FanPost

Pitchers as MVPs?

In today's News, Tony Paul — a BBWAA writer — made the case for Justin Verlander to be voted the AL MVP this year. He also outlined the BBWAA's apparent distaste, in recent years, for pitchers (especially starters) to be voted MVP.

"The Cy Young is for pitchers and the MVP is for position players," goes the conventional wisdom. "Pitchers only pitch once every five days, but position-players are out there every game." But, consider...

  • Any one hitter is one-ninth of a batting order (11%).
  • Any starting pitcher is one-fifth of a rotation these days (20%).

Now, I realize there are bullpens, DHs, pinch-hitters, days off, injuries, and a host of other statistical categories I've ignored here (pitchers hitting in interleague games, position-players taking the mound, suspensions for throwing at hitters' heads, etc.). I've also completely ignored fielding, and I've assumed that the BBWAA is a fair assessor of talent; these might be big stretches. This is meant to be a crude, quick-and-dirty assessment, which it is.

I took the last three years' worth of MVP and Cy Young voting data, and considered the top five in each category in each year. (No pitcher, starter or reliever, was in the top-5 in the MVP voting from 2008 onward.) Then, I calculated what percentage of their team's plate appearances (for the MVP) or innings pitched (for the Cy) was attributable to each. All the stats are from baseball-reference, because they're fantastic.

For the MVP candidates:

2010 MVP

Name PA Team PA % of Team PA
Hamilton, TEX 571 6298 9.07%
Cabrera, DET 648 6312 10.27%
Cano, NYY 696 6379 10.91%
Bautista, TOR 683 6071 11.25%
Konerko, CHW 631 6118 10.31%
    Avg 10.36%

 
2009 MVP

Name PA Team PA % of Team PA
Mauer, MIN 606 6346 9.55%
Teixeira, NYY 609 6447 9.45%
Jeter, NYY 716 6447 11.11%
Cabrera, DET 685 6233 10.99%
Morales, LAA 622 6305 9.87%
    Avg 10.19%

 
2008 MVP

Name PA Team PA % of Team PA
Pedroia, BOS 726 6402 11.34%
Morneau, MIN 712 6330 11.25%
Youkilis, BOS 621 6402 9.70%
Mauer, MIN 633 6330 10.00%
Quentin, CHW 569 6231 9.13%
    Avg 10.28%

 
Now for the Cy Young candidates:

2010 Cy Young

Name IP Team IP % of Team IP
Hernandez, SEA 249.7 1438 17.36%
Price, TBR 208.7 1453.7 14.36%
Sabathia, NYY 237.7 1442.3 16.48%
Lester, BOS 208 1456.7 14.28%
Weaver, LAA 224.3 1449.3 15.48%
    Avg 15.59%

 
2009 Cy Young

Name IP Team IP % of Team IP
Greinke, KCR 229.3 1426 16.08%
Hernandez, SEA 238.7 1452.7 16.43%
Verlander, DET 240 1447 16.59%
Sabathia, NYY 230 1450 15.86%
Halladay, TOR 239 1451 16.47%
    Avg 16.29%

 
2008 Cy Young (all pitchers)

Name IP Team IP % of Team IP
Lee, CLE 223.3 1437 15.54%
Halladay, TOR 246 1446.7 17.00%
Rodriguez, LAA 68.3 1451.3 4.71%
Matsuzaka, BOS 167.7 1446.3 11.60%
Rivera, NYY 70.7 1441.7 4.90%
    Avg 10.75%

 
2008 Cy Young (just the starters)

Name IP Team IP % of Team IP
Lee, CLE 223.3 1437 15.54%
Halladay, TOR 246 1446.7 17.00%
Matsuzaka, BOS 167.7 1446.3 11.60%
Mussina, NYY 200.3 1441.7 13.89%
Santana, LAA 219 1451.3 15.09%
    Avg 14.62%

 

I did 2008 twice because I didn't really feel like getting into the whole "is a closer worth more than a starter" sort of argument, talking about leverage factors, all that jazz... someone else can, if they like. (For this analysis, I'll ignore the relievers; but, for the record, I think they can be MVP candidates, too.) The point is that the numbers turned out a bit surprising, which is why I'm doing all this.

Average % of a team's plate appearances by top-5 MVP vote-getters: 10.28%
Average % of a team's innings pitched by top-5 Cy Young vote-getters: 15.50%

Is an inning pitched equivalent to a plate appearance? How important is a "stopper" in a rotation? Do voters over-value RBI and wins in these awards? I'm not sure. The moral of the story is that the whole "every fifth day" argument is bunk. Dear BBWAA voters, don't be afraid to vote for a pitcher as an MVP.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.

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