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How to Define the Most Valuable Player
ALSO: CHOOSING NL'S CY YOUNG WINNER ALSO A STICKY WICKET FOR VOTERS
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Thanks to Hurricane Ian for backing off its original projection of washing out this weekend’s critical Mets-Braves series . . .
After the Braves scored seven of their eight runs against the Phillies with two outs last Sunday, the defending world champs led all 30 teams in home runs (85) and OPS (.807) with two outs . . .
The White Sox began the season as the popular pick to win the AL Central and compete for a shot at the World Series. Instead, their only view of the playoffs will come from television . . .
Tony La Russa, oldest manager in the majors at 77, almost certainly won’t return after his September heart issues but could be replaced by 61-year-old Don Mattingly, who deserves a decent team after a seven-year, frustration-filled run in Miami . . .
Two other potential White Sox pilots, both with Chicago ties, are Joe Maddon and Joe Girardi, each of whom is considerably younger than La Russa . . .
In some 30 minutes Sunday, the Royals turned a nine-run deficit into a two-run lead by scoring 11 runs against the Mariners in the bottom of the sixth — the sixth time the Royals scored 11+ runs in an inning and the first since Sept. 9, 2004 at Detroit.
There is Only One MVP
By Ray Kuhn
The objective of major league baseball teams is to win games. I know that is incredibly simple, and stating the obvious at the highest level, but it is important for the journey we are about to take.
Next, we need to be reminded about what the definition of “valuable” is.
If we were having this conversation 30 years ago, this would be the point where you would press pause on the article and grab a dictionary off the shelf. Since the majority of us do not have one handy, I will save you the trouble and instead look to the one definition that helps to prove my point as it describes valuable of being “of great use or service.”
In this case, that use or service we are working towards is winning major-league baseball games. That is measured by the standings at the end of the regular season and if we are trying to determine which players are most valuable, it would be those that played the largest parts in their team’s success.
Before we stop with the definitions and general statements, it is important to remember that there is a large difference between being the best and being the most valuable.
There is no way that any baseball player in 2022 can come close to competing with Shohei Ohtani, and quite frankly, it is not even a fair competition. What Ohtani is doing while pulling double duty at the plate on the mound is unprecedented and his performance in either role is enough to classify him as an elite player which makes the combination truly other-worldly.
Entering play Tuesday, Ohtani was hitting .271 with 34 home runs, 93 RBI, 87 runs, and 11 stolen bases and truly stands on his own. Not to be outdone on the mound, Ohtani has a 2.47 ERA with 14 victories while striking out close to 12 batters per nine innings.
I am not sure you will find anyone who is not completely floored and impressed by what we are seeing out of Ohtani or anyone who would not refer to him as the best player in baseball based on his performance.
The only problem though is that Ohtani is not making the Angels any better than they would be without him. Yes, he has 14 victories and has driven in 93 runs while scoring 87 times and those are very real contributions, but the Angels are 34 games out of first base, so how valuable can Ohtani really be?
Across the country, the Yankees clinched the AL East on Tuesday and it was in large part due to the contributions of Aaron Judge. Regardless of whether or not Judge breaks any home run records this season, 60 home runs through Tuesday is no small feat.
Judge is far from one-dimensional as he is very much in contention for a Triple Crown with a .315 batting average while scoring and driving in 128 runs to go along with a 15.7 per cent walk rate. We have seen Judge in center field this season, and playing well at that, while also spending time at lead-off as he continues to show he is a complete player.
It should also be noted that Judge has been the only Yankee to stay healthy all season but has not negatively impacted his performance as he carried New York’s offense without much in the way of lineup protection at times.
Judge has been the only consistent part of the Yankees’ season and to flirt with a Triple Crown while also trending towards home run immortality takes things to the next level. In most seasons just one of those factors would be enough for Judge to be a slam-dunk candidate for the MVP award, so all three truly blow things out of the water.
Ohtani’s performance is still unprecedented, but it is not like we see performances like Judge’s on a regular basis. We were lucky to have the privilege of watching both this season, but is clear who is the most valuable as winning continues to be objective here.
