A Deeper Look at Deciding the MVP

 

Every season there is much debate about who should win the MVP award in the American and National Leagues. There are many out there who think that the award should go to a player on a contending team, while others say that is not the case. We decided to look a little deeper and share our opinion on the subject.

The official rules for voting by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America for the MVP award look like this: (1) actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense; (2) number of games played; (3) general character, disposition, loyalty and effort; (4) former winners are eligible; and (5) members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team. As you can clearly read in no way does the strength of the player’s team come in to the rules of voting. There is no mention of games won, a team being in playoff contention or anything else regarding the team a player plays for. So, why is it that so many people in the media and around the water cooler feel that the MVP needs to be on a contending team?

Does a player on a contending team play harder than one who is not? Or do opposing teams not give their best against players on non-contending teams? Of course not, so why care what the team’s performance has been for an individual award.

With all that being said there really is no argument in my mind as to how the MVP should be chosen. It is simple, use Wins Above Replacement or WAR. By definition WAR is a measure of how many wins, or how much value, an individual player brings to a team over a replacement level player. Higher the WAR, the more valuable that player is to their team. It’s a measure that takes team record and performance out of the equation and is strictly based on the individual.

Now that we have established how he MVP awards should be decided it’s easy to see that the National League MVP is Kris Bryant with a WAR of 7.3 and the American League MVP is Mike Trout with an MLB leading WAR of 10.0. Neither of these players isn’t already in the discussion for MVP, which just adds more credibility to the argument that WAR is the measure of who should be MVP.

On a side note, if you don’t realize it Mike Trout’s WAR of 10.0 is somewhat historic.

If you need more proof, then just look at the runner-ups in the AL and NL; Mookie Betts and Corey Seager. Both of them are also in the MVP discussion. Or maybe we should look at last year’s MVPs and where they fell in WAR. Bryce Harper lead MLB in WAR and Josh Donaldson was 5th. Not convinced yet? Ok, 2014’s MVPs Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout were number one and two in MLB WAR.

Yes, there will be plenty who say I am oversimplifying the MVP award by using one stat as the deciding factor, but those people are just behind the times and don’t realize stats rule baseball.

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Hitters to Avoid in 2017

Yesterday we highlighted pitchers that, due mostly to injury concerns, we will be avoiding in 2017 drafts. Today we thought it only fair to pay attention to the other side of the game and name some hitters we won’t be drafting.

Yasiel Puig, OF Dodgers

There is a big hole in the outfield when it comes to quality fantasy players, one of the slimmest crop of usable players in a while. Even with that we will be avoiding Yasiel Puig. It is highly probably Puig will be traded in the offseason and a lot of people believe it will be to the Brewers, we agree with that by the way. Even if that happens and opens up his playing time we still believe he is too risky. He has not shown that he can be consistent nor stay healthy. He won’t go high in drafts likely, but still we want to stay away.

Jay Bruce, OF Mets

Again, we know there are not a lot of great outfielders to choose from, but Jay Bruce is not someone you want next year. Since his trade to the New York Mets Bruce had been horrible. In 36 games he has a slash line of .192/.271/.315, with only 4 home runs. Question has been asked is he trying to prove too much to his new team or is this simply regression to the mean for him. We believe it is that latter. Last time Bruce his over .250 was in 2013 and it is clear to us that his hot season in Cincinnati was not the new norm for him, but just an extended hot streak.

Jose Bautista, OF Blue Jays

Maybe we should have tried a little harder to find players outside of the outfield, but it is just where we found players we don’t want for 2017. Jose Bautista has his lowest batting average since 2005 when he hit .143. Next year he will be 36 years old and has progressively been showing signs of aging with declining performance and increasing time injured. He is still valued by most fantasy players as a high end option, but is not returning what you have to pay for him. He is likely going to finish the regular season with his first sub-25 home run season since 2009. If he isn’t knocking the ball out of the park, isn’t hitting for a good average and isn’t driving in 100+ runs then he just doesn’t provide enough value for where he will be drafted.

Daniel Murphy, 2B Nationals

Finally, a non-outfielder and probably a pick that has you scratching your head. Daniel Murphy has been a major break out star in his age 31 season and has given owners plenty to celebrate. However, is it really something he can do again next year? We predict that many fantasy owners will be drafting Murphy in the first three rounds and he will not return that value. It is very unlikely that at 32 Murphy will be able to repeat his 2016 season. He has made it known that he made changes to his batting stance to increase his power production, but even if that sticks next year he will more than likely fall off in batting average as he has his highest BABIP since 2008 at .350 that is not going to be repeated. He will be a very useful fantasy player in 2017, but not worth where you will have to draft him.

