Rich Campbell, from the Fredericksburg (Va.) Free Lance Star, explained why he didn't have Ryan Howard on his NL MVP ballot.
He makes some valid points, saying "there’s more to the vote than just homers, RBIs and the Phillies’ division title." He points to Howard's strikeouts, defense and batting average. He mentions win shares, runs created, OPS, VORP and EQA (sabermetrics for those not in the know). I only wish he had these explanations Monday when I called.
Certainly, there is more to a MVP than run production and division titles, it's just that producing runs and winning games are the two most important things in baseball. As far as the strikeouts (and in a sense, average), Baseball Prospectus' Joe Sheehan said in February, regarding Howard, "You have to be focused on runs. How you get there doesn't actually matter. The shape of an offense doesn't actually matter. It's just a matter of how many runs. You see this throughout baseball. Take two different guys who go 10 for 50 over the course of two weeks. The guy who strikes out 25 times is going to look worse than the guy who grounds to second 25 times." Howard, who also scored a career high 105 runs, hit .251. No MVP had hit lower than .267 (Marty Marion in 1944). But Howard also hit .320 with runners in scoring position, 69 points higher than his overall average. He ranked 10th in the league in hitting with RISP with hitters with 100 more at-bats. Howard came up big when it mattered most from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. He produced.
I'm not saying Campbell should have had Howard first, second, third, fourth or even fifth or his ballot. But he should have had him somewhere. Tim Lincecum deserved the Cy Young, but he wasn't the sixth most valuable player in the National League, like he had on his ballot. Remove Lincecum from the Giants and the Giants are still a bad baseball team in the NL West. Johan Santana is a great pitcher who had a great second half, but Howard helped his team win every day. He carried the Phillies past Santana's Mets down the stretch. Campbell also had Chase Utley fourth on his ballot, although those who followed the Phillies closely knew that Howard, not Utley, came up bigger in the second half of the season.