A Good Argument

I’ve never liked MVP voting. How do you define “valuable”? And, even if you use some advanced statistics to prove that a player is the most “valuable” in the league, does it matter if his team is awful? It seems to me that things would be a lot easier if the MVP award was renamed “best player”. But, it’s not so this is the system we have.

This year, Justin Verlander won the MVP in the AL, despite not even appearing on one of the ballots. The writer who left him off his ballot, Jim Ingraham, made a very interesting argument against pitchers as MVP. Here are his words:

“I’d wrestled with this for a long time. If I was ever going to vote for pitcher for MVP, it would be him this year. He hasn’t appeared in 79 percent of their games, any starting pitcher really doesn’t appear in 79 percent of his team’s games in a year. Would you vote for an NFL quarterback for MVP if he only appeared in three of his team’s 16 games, which would be 21 percent? So that’s part of it. Another part of it is I think they’re apples and oranges. The guys that are in there every day, there’s a grind to a season that a starting pitcher doesn’t, I don’t think, experience the way the everyday position players do playing 150, 160 games.”

That is the most compelling reason against voting for pitchers that I have heard and I think he is absolutely right about it. Starting pitchers don’t appear in enough games to meet the “value” criteria in my mind. Verlander had an amazing season and he was given the Cy Young for it. Instead of burying Ingraham, his fellow baseball writers should take his argument to heart and reform the MVP voting process. Since pitchers have their own award, why not make the MVP a purely offensive award? It won’t solve the problem of figuring out value, but it will make the process a bit clearer.