Before you read this ensuing article, you should know a couple of things. Firstly, I will admit that I am an Arizona Diamondbacks fan. But secondly, you should also know that I am writing this as a baseball fan, not a disgruntled Diamondbacks fan. I have had the same core view on MVP in the never-ending controversy of “what does value mean” for as long as I can remember. So without any further delay, here is why Paul Goldschmidt should have won the NL MVP award over Andrew McCutchen.
Silver Slugger. Gold Glove. Hank Aaron Award for best offensive player in the entire National League. League leader in home runs, RBI, slugging percentage, on base plus slugging, extra base hits, total bases, and numerous sabermetric stats. Sounds like an MVP, right? Actually those are just some of the accolades Paul Goldschmidt accumulated over the 2013 season. This amounted to a total of zero 1st-place MVP votes. Zero.
Goldschmidt did it all at the plate this year. Besides for leading the league in the categories above, he hit .302/.401/.551/.952 with 36 home runs and 125 RBI. He even led all 1B in stolen bases with 15. Maybe his shortcomings came from not being a clutch hitter? Think again. He led the league in go-ahead RBI with 37, game-winning RBI with 19, go-ahead home runs with 20 (4 more than any other player), home runs after the 8th inning with 7, and walk-off home runs with 3. And for the new-age statisticians, he was 3rd in the league this year in WAR, wins-above-replacement, with 7.1, and led the league in win-probability-added with 6.91.
Okay, maybe his deficiencies are in the field. Nope, try again. He trailed only C Russell Martin and 1B Todd Helton in fielding percentage with a stellar .997. And Helton played 50 fewer games that Goldschmidt. This was rewarded with his first career Gold Glove award.
So how could a player of this caliber not receive a single 1st-place MVP vote, let alone win the MVP award? In short; because his teammates weren’t as good as Andrew McCutchen’s. As illogical as that seems, it’s basically true. The Pirates making the playoffs and the Diamondbacks missing the playoffs is the reason why McCutchen won and Goldschmidt lost.
Team record plays a major role in determining the MVP. The debate over what defines value has been around for decades, and has been argued yearly, including last year in the AL when Mike Trout had arguably a better statistical year than Miguel Cabrera, but Cabrera’s team made it into the playoffs. Should team record play a part in determining the MVP? Yes. But should it to the extent it does now? Plain and simple, no. In 2011, a player with a batting line of .289/.369/.529/.898 with 31 homeruns and just 88 RBI came in 4th place in the NL MVP ballot. Seems like a stretch to call this player an MVP, right? Well that player was former Diamondbacks RF Justin Upton. So why did he get a first place vote and come in 4th overall with a solid but undoubtedly non-MVP-caliber statistical year? Because the Diamondbacks made the playoffs.
McCutchen didn’t even really “lead” the Pirates to the playoffs. His line of .317/.404/ .508/.911 with 21 home runs and 84 RBI is undoubtedly impressive, but it didn’t carry the team. The pitching did. The Pirates were 3rd in the MLB in team ERA, 2nd in opposing batting average, and 2nd in saves. Whereas the Diamondbacks were near the bottom of the league in those respective categories. So Goldschmidt is less valuable because Trevor Cahill and JJ Putz are on the mound instead of Francisco Liriano and Jason Grilli?
If the Diamondbacks had blown as many saves, 20, as the Cardinals, only 13th most in MLB, instead of 29, tied for 1st, they’d make the playoffs. And that probably vaults Goldschmidt into 1st place for MVP. If the Diamondbacks Take David Hernandez & JJ Putz out of 8th & 9th inning and put in Trevor Rosenthal & Edward Mujica, the MLB is saying that’s the difference between Goldschmidt being MVP or not? That’s not even putting Heath Bell’s statistics into account.
I know the Pirates making the playoffs for the first time since 1992 is a nice story and all, but that should bear absolutely no impact on the current MVP race. Crediting a player now for the shortcomings of players that played before McCutchen was even drafted would be absurd.
I may be a Diamondbacks fan but I am presenting only facts. At the end of the day, should team record impact the choice for MVP? Sure. But should the shortcomings of a player’s teammates discredit that player’s statistics, even if they are superior to his competitor? No. But this is just part of the never-ending debate of what value is. So what is value? You decide, because the Baseball Writers Association of America sure doesn’t know.