I have a pretty good idea that complaining to SI.com’s Jon Heyman is similar to complaining to umpire Joe West. It’s a futile affair. No opinions will change and the complainer will more than likely leave the confrontation completely unsatisfied, while the other party will only feel emboldened to further disseminate his questionable point of view. Such is the nature of professional trolls.
Earlier this afternoon, Heyman posted a column in which he supplied his readers with his picks for the major MLB awards at the halfway point of the season. For the most part, they’re not horrible selections. I agree with several of his top threes, and even the way he ranks them. The one that I take the most exception with though, is the ranking of his picks for American League MVP.
Heyman chooses Adrian Gonzalez as the AL’s most valuable player and names Jose Bautista as his runner up. Believing that any player has contributed more to his team or baseball in general than Bautista to this point in the season is wrong. Dead wrong.
I’m not writing about a subjective judgment here. Jose Bautista has clearly been the better player. He’s 1.7 wins better than Gonzalez with more home runs, more walks and more runs, and a better OPS, wOBA, and wRC+.
In fact, the only statistics with which Bautista doesn’t have an enormous advantage over Adrian Gonzalez are batting average and runs batted in. I’m prepared to concede that yes, Adrian Gonzalez has hit more singles than Jose Bautista. That is true. And that is why he has a higher batting average.
But as for RBIs, let’s suspend reason for a second and give credence to the idea that runs batted in might be a valuable measurement of a player’s worth, ignoring how important actually having runners on base is to the counting stat, and believing that when presented with the opportunity, an MVP type player should create runs for his team.
After all, that’s the whole reason for valuing RBIs, right? It’s supposed to measure how good a player is when they need to be.
Again, I’m ignoring the fact that throughout the entire history of baseball, there are only a few exceptions, assuming a proper sample size, in which a player has significantly better numbers in one situation versus the rest of their career, but I’ll digress for the purpose of this point.
What RBIs don’t take into account is how many times a player is presented with an opportunity to drive in another player. To use a hockey analogy, only looking at RBIs is like only looking at power play goals, and considering one player who has more power play goals to be better than another player who has less, without looking at the total time that each has spent on the power play, or if the “lesser” player has spent any time on the power play at all, or giving any consideration to who he might be playing with on that power play.
Fortunately, baseball fans can actually look at how players perform with runners on base or with runners in scoring position, instead of merely counting up the number of runs they’ve knocked in when presented with those opportunities. And when we look at this, we will discover that Jose Bautista’s OPS with runners on base is an astounding 1.154, while Gonzalez’s is 1.002. With runners in scoring position, Bautista has still been the better player, putting up an OPS of .978 to Gonzalez’s .971.
The only difference is that Bautista has only had 170 plate appearances with runners on base and 98 with runners in scoring position, while Gonzalez has had 207 and 125 respectively. Being surrounded by better players in Boston than Bautista is in Toronto, has afforded Gonzalez more opportunities with runners on base, and allowed him to accumulate more RBIs. However, Bautista remains a better player in run driving in situations.
However, Heyman never states that this is the reason why he would bestow such honours as his imaginary American League MVP award on Gonzalez over Bautista. The only reason he gives for such a poor decision is that: “His team is in fourth in the AL East.”
I could get into the reasons why a team’s record should have no influence whatsoever on measuring a player’s value, or how taking anything more into account than the individual’s performance is foolhardy, but that would probably take several hundred more words. Fortunately, Heyman doesn’t even put much stock in that reasoning anyway.
How else to explain his choice for the NL MVP: Jose Reyes? Yep, Jose Reyes on the third place Mets who are ten and a half games back in the National League East Division, the exact same amount of games that the Toronto Blue Jays find themselves behind in the American League East Division.
Things I’m immensely proud of: not using a single obscenity in the above writing.