There have been some nice moments in the BBA Awards so far. Voters have shown a strong inclination to look past the standings. Of the four player awards thusfar, none has gone to a player on a playoff team. Most recently, Tim Lincecum and Zack Greinke grabbed the highest honor for pitchers, despite the fact that neither won more than sixteen games.
The MVP, however, is the one award I believe should take into account team success, as well as individual numbers. This isn't to say that Ryan Braun and Adam Lind aren't legitimate candidates just because they played on losing teams, merely that when they are compared to men with similar statistics on winning teams, they fall slightly behind.
I also believe that the MVP award should go to a position player. Not that Greinke and Lincecum aren't extraordinarily "valuable," but pitcher's have their own award and there needs to be some credit given to those guys that grind it out every day, both at the plate and in the field. As such, defense is also a major factor when it comes to my MVP voting, which is why I favor stats like WAR (Wins Above Replacement), which account for fielding as well as hitting.
Unfortunately, the MVP races aren't very close this year. Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer are, deservedly, runaway favorites. I believe that, were anybody else to win, it would be a bit of a travesty, so the main question for me was how to fill out the rest of my ballot and which league provided the most interesting group of second and third tier candidates to discuss. There were some very interesting arguments to be made on both sides, but my discussion of the AL is just going to have to wait until November. Here is my NL ballot:
10. Adrian Gonzalez - 1B - San Diego Padres
.277/.407/.551, 90 R, 40 HR, 99 RBI, 1 SB, 4.3 UZR, 6.4 WAR
9. Derrek Lee - 1B - Chicago Cubs
.306/.393/.579, 91 R, 35 HR, 111 RBI, 1 SB, 3.4 UZR, 5.3 WAR
8. Ryan Zimmerman - 3B - Washington Nationals
.292/.364/.525, 110 R, 33 HR, 106 RBI, 2 SB, 17.9 UZR, 7.1 WAR
The bottom third of my ballot was reserved for players whose teams were bad, but whose seasons weren't. The Padres, Cubs, and Nats would've been much worse off without the efforts of these gentlemen. Z-pack and D-Lee both bounced back to prove they were still superstar-caliber players after mediocre, injury-plagued seasons in '08. Zimmerman deserves Gold Glove consideration for his efforts at the hot corner. Gonzo improved his power numbers for the fourth consecutive season, despite playing in spacious Petco Park (28 of his dingers came on the road). He's still just 27. The Padres have him signed through 2011 for an amazingly affordable rate ($11.25 Million total for the next two seasons). He will likely be the cream of the 2012 free agent class.
7. Matt Kemp - CF - Los Angeles Dodgers
.297/.352/.490, 97 R, 26 HR, 101 RBI, 34 SB, 3.2 UZR, 5.1 WAR
6. Troy Tulowitzki - SS - Colorado Rockies
.297/.377/.552, 101 R, 32 HR, 92 RBI, 20 SB, -0.6 UZR, 5.5 WAR
5. Pablo Sandoval - 3B - San Francisco Giants
.330/.387/.556, 79 R, 25 HR, 90 RBI, 5 SB, -4.6 UZR, 5.1 WAR
Three superb youngsters hold down the middle third of my ballot. Tulowitzki and Kemp are just 25, while Kung Fu Panda is merely 23. All three elevated their already impressive games in '09. Andre Ethier had slightly better power number and some memorable walk-off hits for the Dodgers, but Kemp was really what made their offense tick. He's probably a lock for 30/30 for the next several years and he has become one of the league's finest centerfielders. Tulowitzki defensive wizardry wasn't quite up to the standard he set in 2007, but he still made just nine errors, trailing only Jimmy Rollins. He took a major step forward on offense, however, becoming the Rockies top hitter. He joins three Rs - Rollins, Ramirez, and Reyes - among premier shortstops going into 2010. The depth of the Giants offensive problems are probably best demonstrated by the fact that Pablo Sandoval batted third in the order, got over 600 plate appearances, racked up an OPS of 943 (7th best in the NL), and still scored only 79 runs. New San Francisco mantra: "Strand-a Pand-a."
4. Hanley Ramirez - SS - Florida Marlins
.342/.410/.543, 101 R, 24 HR, 106 RBI, 27 SB, 0.3 UZR, 7.3 WAR
3. Chase Utley - 2B - Philadelphia Phillies
.282/.397/.508, 112 R, 31 HR, 93 RBI, 23 SB, 12.0 UZR, 7.7 WAR
2. Prince Fielder - 1B - Milwaukee Brewers
.299/.412/.602, 103 R, 46 HR, 141 RBI, 2 SB, 0.2 UZR, 6.7 WAR
These guys have all been in this position before and, probably, will be again, looking up at King Albert.
Ryan Howard got a lot of press this year for slimming down and playing better defense, but Prince Fielder did the exact same thing, bringing his UZR up to average from -8.5 in 2008 (which was the best of his career until this season). Howard and Fielder appear, superficially, to be very similar players, but Fielder walks more and strikes out less, perhaps contributing to his much higher averages, and he doesn't suffer the annual month-long growing pains in April. Fielder is still just 25 and is consistently underrated. In my mind, he is already a superior player to Howard, Texeira, Gonzalez, and Morneau.
1. Albert Pujols - 1B - St. Louis Cardinals
.327/.443/.658, 124 R, 47 HR, 135 RBI, 16 SB, 1.2 UZR, 8.4 WAR
What more needs be said? He's the best player in baseball, has been for about five seasons now and it doesn't look like he's becoming the least bit complacent.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Braun LF (MIL), Ryan Howard 1B (PHI), Andre Ethier LF (LAD), Jayson Werth RF (PHI), Justin Upton RF (ARZ)
AL MVP Ballot (had I swung that way): 10. Franklin Gutierrez CF (SEA), 9. Derek Jeter SS (NYY), 8. Mark Texeira 1B (NYY), 7. Kevin Youkilis 1B/3B (BOS), 6. Victor Martinez C/1B (BOS), 5. Chone Figgins 3B (LAA), 4. Ben Zobrist 2B/SS/RF (TAM), 3. Evan Longoria 3B (TAM), 2. Miguel Cabrera 1B (DET), 1. Joe Mauer C (MIN)