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Pujols is a lock for the 2009 MVP award

by Mark Ashby Vaughan

The great Stan “The Man” Musial is the only player in Cardinals franchise history to win three Most Valuable Player (MVP) awards during a career. That is a most notable fact because, during the lengthy team history of the Cardinals, many great players have donned the birds on the bat, including Hall of Famers Joe Medwick, Rogers Hornsby, Enos Slaughter, Jim Bottomley and Johnny Mize, to name a few.

But 2009 is the year in which Stan will be joined by another Cardinals great, Albert Pujols, who will win his third MVP award.

This season has allowed us to witness exceptionally productive years by a number of players throughout the National League. Thirteen different players knocked in 100 or more RBIs in 2009. Three players, Ryan Braun of the Brewers, Derrick Lee of the Cubs and Carlos Lee of the Astros, all batted .300 or better, drove in 100 plus runs, and hit more than 30 home runs. Those stats would have been outstanding enough to win an MVP award in many years past.

There are five leading contenders for the MVP title this year; Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder of the Brewers, Derrick Lee of the Cubs, Ryan Howard of the Phillies and Albert Pujols of the Cardinals.

A key component to electing an MVP for the league, as witnessed in past voting, is how the player’s statistics impacted their team’s position in their respective division standings at year’s end.

Consequently, both Braun and Fielder of the Brewers will most likely not make the final cut due to the late collapse of their team in the standings, resulting in a final 80-82 record, good for just third place in the Central division.

Derrick Lee of the Cubs is a probable miss for the cut as well, seeing as the Cubs never got hot during the season, bumbling and stumbling up and down in the standings throughout the year. Although the Cubs had a winning record at 83-76, a .516 winning percentage, good for second place in the Central, they finished a distant 7 ½ games behind the division champion Cardinals at year’s end.

That leaves but two prospective winners, Pujols of the Cardinals and Howard of the Phillies.

Both of their teams won their respective division titles to reach the playoffs. Howard’s Phillies also won their division series playoff against the Colorado Rockies while Pujols’ Cardinals lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the first round of the playoffs. The Phillies, led by Howard, went on to beat the Dodgers in the league championship series, propelling his team into the World Series for the second straight year.

On the surface, therefore, Howard could very well be the MVP because of his team’s success in both regular and post-season games.

Luckily for Pujols, MVP voting by members of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA) does not consider post-season accomplishments.

BBWAA ballots, which are mailed to members for MVP voting, dictate the following with respect to how a player should be nominated for the award:

"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 one to ten. A tenth-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all ten places on your ballot.

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

Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration."

As votes are cast considering regular season accomplishments only, a huge advantage is given to Pujols.

MVP votes are cast using what is called a positional voting system. Each writer votes for ten players, ranking each player from 1 to 10. The player ranked first on a ballot is assigned 14 points, the player ranked second is assigned 9 points, on down to the player ranked 10th, who receives one point.

Head-to-head, Pujols led Howard in home runs, 47 to 45, while Howard led in RBIs, 141 to 135. These key statistics place both players in a virtual dead heat in their race for the MVP. Pujols pulls far ahead and away from Howard, however, in another fundamental, yet key category --- batting average.

Albert hit an electrifying .327 for third place overall in the National League, while Howard hit a more modest .279, a respectable, yet ordinary, average. Albert’s hitting accomplishments were also achieved in 48 less at-bats than Howard.

Given that each player led their own team to the top of their respective divisions, individual statistics are all that are left. As such, Pujols will nudge Howard out of the way and win his third MVP, joining Stan and becoming the second Cardinals player to win three awards in a career.

1 comment:

  1. I sure hope we can get away from Batting average and RBI's as stats used to pick MVP's. Pujols was worth 8.4 Wins above a replacement player. Howard had a WAR of 4.8. Pujols with an astonishing 1.101 OPS. It isnt even close for Pujols as the MVP which you stated, but Ryan Howard should in no way be 2nd. RBI's should not be a consideration, you don't control who gets on base in front of you. Guys on better offensive teams will naturally have more RBIs but I would argue that Adrian Gonzalez had a more productive offensive year than Ryan Howard. There are so many great stats out there to judge players abilities and we are stuck using stats from earlier ages of baseball.


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