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Is Hamels the Real MVP?

Phinally, the Phillies are champions. Finally, the city of Philadelphia has the title that its residents have clamored about for 25 years. Finally, after an excruciating 40-hour break, Phillies fans could rejoice in one final spirited comeback, sparked both by unexpected hitting stars -- Geoff Jenkins, Pedro Feliz and Jayson Werth, anyone? -- and a truly spectacular defensive play by second baseman Chase Utley, a heady hold on a pivot that set himself up for one of the easiest plays at the plate Carlos Ruiz has had all year, despite the fact that it was the most pivotal.

In fact, that precise defensive play is a perfect place to start a different piece of discourse: a debate over who the Phillies World Series MVP should have been.

Starting pitcher Cole Hamels won the honor, and he's certainly a deserving recipient. He set the tone for the series with a dominant performance in a Game 1 win. He was in line to win clinching Game 5 before the weather famously intervened, allowed the Rays to tie the game in the bottom of the sixth and chase Utley over a two-day rain delay.

Still, that delay is significant. Despite Hamels' dominance when pitching, he finished the World Series at 1-0. He allowed two runs in Game 5, just as he did in Game 1, finishing the series with a 2.77 ERA with an even more impressive .217 opponents batting average.

Those numbers certainly show how his impact was disproportionate to his 1-0 record. Yet if Hamels is going to be named MVP based on numbers beneath the outer surface, why not consider the case of other less obvious candidates.

Primary among them, in my view, is the man who was at the center of the aforementioned piece of defensive brilliance: second baseman Chase Utley.

If MVPs were culled purely from batting average, Utley wouldn't have a chance (and Werth, at a stunning .444, would be your MVP for that matter). The steady-slugging Californian dipped to a slumptastic .167 by the end of the series. But that isolated stat belies how often he really had an offensive impact on the game. Utley had a much more respectable .375 on base percentage, and finished with a .500 slugging average. He scored two of Philadelphia's runs in Game 4, extending the inning in which Ryan Howard hit a huge three-run homer with a long, drawn-out walk. He had two RBI in Saturday's Game 4 marathon to put the Phillies out in front, and Utley was the man who really got Philly's offense rolling in Game 1, accounting for two of the three Phillies' runs with his two-run dinger.

And all those considerations are only offensive, ignoring Utley's spectacular defense. While Tampa Bay second baseman Akinori Iwamura -- a gold-glove caliber double-play turning machine in the regular season -- fell prey to shaky hands or jumps for liners that came up just short all series, Utley was positively flawless. In Game 5 alone, Utley turned a pivotal one-man defensive play in the fifth inning to help Hamels escape from one jam, then pulled off the epic play at the plate that set up a championship-winning run for Philadelphia.

So, is Utley the real MVP? Maybe not. After all, similar cases could be made for Brad Lidge (he finished a perfect 46-for-46 in saves this season, 3-for-3 in the World Series) and Ryan Madson, who was dominant as a set-up man. Or Jayson Werth, the first potential hitting hero Wednesday night, could have been a surprise pick with his gaudy average and ability to put pressure on Rays pitchers, making them pay for trying to give him pitches to hit in strike out attempts between the premium bats of Jimmy Rollins and Utley.

When you look at the full board of candidates, maybe Hamels is the most logical pick. The important thing is that he isn't the only possible MVP choice, and that's a true testament to just how balanced this Phillies team was throughout the World Series.

By Cameron Smith  |  October 30, 2008; 8:35 AM ET
Categories:  Phillies , Rays  
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Next: Your Turn, D.C. (Updated and Expanded)


Utley's fifth inning double play was nothing short of amazing, considering the conditions. He'd be a deserving MVP, but except for Ozzie Smith, how many defensive giants with mediocre bats are in the Hall of Fame? Not many. We like offense.

By the way, I'm waiting for the "We Were All Wrong" post by the Baseball Insider contributors. You all expected the Rays to win, and win big. You all said that except for Hamels the Phillies had no pitching. Ha.

Posted by: chrisduckworth | October 30, 2008 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Cameron Smith, you should really just stop writing.

You lost all credibility when you couldn't even get the correct batting order for the bottom of the 6th. So, anything you have to say holds no weight.

Have you acknowledged your blunder yesterday?

Posted by: rdy4all2000 | October 30, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

These guys should all just quit. Every member of the staff picked the Rays and some suggested a Rays sweep! HA!
This either shows a complete lack of baseball knowledge and insight, or shows a biased opinion and a hatred of the Phillies. Either way it is garbage.
Keep drinking that kool-aid, fellas.

Posted by: PhilliesPhan | October 30, 2008 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Cameron, you can still write. We give you permission.

For all the hype about the Rays and small ball, the Rays more or less stopped winning when they stopped hitting the ball out. Sometime around the 7th inning of Game 5 of the ALCS. It took a lights out night by Garza and Price, and a trapeze act by Shields for their 2 wins after that. And small ball can only pay off when you make fewer mistakes, too. Just too many runs given away through base running mistakes and sloppy fielding.

Phillies had some problems in the field but made the big plays. None bigger than Utley's, so he'd be a good choice.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | October 30, 2008 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Before you Post guys start worrying about who the MVP should be, why don't you try figuring out who scored the winning run last night? In this morning's paper, Sheinin and the boxscore tell me it was Eric Bruntlett, but Boswell tells me it was Pat Burrell. Like jury votes, I always thought news in the paper had to be unanimous in order to count. But I guess not. Not in this new era of journalism anyway.

Posted by: RayKingsGutFeeling | October 30, 2008 12:54 PM | Report abuse

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