There are without a doubt a lot more players that will be on our do not draft list for 2017 like Miguel Sano, Joe Mauer, Mark Trumbo and Billy Hamilton, but we didn’t have room to talk about them all here. Be on the lookout during the offseason however for more on why these players won’t be on any of our fantasy baseball teams in 2017.

Players We Wish We Drafted

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By slgckgc on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Last week I wrote a post about three players that fantasy baseball analyst missed the mark on by over valuing them coming in to the 2016 season. Today we look at players that everyone wishes they would have seen coming this season because they way over performed their draft day value.

Daniel Murphy, 2B Nationals

During the offseason the Washington Nationals shopped the market and added what at the time didn’t seem like a big piece to their team in Daniel Murphy. Murphy was coming off a hot stretch in the playoffs for the Mets where he found his power stroke to the tune of seven home runs in 14 games and hitting .328. As a whole, however, 2015 wasn’t all that different from any other year for Murphy finishing with 14 home runs, 2 stolen bases and a .322/.449/.770 triple slash line. Who would have thought that at 31 in 2016 he would have the break out season he has had? He came in to 2016 as the consensus 181st ranked player, but is currently ranked 5th. His power outburst that started in the playoffs has been followed up this season with 25 home runs and a career high .594 slugging. By the end of the year he should also set career highs in doubles, runs, RBIs, home runs and walks. Question will be for 2017 can he replicate this year’s performance.

Jonathan Villar, SS Brewers

Talent runs rampant in the Houston Astros system and because of that they had no place to play Jonathan Villar. That was good for the Milwaukee Brewers who traded for Villar in November. Coming in to 2016 he was ranked as the 414th player, more than likely not drafted in all but NL only leagues. Especially because he was seen as merely a place holder for the Brewer’s shortstop of the future Orlando Arcia. As the 6th ranked player so far in 2016 Villar has done nothing but impress with a full time role. He has played so well the Brewers delayed bringing up Arcia until much later in the year then we all expected. He is second in the majors, to Billy Hamilton, in stolen bases with 52 which has driven much of his value, but has also hit 13 home runs and is getting on-base in 38% of his plate appearances. Even with the promotion of Arcia, Villar is still seeing regular playing time at third base and is a staple at the top of Milwaukee’s order.

Jean Segura, SS Diamondbacks

In 2013 Jean Segura appeared to be on his way to a great career with a breakout season. He hit .294 with 44 stolen bases that year and fantasy owners thought they had their new great steals source. Then came 2014 and 2015 where his batting average dropped by 40 points and his stolen base numbers were cut in half. Those same fantasy owners were surely thinking what could have been. Coming in to 2016 Segura was fighting to make the opening day roster of his new club the Arizona Diamondbacks and on draft day no one was giving him much of a chance to do anything special as he was ranked 224th in preseason rankings. After an April where he hit .333 with four stolen bases and 4 home runs many owners began to take a second look at him on their waiver wire, but could he be trusted? The answer so far has been yes. He is hitting .317 on the season with 12 home runs, 30 stolen bases and 83 runs batting at the top of Arizona’s lineup. He is in the top 15 on the player rater for the season and looks to be the Segura of 2013. Many lucky fantasy owners who took a chance on this waiver wire pickup are jumping for joy with what he has done for their team.

Power Hitting Second Basemen

It has been well documented throughout 2016 by fantasy baseball analysts that MLB has become a homer happy league. Players left and right appear to be selling out for the long ball. That trend has taken one of the shallowest positions in baseball, second base, and made it a prime power spot. In 2015 there were three second base eligible fantasy players that finished with more than 20 home runs (Matt Carpenter, Brian Dozier and Robinson Cano) and none with more than 28. Already in 2016 we have 12 players at that position with at least 21 home runs and another six with more than 15 giving them a shot to break the 20 home run barrier. On top of that three of the 12 have 30 or more. Without a doubt the fantasy baseball landscape has changed and that change has been to draft second basemen as power hitters rather than speedsters.

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By Ryan Claussen on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Leading the way in power for second basemen is Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins. He has the second most home runs in all of baseball at 38. Yes, I typed that correctly the second most in all of baseball behind Mark Trumbo. Dozier took his career high 28 home runs he had last season and blew it out of the water, but that’s not the only change he has made. As of right now he has a batting average 32 points higher than his career average. He has a career high slugging of .579 and on-base percentage of .350. With his three home run performance yesterday he has hit six home runs in four games. If this is who Dozier is as a player moving forward we won’t be looking at him as just a top second baseman, he may be one of the top 10 players in all of fantasy.

