value.

  43. Anthony on September 8th, 2004 9:23 pm

    The linear weights value of a single is around .5 while a walk is around .35, as I recall. If we treat infield singles as walks, the .15 difference adds up after a while. If it is 50 infield singles, as IceX said, that’s 7.5 runs; more than enough to drop Ichiro below the other contenders.

  44. IceX on September 8th, 2004 9:42 pm

    I just realized this, but the other thing is, most of Ichiro’s infield singles won’t come with runners on or RISP.

    Think about it… Most of the time…

    – If Ichiro hits a pooper to 1st, 2nd, 3rd or short with a runner on 1st, the fielder is gonna go for second for a Fielder’s Choice.

    – If Ichiro hits to 1st, 2nd or SS and the runner is on 2nd, the runner could advance, should he chose to try (say, running on contact).

    – If Ichiro hits to 3rd and the runner is on 2nd, the runner will advance further than a BB, should he chose to try (say, it’s a dribbler between P and and the 3B man).

    -If Ichiro hits to 1st, 2nd 3rd or SS and the runner is on 3rd, the baserunner will probably not advance, unless it’s one of those deep ones that Derek Jeter can’t catch up with.

    So, in short, there are 2 scenarios where the hit could act like a single (which is still better than a BB, since a BB will never do that), 1 scenario that would adversely affect Ichiro’s stats (FC), and 1 scenario where it’s pretty much a BB.

    So, IMO, there’s really little debate here… The infield single still has a chance of moving a runner more than a BB, if it occurs with runners on. Not that I’m gonna go run numbers on it or anything.

    Which comes to the conclusion that says we have to analyze when Ichiro’s Infield Singles come up the most and judge them accordingly. What if 40 of the 50 dinkers are when bases are empty? Then there’s really no point in deflating his stats. If it’s vice versa (which I don’t think would happen), than maybe there is a case.

    But I don’t think there’s really a case here.

  45. Paul Weaver on September 9th, 2004 9:49 am

    That’s part of the glory and the downfall of stats. There is an inherent assumption of all things equal. We think that if a guy hits .300 he has a 30% chance of getting a hit with runners on or not, and therefore consider him a relatively effective hitter.

    I think IceX’s post clearly demonstrates that, on the whole, an infield single is more valuable than a walk, but less valuable than a single that clears the infield. To quantify it, let’s arbitrarily say that 50 infield singles are .075 less effective than singles, rather than .15 as Anthony suggests. In that case, Ichiro’s VORP is overstated by 3.75 runs rather than 7.5. Either way, I think he’s still up near the top, and still someone to be considered for MVP.

  46. James T on September 9th, 2004 10:40 am

    The classic example of when a player was productive being relevant was the 1995 AL MVP. Mo Vaughn won it. Albert Belle had better stats and, in retrospect, a lot of people think Belle was cheated out of the award because he was disliked by the press (along with mammals, marsupial, most reptiles . . ). But Belle hit something like 33 of his 50 homers in August and September, AFTER the Indians had effectively clinched their division. While the Indians were roaring out to a huge lead over the detritus that was the 1995 AL Central, Belle was no more integral to their success than, say, Carlos Baerga. He clearly turned it on an built up his stats in what was, in effect, garbage time. Vaughn was the guy carrying the Sox all year long. Did Belle have better stats? Yes. Was he more valuable? Well, that’s a bit more complicated and it’s quite possible that the writers accidentally got it right.

  47. Paul Weaver on September 9th, 2004 11:08 am

    Thanks James T.