Now that the Rookies of the Year and Most Valuable Players have been announced, which players were most deserving?
Josh Hamilton won the American League MVP by a comfortable margin, but Total Runs (see below) and other analytical metrics depict a closer race. While Hamilton sat out much of September resting an injury, Robinson Cano and Jose Bautista kept producing and surpassed Hamilton in the Total Runs standings, with Bautista edging Cano by a single run in the end.
|AL MVP Candidates|
While Fangraphs’ Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) still rates Hamilton as the best in the league, Baseball-Reference’s version (bWAR) prefers Evan Longoria and gives Cano the edge over Hamilton. MVP runner-up Miguel Cabrera’s weak defense at first base dragged him below the analytical leaders, making any of Bautista, Cano, or Hamilton an acceptable choice. Personally, I would have voted for Cano.
Over in the National League, the analytics say that NL MVP Joey Votto was the right choice. He led a competitive field with 148 Total Runs, and also led in the Fangraphs version of WAR. Matt Holliday finished twelfth in MVP voting but second in Total Runs with 146, while MVP runner-up Albert Pujols finished third with 144.
|NL MVP Candidates|
The American League rookie crop was thin, but Total Runs loved Austin Jackson’s full season of production at the plate and in Detroit’s center field. The voters, however, selected Neftali Feliz, who had an excellent season as the closer for the AL’s eventual champion. Both versions of Wins Above Replacement suggest that Brian Matusz deserved better than three third place votes he received. I’m good with Feliz winning despite Jackson’s bigger Total Runs figure.
|AL ROY Candidates|
In any other year, several NL rookies would have had a chance at the award. The voters turned this into a two-man race between Total Runs leader Jason Heyward and late May call-up Buster Posey, with Posey winning in the end. Total Runs and both versions of WAR prefer Heyward’s full season of production, but the voters might be figuring that Posey would have surpassed Heyward’s number if he hadn’t spent two months in AAA. I would have voted for Heyward, but Posey’s choice is fine as well.
|NL ROY Candidates|
A few words about Total Runs and Runs Created. In The Fielding Bible—Volume II, we introduced “Total Runs”, a method to combine a player’s offensive and defensive contributions into one number. Total Runs incorporates a hitter’s Runs Created and Baserunning Runs on offense with his Runs Saved and a Positional Adjustment on defense to fairly compare players across different positions.
Since then, we’ve added Pitching Runs Created (PRC), an effort by David Gassko of The Hardball Times to translate a pitcher’s performance to the same scale as a hitter’s Runs Created.
Since relievers often pitch in more crucial situations, their performance is more valuable than their statistics would otherwise suggest. We can measure the significance of the situation each pitcher faces with Leverage Index. The average situation has a 1.0 Leverage Index, while a tie game at the start of the bottom of the ninth rates at 2.3.
We account for pitchers’ performance under pressure by multiplying their Pitching Runs Created by their average Leverage Index over the course of the season.
“Used with permission from John Dewan’s Stat of the Week™, www.statoftheweek.com.”