Howard loses out to Pujols/What is an MVP?

UPDATE, 2:16 p.m.

It's official. Albert Pujols won his second MVP award, this time by a comfortable margin over Phillies slugger Ryan Howard. Pujols received 18 first place votes compared to Howard's 12. Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who finished eighth, also received a first place vote. Pujols is the first non-Phillie to win the MVP since 2005. Howard edged Pujols in 2006, prompting Pujols to say that a player who doesn't take his team to the playoffs shouldn't be voted MVP.

Below is our break down of who, exactly, should be voted MVP.

Part of the fun of life is the ability to pursue philosophical dilemmas that have stymied mankind's greatest thinkers for thousands of years. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Why does one park in a driveway and drive on a parkway? What happens if a playoff overtime ends in a tie (note to D-Mac: you play another one)?

But king of them all is the question that has prompted hundreds of emails to land in my inbox over the past few days.

What does it mean to be a Most Valuable Player?

Members of the Baseball Writers Association of America -- it's kind of like that group of priests from the Da Vinci Code, except with a little less sado-masochism -- have already decided on their answer to that question, and the rest of us will wait for bated breath for this afternoon's announcement of the National League MVP award.

As you may have inferred from  my previous post on the matter, I did not vote for Ryan Howard. In fact, I did not vote for anybody. Each BBWAA chapter -- we meet every other Thursday in the basement of a 17th-century church -- gets a vote for each award. Those votes are then dispersed to each individual member. I voted on National League Manager of the Year. I'm not sure who voted on MVP. But even if I did have a vote, I wouldn't have voted for Howard. That's no disrespect to the big guy. Without him, I highly doubt the Phillies make the run that they did in September. In other words, without him, they don't win a World Series. But in my opinion, he wasn't more valuable than Albert Pujols.

I'll try to explain.

1) There is no doubt that you can build a strong case for Howard. He led the majors in home runs and RBIs. Furthermore, his team won the World Series. The best player on the best team in the league should be a lock, right? Well. . .

2) First, let's take a look at how the dictionary defines "Valuable." One common argument in these debates is that an MVP is not necesarilly the same thing as a "Most Outstanding" player. The argument goes that an MVP measures value to one's team, not necesarilly overall greatness. In other words, the NL MVP should be the player who has the most value to his team. But that's a flawed argument. A Team MVP, which closer Brad Lidge won earlier this year, measures value from the perspective of a team. Beacuse this is a League MVP, it should be a reflection of a player's value from the perspective of the entire league.  But the dictionary says nothing about "value" being the possession of a third-party. The value lies within the object itself. The Oxford Dictionary says value is "the regard that something is held to deserve; importance or worth." Webster's says value is "relative worth, utility, or importance." So really, when we're deciding on a Most Valuable Player, we're deciding on the Most Worthy Player. So throw the whole "most valueable to one's team" argument out the window.

3)  You might be confused after reading No. 2, because I am confused after writing it. Look at it like this: a dollar bill is worth a dollar regardless of who's pocket it is in. Sure, that dollar means more to a poor person than a rich one. But in the end, it's actual worth is 100 pennies. Our job when picking an MVP is to pick the player who's performance was worth the most pennies. So, essentially, we're picking the best overall player. Period.

4) All of that said, I would argue that a player's contribution and importance to his team should be a factor in the judgment of his overall worth. But it isn't the be-all, end-all.

5) So let's break it down into categories: Home runs, RBI, Runs scores, Batting Average, On Base Percentage, OPS, Clutch Statistics, Defense, Consistency and Overall Importance to Team.

6) Home Runs: Howard - 48, Pujols - 37. EDGE: HOWARD.

7) RBI:  Howard - 146, Pujols - 116. EDGE: HOWARD

8) Runs: Howard - 105, Pujols - 100. EDGE: HOWARD

9) BA: Howard - .251, Pujols - .357. EDGE: PUJOLS

10) OBP: Howard - .339, Pujols - .461 EDGE: PUJOLS

11) OPS: Howard - .882, Pujols - 1.115. EDGE: PUJOLS 

12) RISP:  Howard - .320 BA, .439 OBP; Pujols - .339/.523. EDGE: PUJOLS

13) Two outs, RISP: Howard - .320/.468; Pujols - .326/.592. EDGE: PUJOLS

14) Two out RBI: Howard - 56; Pujols - 32. EDGE: HOWARD

15) Defense. EDGE: PUJOLS

16) Consistency: Pujols hit above .300 in all six months of the season. He drove in at least 20 runs in all but two months. Howard, meanwhile, hit under .240 in all but two months of the season (July and September). But he drove in at least 25 runs in all but two months, and he hit 10 or more home runs in three of the six months of the season.  EDGE: PUJOLS.

17) Importance to team: This one is the hardest to quantify. Howard's performance in September was crucial for the Phillies. But the team might not have needed him as much in September if he was more consistent throughout the entire season. The only way I can think to quantify this is to go back and look at Baseball Prospectus' preseason projections. BP predicted the Phillies would win 86 games. They won 92. So you could argue that Howard's performance was a big reason why the Phillies "over-achieved" by six games. But if you are going to do that, you have to consider the fact that BP forecast the Cardinals to win just 75 games. St. Louis finished with 86 wins. EDGE: EVEN.

18) In summation: Pujols dominates in just about every category except run production. Yet this game is all about run production. Howard drove in 18.3 percent of his team's runs. Pujols drove in 14.9 percent of his team's runs. That says a lot. In the end, though, I'd vote for Pujols because of consistency and defense. I think those two aspects of his game make him slightly "more valuable" of a player than Howard.

Hey, it isn't scientific, and I'm sure many of you will pick it apart. So have at it.

For argument's sake, this would be my MVP ballot (if I had one).

1. Pujols, Cardinals

2. Howard, Phillies

3. C.C. Sabathia, Brewers

4. Manny Ramirez, Dodgers

5. Carlos Delgado, Mets

6. Lance Berkman, Astros


The Phillies announced today that they have fired minor league field coordinator Bill Dancy, replacing him with Mike Compton. Dancy was the Phillies third base coach in 2005 and 2006. Also, the Phillies announced they have hired Scott Proefrock as their third assistant general manager, a move reported late last night by Proefrock will handle a lot of the duties Amaro handled as assistant GM, including contract negotiations.