Ray Kuhn can be found writing on Fantasy Alarm and podcasting at Friends With Fantasy Benefits after previously covering the Houston Astros as part of the FanSided network at Climbing Tal’s Hill. Reach him at @ray_kuhn_28 or firstname.lastname@example.org as he is always interested in talking or writing about our great game.
Voters Face Tough Call in Deciding 2022 NL Cy Young Award
By Dan Schlossberg
Finding a clear-cut winner of the 2022 National League Cy Young Award won’t be easy.
With 10 days left in the regular season, more than a half-dozen different candidates were leading in each of the major pitching categories.
Consider these examples:
Wins — Kyle Wright, Atlanta (20)
Winning Percentage — Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles (.941)
ERA — Julio Urias, Los Angeles (2.25)
Strikeouts — Corbin Burnes, Milwaukee (231)
Ks Per 9 Innings — Carlos Rodón, San Francisco (11.878)
WHIP — Zac Gallen, Arizona (0.890)
WAR — Sandy Alcantara, Miami (7.4)
The list doesn’t even include brilliant Mets closer Edwin Díaz, who just might be New York’s most valuable player; teammate Max Scherzer, who already owns three Cy Youngs and would be hunting another if he hadn’t missed seven weeks with an oblique issue; or underrated Atlanta lefty Max Fried, who pitched six scoreless innings to nail down his team’s world title last fall and continues to excel.
And how about Rookie of the Year contender Spencer Strider, who broke into the Braves’ rotation two months after the season started and fanned 202 men in 131 2/3 frames — an average of 13.8 whiffs per nine, easily baseball’s best if he had enough innings to qualify? Strider held hitters to a .180 average and had a 0.995 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).
For months, we’ve been hearing that Alcantara should get the trophy. He not only leads in WAR and innings pitched but also in complete games (5) and shutouts (tied with 1). But his regular struggles against the Mets could be his downfall.
The best bet just might be Díaz, a 28-year-old Puerto Rican fireballer averaging a ridiculous 17.1 strikeouts per nine innings when the week began. The 6-3, 165-pound closer, enjoying the best year of his career, sported a 3-1 record, personal-peak 1.40 ERA, and a 0.879 WHIP in 57 games (58 innings pitched). He had yielded just three home runs — and boosted sales for a song called Narco that blares every time he burst out of the bullpen at CitiField.
Closers don’t get much consideration in Cy Young voting but they have won before.
Jim Konstanty of the 1950 Phillies won an MVP six years before the pitching award was added but nine later closers won Cy Youngs. They were Mike Marshall, Sparky Lyle, Willie Hernández, Rollie Fingers, Bruce Sutter, Steve Bedrosian, Dennis Eckersley, Mark Davis, and Éric Gagné.
Don’t be surprised if Edwin Diaz completes the minyan.
Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has covered the game for 50 years and authored 40 baseball books. A baseball historian who writes for forbes.com, Latino Sports, and USA TODAY Sports Weekly, he can be contacted by email [email@example.com].
“I would not pitch around him. People are paying their hard-earned money and want to see him challenged.”
— Boston pitcher Rich Hill on facing Yankees slugger Aaron Judge
The Yankees have the most home runs in either league but they’re last in triples . . .
Ex-Yankee third baseman Miguel Andujar, runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year in 2018, gets a new start after landing in Pittsburgh on a waiver claim . . .
Congratulations to Mets infielders Pete Alonso (new club RBI record) and Francisco Lindor (first 100-RBI season) . . .
Mets pinch-running specialist Terrance Gore is already one of the only players in MLB history to earn three World Series rings for three different franchises: the 2015 Royals, the 2020 Dodgers and the 2021 Braves, though he didn’t actually play in any of those Fall Classics. He’d win Ring No. 4 if the 2022 Mets become World Champions.
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HERE’S THE PITCH is published daily except Sundays and holidays. Brian Harl [firstname.lastname@example.org] handles Monday and Tuesday editions, Elizabeth Muratore [email@example.com] does Wednesday and Thursday, and Dan Schlossberg [firstname.lastname@example.org] edits the weekend editions on Friday and Saturday. Readers are encouraged to contribute comments, articles, and letters to the editor. HTP reserves the right to edit for brevity, clarity, and good taste.