Another middle infielder that is on a major hot streak is second baseman Rougned Odor. Odor is only 22 years old, but is displaying power numbers of a much more mature hitter. Over his last seven games he has six home runs and has a slugging percentage of 1.129. On the season he has 30 home runs and 29 doubles to go with his 12 stolen bases and career high .283 batting average. He ranks third among second baseman in home runs and is tied for 17th overall. If Odor’s 2016 numbers are a vision of what is to come for him, we may be looking at him as a future hall of famer. Only thing that Odor doesn’t seem to be doing right is controlling his temper and taking a walk.

We have highlighted two great power hitting second baseman, but the list of hard hitting studs is long. It includes names like Robinson Cano, Brad Miller, Jedd Gyorko, Daniel Murphy and Ian Kinsler. Not to mention the best all-around second baseman, and possible AL MVP, Jose Altuve who has 22 bombs and 27 stolen bases. The list is way too long to talk about all of these guys in depth.

What if anything is actionable for this season? Probably nothing unless you’re in a keeper league where you can still trade. For 2017 however all of this should be kept in mind when planning out your draft day strategy.

Where Analysts Went Wrong in 2016

Clayton Kershaw
By Barbara moore from Springfield, USA (CLAYTON KERSHAW Uploaded by Muboshgu) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Every year analyst put out their projections of where they see players finishing for that season in fantasy baseball. They use past history and their own thoughts on which players will improve and which will fall off. Some players like, Mike Trout or Madison Bumgarner, are somewhat easy to predict as they are very consistent. Others, however, can be extremely difficult. In this post we will look at three players that most if not all analyst got wrong. Players that for one reason or another did not live up to analyst expectations.

Bryce Harper, OF Nationals

After an amazing, MVP, season in 2015 everyone had high hopes for Bryce Harper. Many analysts had him as the top ranked player in baseball. After a season of 38 home runs, 97 RBIs, 112 runs, 125 walks and a .322 batting average it was no wonder we expected him to be such a high end player. As we wrote about earlier this season, to see that post click here, we may have over-hyped him. He had only had one season of those great numbers and we may have put too much in to that one season as this season has not compared to that one. Harper is hovering around the 20th ranked player in fantasy baseball this year, still a very good player, but nowhere near where we expected him to be. There have been rumors that he has been playing hurt and with a .255 batting average and only 23 home runs in 2016 we hope those rumors are true. At least that way we would have an explanation for why he is not what we thought he would be and would help us decide what to do in 2017.

Clayton Kershaw, SP Dodgers

Every season Clayton Kershaw is ranked at the top of all analyst rankings and that is well deserved. He never lets owners down as he has been consistently the best pitcher in baseball year after year. Even when he is not number one Kershaw is never far behind. 2016 was no exception as most every analyst had him ranked as the top pitcher and most had him in the top 5 of all players for fantasy baseball. He should have given owners wins, strikeouts, elite ERA and WHIP and just as many innings as any other pitcher out there, but then something went wrong. On June 30th he went on the disabled list, something that analyst could not predict, and has been out ever since. He is near a return now, but with so much of the season gone it is highly unlikely he will finish anywhere near where he was drafted. Even with the injury he still ranks 32 overall and 4th amongst pitchers. While playing he amassed a 1.79 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 145 Ks and 11 wins in 16 starts and 121.0 innings. He was on pace for what could have been his best season in his career, but will fall far short of that.

Andrew McCutchen, OF Pirates

Prior to the 2016 season when fantasy baseball owners heard the name Andrew McCutchen they thought elite outfielder and a player you would love to have on your team. That was not the case for this season. McCutchen has fallen and fallen far in rankings. As the season started the narrative was that he is just a slow starter and that he would turn it on and reward those owners who held on to him, but that has not happened. In 2015 McCutchen finished ranked 32nd overall, dropping 17 spots from where he finished in 2014. Maybe analyst should have looked at that drop in more depth, but we didn’t, we ignored it and he was a consensus top 10 player coming in to this year. Currently he has a .253/.331/.420 slash line which compared to his career line of .293/.382/.487 is a big disappointment. With only 19 home runs and a mere 6 stolen bases to go with his 58 RBIs and 68 runs he is ranked 101st overall in 2016. There is no explanation for why he has fallen so far from what he was and we still don’t know if this will be the norm for him moving forward. None of that matters to those who own him this season though as all they can do is wonder what could have been if he lived up to his expectations.

Others we could have included in this post; Prince Fielder, Carlos Correa, Shelby Miller, Jose Bautista or James Shields.