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My MVP ballot, explained

Bill Brink 5 years ago

I take this task very seriously. I believe it is important and requires a thorough analysis, even more so when one of the front-runners plays for the team I cover.

I considered several different factors when constructing my NL MVP ballot. I looked at traditional stats, like batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, walks and strikeout rate. I looked at advanced statistics like Wins Above Replacement, wOBA and OPS+, along with defensive stats like UZR and Defensive Runs Saved. For more on them, click here.

I valued consistency and games played, but did not place any additional weight on certain portions of the season. I also paid attention to the length of the player’s season, the reason guys like Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki didn’t make my ballot.

I paid a decent amount of attention to defense, both how well a player performed and at which position he did so. I talked to other writers and people around the game throughout the season.

I paid no attention to the record of the player’s team or his relative importance to the rest of the roster – the “If you took so-and-so off the team, what happens?” theory. I don’t think it is fair to elevate or depress someone based on their teammates. Matt Carpenter and Yadier Molina are both good players and deserve consideration regardless of the fact that they’re on the same team, as do Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto.

I did not consider runs, RBIs, pitcher wins or fielding percentage.

The official BBWAA criteria for MVP:

“There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:

1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.

2. Number of games played.

3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.

4. Former winners are eligible.

5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.

Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.”

My ballot

1. Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pirates

As a Pirates beat reporter, I looked long and hard at every other possible candidate for first place to ensure I wasn’t taking the easy road by voting for McCutchen or letting the fact that I watched him all season influence me. McCutchen led NL batters in WAR, according to Fangraphs.com. He finished second according to Baseball-Reference’s calculations. He played in 157 games and hit .317 with a .404 on-base percentage and a .508 slugging percentage. He hit 21 homers and stole 27 bases while being caught 10 times, a 73 percent success rate. His 158 OPS+ ranked second in the NL behind Paul Goldschmidt. That means when his OPS was adjusted for league and park factors, he ranked 58 percent above average. His 6.9 UZR ranked 15th among qualified fielders, and he plays center field, a tough defensive position. For me, he was not the best at any one thing, but he was near the top in almost every category.

2. Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Diamondbacks

Goldschmidt had a better offensive season than McCutchen did. He tied for the NL lead with 36 home runs and led the NL in slugging percentage and OPS+. He also stole 15 bases. Baseball Info Solutions calculated 12 Defensive Runs Saved for Goldschmidt, more than McCutchen’s seven, but Goldschmidt did it at first base. These two were very close, but I gave the slight edge to McCutchen because of his steals and defensive position.

3. Clayton Kershaw, LHP, Dodgers

I have Kershaw so high on the ballot because of his consistency and otherworldly performance this season. He pitched 236 innings and averaged more than seven innings per start. In only eight of his 33 starts did he pitch fewer than seven innings, and he pitched fewer than six innings only four times. He completed five innings in every start. That type of consistency has a huge effect on the bullpen during a season. His 1.83 ERA led the league, as did his 232 strikeouts and 0.92 WHIP. He faced 908 batters, meaning he was involved with more plate appearances than Joey Votto, who lead the league with 726.

4. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds

Votto continued to be an on-base machine, leading the league with a .435 OBP. Part of that stemmed from his league-leading 135 walks. He played 162 games and hit 24 home runs.

5. Carlos Gomez, CF, Brewers

Gomez ranks here because of his defense. His 24.4 UZR ranked third in the NL behind Gerardo Parra and Andrelton Simmons, and he had 38 Defensive Runs Saved this year. He had a good offensive year as well, hitting 24 home runs and stealing 40 bases, and actually ranked first in Baseball-Reference’s Wins Above Replacement. He would have been higher save for his .338 on-base percentage, 6.3 percent walk rate and 24.7 percent strikeout rate.

6. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves

Freeman had a solid season: .319/.396/.501 with 23 home runs, 10th in Baseball-Reference WAR. His 144 OPS+ tied for fifth with Matt Holliday.

7. Shin-Soo Choo, CF, Reds

Choo’s .423 on-base percentage ranked second behind only his teammate, Votto. He also walked 112 times, again second to Votto, and tied for seventh in OPS+ with Matt Carpenter. Throw in a 20-20 season and that’s a pretty nice year. He ranked lower than he might have because of his fielding issues: minus-18 Defensive Runs Saved, minus-15.5 UZR

8. Matt Carpenter, 2B, Cardinals

Carpenter ranked fifth in the NL in WAR and led the league in doubles while hitting .318/.392/.481.

9. Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals

I had him lower than others. Molina’s .319 batting average ranked fourth in the league and his 2.1 defensive WAR ranked eighth. His 12 home runs and .359 on-base percentage lowered him in my rankings, though he did finish second to Carpenter with 44 doubles. He played through injury this season and continued to put forth excellent defense, which was impressive.

10. Hunter Pence, RF, Giants

There were several candidates for this final spot, including Jayson Werth and Michael Cuddyer, but I went with Pence due to the power-speed combo. Pence hit 27 home runs and stole 22 bases. I valued the fact that he played 162 games as well.