Teams are clinching playoff spots almost daily now that we’re in the last week of the season, but has anyone sewn up the MVP award? As we did last week for the Rookie of the Year candidates, let’s use the Total Runs metric first introduced in The Fielding Bible—Volume II to see who the MVP leaders are for each league. The key to Total Runs is that it takes into account three other components of the overall contributions of a player besides hitting: baserunning, playing defense, and playing an important defensive position.

In the National League, the engraver probably finished putting Albert Pujols’ name on the MVP trophy back in June, but is there anyone that can challenge the two-time MVP?

2009 NL Most Valuable Player Candidates
Player Runs
Created
Baserunning
Runs
Runs Saved Positional
Adjustment
Total Runs
Albert Pujols, Cardinals 145 6 13 12 176
Chase Utley, Phillies 121 5 14 29 169
Hanley Ramirez, Marlins 121 4 4 31 160
R. Zimmerman, Nationals 103 2 22 22 149
Prince Fielder, Brewers 130 -1 0 12 141

Albert won the MVP award in 2008 but Chase Utley, thanks to his defense, was the total runs leader for that year. Utley is hot on Mr. Pujols’ trail once again this year. How many people would have had Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman in the top five in Total Runs? Zimmerman’s stellar season in the field (22 Defensive Runs Saved) helps him overcome any offensive (103 Runs Created) shortcomings. All in all, the Total Runs system likes Albert Pujols winning his third National League MVP award this year.

In the American League, the MVP debate is centering on Joe Mauer, Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, and Miguel Cabrera, but Total Runs suggests a few other options to consider:

2009 AL Most Valuable Player Candidates
Player Runs
Created
Baserunning
Runs
Runs Saved Positional
Adjustment
Total Runs
Zack Greinke, Royals 168* 4 172
Chone Figgins, Angels 99 6 31 23 159
Ben Zobrist, Rays 98 -1 30 23 150
Joe Mauer, Twins 120 0 4 25 149
Derek Jeter, Yankees 113 3 1 31 148

*Pitchers use Pitching Runs Created from The Hardball Times website.

Neither Teixeira nor Cabrera appear in the top five in Total Runs and each player trails a teammate that doesn’t make this list. Teixeira is third on his own team (behind Jeter and Robinson Cano), while Curtis Granderson ranks above Cabrera in Detroit. Joe Mauer, considered by many to be the favorite to win the award, leads the American League candidates in Runs Created, but finds himself in fourth place behind Zack Grienke, Chone Figgins and Ben Zobrist. If you believe the numbers, and you believe that a pitcher should qualify for MVP voting on equal footing with hitters, and the MVP can come from a non-contending team, Grienke is your MVP. Do you believe?

The outstanding defense by Figgins and Zobrist catapult a pair of multi-faceted players to second and third place on the list. The numbers here don’t even factor in the tremendous value that each player brings to his respective team with their ability to play multiple positions at an elite level. While it is unlikely that either Figgins or Zobrist will win the award, their exceptional seasons will not go unnoticed here. When it’s all said and done, I’m quite comfortable with Mauer or Jeter winning the MVP award, but wouldn’t it be great if a Figgins or a Zobrist could be recognized for their defense and versatility by winning the award?

Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week®, www.statoftheweek.com.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail