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MVPs: Howard & K-Rod, Not Pujols & Pedroia

Thirty years ago, I created the statistic Total Average. Now I'm almost ashamed to have been one of the original baseball geeks. Where did we go wrong?

This week, Albert Pujols won the NL MVP Award. Why? Mostly because he had a better OPS and VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) than Ryan Howard. Say what? Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Phils' first baseman had 48 homers and 146 RBI to Pujols' 37 homers and 116 RBI.

Earth to my baseball writing buddies: We all love the new numbers, but lets not worship false idols. When I published my Total Average numbers, I'd always emphasize that while stats were wonderful, common sense was better. When stats WILDLY contradict common sense, always doubts the stats. In the case of the goofy gap between Pujols' VORP of 96.8 and Howard's 35.3, my reaction is "Time to revisit VORP. If it can be this wrong, it's not as good as I tought it was."

It's said that, to a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a modern baseball writer, unfortunately, reality often looks like an excuse to apply statistics and then torque our opinions to fit them.

All of the encompassing offensive stats __and there's little difference between Total Average, Runs Created, OPS and others__ run the risk of overvaluing walks and singles while undervaluing the bases-clearly game-changing power of extra base hits. So, sometimes, you have to underline the obvious; for example, a first baseman with 146 RBI is "more valuable," especially when he plays on a first-place team, than a first baseman (Pujols) with 116 RBI on a fourth-place team.

Don't analyze beyond that. True, Howard can't field (19 errors). And Pujols outhit him by .357 to .251. Howard strikes out a ton while Pujols walks constantly. But none of it outweighs Howard's RBI total, built on his .320 average with runners in scoring position. For what it's worth, Howard wasn't even in the top half dozen in baseball in runners-on-base when he came to the plate. His 146 RBI wasn't a fluke. He's Mr. Multi-Run Homer.

Ironically, Pujols complained two years ago when Howard won MVP ahead of him even though their team's positions in the standings were the opposite of this year. Maybe they should just meet quietly this winter and exchange MVP trophies. Who'd know?

As for Pedroia, I'd pick him over his main competitors --Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer of the Twins. Pedroia and Mauer won gold gloves at valuable defensive positions __second base and catcher. Morneau is just a first baseman. Besides, Pedroia's Red Sox made the playoffs, the Twins didn't.

But in 30 years, nobody is going to remember anything Pedroia did this year. Howewver, Francisco Rodriguez saved 62 games for the first-place Angels may still be the MLB record. I know this argument is hopeless. The retort that almost always wins the debate is: "Relievers have their own award." They are not "players," as in MV"P". However, convention also holds that, if the best reliever's season utterly dominates the best season by any player, as Dennis Eckersley's did in '92, then he's the long-shot MVP.

I won't fuss about Pedroia over K-Rod. But Pujols over Howard is nuts. At least Ryan got three homers in the World Series and a parade.

By Thomas Boswell  |  November 18, 2008; 5:48 PM ET
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Man, this might be the most embarrassing thing you've written in ages.

A little piece of Sheinin probably died when he read this.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | November 18, 2008 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Good stuff. I can't believe that some people are saying that Pujols is the "obvious" choice for MVP, the "hands-down" winner. The power numbers alone put Howard on top. If you add in defense and batting average, then perhaps it gets closer. But then add in the Phillies' first-place finish and the Cardinals' fourth-place finish . . . and the answer is clear - Howard deserved the MVP.

Posted by: chrisduckworth | November 18, 2008 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Boz, please retire. Everything you say is wrong. If you retire, the Post will be forced to hire someone else. Sorry to be rude, but you are such an awful, horrible embarrassment. If Harry Caray had lived to see his skills as a broadcaster deteriorate for another 20 years, he might have fallen as far as you. Please, it's time to move on to your golden years. Please.

Posted by: sbiel2 | November 18, 2008 8:41 PM | Report abuse

I love the "if you add in defense and batting average", as if they're both throwaways.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | November 18, 2008 8:47 PM | Report abuse

First, thanks for contributing to the blog!!!! Second, thanks for creating Total Average thirty years ago. (Ithought it was new in 1982 - 26 years ago - but whatever. It was a good contribution to modern baseball analysis. Third, good argument on Ryan Howard. I do believe Pujols is a better player, but your argument is that Howard was more valuble this year. It's a compelling argument. Keep writing! These Johnny Come Lately's have no concept of how important you have been to the return of baseball to the region. Most of all thanks for that.
I mean really. Thank you!

Posted by: natbisquit | November 18, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse

SOCH, whats up with the personal attacks? Are you looking to create a new blog? Another outlet for you to reference yourself on the web? Wow.

How is an MVP defined? Best player in the league or the player that contributes the greatest to a teams success? What is a valuable player?

Howard's July-Sept stats, which coincided with the Phillies overtaking the Mets, were MVP worthy. Pujols' numbers stayed consistently unbelievable year long while the Cardinals wilted in August & September.

I would have voted for Pujols. I think the overall consistency of superlative play is the discerning factor. Plus, you can't situationally pitch Pujols. He hits everybody at any point in the game. But Howard's presence can be diminished with a situational lefty. He may have helped his team win, but Howard's not the best overall player.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | November 18, 2008 10:51 PM | Report abuse's a way to address Howard's lack of credentials. Note, no baseless attacks:

Campbell gets paid too, without selling t-shirts.

Posted by: LosDoceOcho | November 19, 2008 12:08 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Boswell,

Thank you for all your contributions to baseball and the coverage of baseball throughout the years. I have no reason to doubt your passion for the game, but I think you are off base in the Pujols/Howard debate.

Ryan Howard certainly has compiled some amazing HR and RBI totals in his career, and 48/146 are very impressive, on the surface perhaps moreso than the 37/116 put up by Albert Pujols.

The difference in their value is seen in the cost to achieve those "production" numbers. In achieving his 48 HR and 146 RBI, Howard made 475 outs. Pujols only made 364 outs. There is tremendous value in those 111 extra outs that the Cardinals had to work with relative to Howard's Phillies.


Eric Stephen

Posted by: ericstephen | November 19, 2008 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Francisco Rodriguez deserves it because of saves? With 69 chances, he had 18 more save opportunities than any other pitcher in the majors. #2 was Jose Valverde. Valverde had 44 saves, which is exactly 18 less than K-Rod.

K-Rod had 22 more save chances than Brian Wilson, but only 21 more saves than him.

K-Rod's season wasn't anything remarkable, it was a very good season by a closer with a historically high number of chances. If Brad Lidge or Mariano Rivera had the same number of chances, they would have had more saves.

Posted by: CharlieF | November 19, 2008 9:59 AM | Report abuse

There is just no way that Ryan Howard had a better year than Albert Pujols. Walks and singles still matter.

Posted by: kostpofrig | November 19, 2008 10:38 AM | Report abuse

time to revisit why the post is still giving you a pay check boz man. you say lets throw out the statistical evidence, then use two stats, RBIs and HRs, as the basis of your whole argument. thats awful.

when you add up the total value pujols' contributed to his team, it was unmistakably more significant than the value howard added to his team's. in fact, utely hamels and rollins probably added more value to the phillies than howard.

the 'cult of VORP' still pales in comparison to the 'cult of RBI' of which you seem to be an unabashed card carrying member. its true boz, you need to retire.

Posted by: kendynamo | November 19, 2008 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Wow, this is amazing.

So Howard's raw RBI total overshadows the fact that Pujols was better IN EVERY POSSIBLE WAY? Howard did, in fact, do a fantastic job of driving in runners. But so did Pujols -- he just came up with 29 fewer runners on second and 19 fewer runners on third than Howard did. So the fact that Howard had many more RBI opportunities and drove in runners on base 2% (two percent!) more often than Pujols is enough to overshadow the fact that Pujols had one of the 10-15 best offensive seasons of all time while Howard didn't have one of the 10-15 best offensive seasons in the 2008 National League?

The argument against K-Rod isn't that "relievers have their own award" or anything at all like that. If a relief pitcher, or any pitcher, provided more value than any other player in the league, he's the MVP. The argument against K-Rod is more like this: K-Rod was, at best, the fourth-best closer in the American League (Nathan, Rivera and Soria were all WORLDS better), and probably not one of the top ten relief pitchers in the league. If you're going to give it to a guy who appeared in about 5% of his team's innings, it should probably be the BEST such guy in the league, no? To give him the MVP is to reward him for playing on a team that happened to have a lot of narrow leads for him to "save." That's the ONLY thing he has going for him.


Posted by: BillP2 | November 19, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Bos -
You still write better than almost everyone covering the game, but you've missed the boat here, and you don't have to argue advanced SABR to get there.

For Howard v. Pujols, you talk about overvaluing walks and singles. Fine. Look at slugging percentage. Pujols slugged .653. Howard slugged .543 -- 110 points, kinda significant. And even if you don't discount RBIs as team-dependent, give the same RBI chances to Pujols with his SLG and he likely beats Howard's total. And yes, defense does matter, even at 1B.

But at least that one's defensible. K-Rod? C'mon. Saves are the least credible stat in the game. They're strictly a function of manager usage. Pitch one inning, hold a three-run lead and presto. Give any elite closer those chances -- Papelbon and Rivera had better raw stats, just to name two -- and they set the record. Remember that K-Rod also blew 7 chances, compared to Mo's 39-1 record and Papelbon's 41-5.

Posted by: sotapop | November 19, 2008 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Please help me if my feeble stats infested logic is wrong, but is Pujols' .339 batting average with RISP better than Howard's .320?

Also, there's a reason NO ONE else uses Total Average; it's worthless. But thanks for trying.

Posted by: WillClark4HOF | November 19, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Many folks have already commented similarly, but I feel I have to add to the fire. You have truly missed the boat on your MVP selections, by miles.

The arguments made by so many for Pujols over Howard are well stated - overall contribution vice the illusory value comprised solely of HR and RBI. I may have missed this, but consider Howard's superb September in this context - he was horrible for the first couple months of the season. If he'd been even average, the Phils would have won the NL East in a walk. That bad performance has to count against him.

As for Rodriguez, Jonah Keri sums it up nicely - "Jerome Holtzman is shedding a tear from the afterlife at the monster he created." With his blown saves, good but far from the best ERA, and significantly more base runners allowed, K-Rod wasn't really one of the top four relievers in the AL this year (see Rivera, Papelbon, Nathan, and Soria for a starting point). To submit the (perhaps) fifth best relief pitcher in the league as the overall most valuable player simply because of Holtzman's Frankenstein monster creation of "saves" as anything meaningful is, in a word, preposterous.

Posted by: tiller88 | November 19, 2008 12:55 PM | Report abuse

This post makes me sad.

Posted by: Offense-offensive | November 19, 2008 1:18 PM | Report abuse

I just wanted to lend my voice to those noting that this post makes me sad. Bos, I'd be happy to explain to you just where you went wrong here. But as usual, Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star had done so better than I could possibly hope to:

Posted by: Fozzie1 | November 19, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Just got here through Neyer, so you can guess which side of the argument I fall on. I will just ask Mr. Boswell this: if the Phillies could have swapped Howard for Pujols straight up, do you think they would have? Do you think that that would make them a (much) better team?

I think you would be in serious denial if you answered no to either of those questions. So again, how was Howard more valuable than Pujols?

The K-Rod thing is so ridiculous it isn't even worth commenting on.

Posted by: dtro | November 19, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Wrong on both counts. The arguments for both Rodriguez and Howard are based on two of the most overrated stats in baseball.

RBIs are both a measure of a players ability to hit AND those in front of him. To say Pujols doesn't deserve the MVP because of a lower RBI total is to penalize him for being in a light hitting lineup. Howard hit behing a much better group of players which is also why he was in the world series. End of season success does not matter, objectively, when determining MVP. Without Pujols, the Cardinals become a top 5 draft pick team. Oh, and defense is extremely important. Give me Pujols any day of the week.

K-Rod was the benificiary of a team built to win low scoring, close games. His ERA and blown save numbers weren't his best (in fact a few AL closers had better) and he wasn't capable of throwing more than one inning. Again, stats lie.

Posted by: feyd991 | November 19, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Jonah Keri's "Shedding a Tear for Boz" is worth the read too--

Posted by: sbiel2 | November 19, 2008 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Boz, I love your writing, but you're completely off base here.

As a number of other posters have outlined, RBI and Saves are completely situational statistics. They depend so much on the teammates around a player that they aren't good measures of a player's ability or his value to a team. Do you really think that Pujols, hitting behind Rollins and Ultey, wouldn't have had many more RBI?

Saves are an even more worthless stat to track.

Posted by: SilentAlarm | November 19, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse

and please, let's not forget that Howard plays in a little-league park. Imagine what Pujols' numbers would be if he could hit in that ballpark 81 times a year!

Posted by: erocks33 | November 19, 2008 2:48 PM | Report abuse

I've got to admit, the argument in this article simply does not hold water. First, look at it subjectively: if you put Howard on the Cardinals and Pujols on the Philles, how would each team have fared? My gut says the Phils might have won 100 games. That would indicate Pujols is more 'valuable' to me. Now on to objectively. Howard posted a .339 OBP. That's making a lot of outs. Outs are bad. Converseley, Pujols posted a .462 OBP. Not even close. Was Howard really that 'valuable' to the Phillies? How about their bullpen doing an about face and posting a 3.22 ERA (vs. 4.50 in '07). That certainly helped the team's fortunes. Or Chase Utley hitting .292/.380/.535 while playing Gold Glove quality defense? Howard wasn't even the MVP of his own team. And Boz believes in the power of the almighty extra base hit - Howard popped 78 XBH (same as Utley) to Pujols' 81. And Pujols hit .339 with RISP, which when I last checked is better than .320. This was an absolute no-brainer.

Posted by: ChrisDTX | November 19, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Fair enough. Pedroia over Morneau. But you don't establish why you'd pick Pedroia over Mauer.

It can't just be the playoffs. Pedroia has talent all around him. Going into the season, could you say the same for Mauer? Still, the Twins came within one game of making the playoffs.

If common sense - not batting titles - is the stat you're touting, what do you make of the fact that Mauer mentored a very young and inexperienced staff? Or that his bat created opportunities for others up and down the lineup? The Red Sox order doesn't need Pedroia to make them better. Denard Span and Alexei Casilla, on the other hand, needed Mauer.


As for Pedroia, I'd pick him over his main competitors --Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer of the Twins. Pedroia and Mauer won gold gloves at valuable defensive positions __second base and catcher. Morneau is just a first baseman.

Posted by: JohninMpls | November 19, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse

I'm hoping that everyone completely missed the point here. This article was intended to be a joke, correct? It had to be. I'm just surprised it made no mention of the molten-hot Carlos Delgado!

Posted by: natronemeans96 | November 19, 2008 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Mauer's been hosed in the MVP voting twice ('06 and '08). Oh well, I guess he's got those shiny batting titles to compensate.

Posted by: ChrisDTX | November 19, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Here's to hoping this is Bos' attempt to resurrect Otherwise, I am baffled.

Posted by: bv2112 | November 19, 2008 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Boz did exactly what this blog needs - wrote a post that provoked a discussion. He's wrong - as JiM says, Mauer / Pedrioa is a better second guess than K-Rod. I'll admit I expected K-Rod to win due to the splits on the teams of the guys who ended up in the top 4 and the plausible arguments you could make for all of the position players. You could even make a good case for Sizemore, in the Cal / Andre Dawson sense. But I'm glad there's multiple posts here for once.

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | November 19, 2008 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Truly an embarrassing article from one of the most "respected" baseball writers in the country. It is laughingly bad, and Joe Posnanski wrote a terrific rebuttal to it on his blog. I really don't know what's worse: Howard for MVP or K-Rod for MVP.

I'm going with K-Rod. Every reasonable fan knows saves are a pretty useless stat. And if you look closely at better stats among closers, K-Rod was the fourth best in the league. In the AL.

Posted by: StringerBell | November 19, 2008 5:05 PM | Report abuse

"Boz did exactly what this blog needs - wrote a post that provoked a discussion"

Sadly, that's what passes for journalism. Hey, let's create a controversy!

I'm eagerly awaiting Steinberg breaking down the number of hits and comments this has.

I'll be back. I'm going to go stare at my navel now.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | November 19, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Boswell here. If you uncritically accept what VORP says, then you need to conclude that Pujols was 2.74 times more valuable than Ryan Howard this year (taking Pujols' VORP divided by Howard's). That's insane. In other words, suppose that right now you have 2.73 Ryan Howards in your lineup. According to VORP, you should trade me these 2.73 Howards to get my 1 Pujols in exchange. If you really would do that trade, you're a sucker. And if you woudn't do the trade, then you're agreeing with Boswell: when VORP varies with commonsense, go with commonsense.

Posted by: Larko | November 19, 2008 6:13 PM | Report abuse

ok Larko, lets say VORP is completely effed up. throw the VORP totals out the window. Boz is still saying Howard was more valuable than Pujols. THAT flies in the face of common sense. if you're a GM and you wouldn't trade last year's howard for last year's pujols, straight up, then you haven't a clue, and neither does boz.

Posted by: kendynamo | November 19, 2008 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Suppose that Pujols in 2008 had played for the St. Louis Cadavers: a team of 24 dead bodies and one live person, Pujols. Dead bodies are really bad at baseball, and so the team goes 0-162. On the other hand, Pujols is just as good as in real life, and so puts up all the exact same stats (OBP, SLUG, etc.), except for RBIs: he has just 37 RBIs, corresponding to his 37 HRs, since none of the dead people are on base when he bats.

So, St. Louis goes 0-162, Pujols has hardly any RBIs (just 37), but otherwise he's exactly like he is in real life. Would you still vote for Pujols for MVP over Howard?

If you would vote for Pujols even then, you're crazy. The Cadavers went 0-162 with Pujols, and would go 0-162 without him. He makes no difference to their wins, and so isn't valuable to them. If you wouldn't vote for Pujols, then you're granting that wins and RBIs matter to an MVP vote after all. You might disagree with Boswell on the exact amount they matter, but that's just detail.

Posted by: Larko | November 19, 2008 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I think this is a problem of semantics. It seems to me that if the name of the award were "Best Ballplayer" as opposed to "Most Valuable Player," we'd all agree on Pujols. Anyone who argues otherwise is looking within the context of a team (see Lark's corpse-ridden, silly analogy). I think that's a flawed way to look at it, because it turns the discussion into a Phillies versus Cards one, rather than a Pujols versus Howard or any other player. The way I'd look at it is, as referenced several times in the comments, "which player would add the most value to an average team?" That player is Pujols.

Posted by: bv2112 | November 19, 2008 7:48 PM | Report abuse

By analogy: if the name of the award were "Best Mustahce" instead of "Most Valuable Player," then we would all agree Sal Fasaon should win.

Unfortunately, it's not Best Mustache or Best Player, it's Most Valuable Player. So, unfortunately, people will have to vote on the basis of value, instead of something else.

Posted by: Larko | November 19, 2008 8:01 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, typo: Sal Fasano. He's the guy with the best mustache.

Posted by: Larko | November 19, 2008 8:02 PM | Report abuse

Larko's analogy is more than just silly. But, yeah, I'd still vote for him. His lack of RBI has nothing to do with his own value--just that none of the other players got on base for him. His value is exactly the same as it would be on any other team, and greater than anyone else in the league.

But why even go there? This is one of the most obvious no-brainers in the history of the MVP Award. Not only did he have a historically great season, but he played for a bad team that he made a good one. They contended for the wildcard for most of the season, and if they're in the West, they win it by two games. He had one of the best offensive seasons in history and is the best defensive 1B in the game. Howard was a slightly-better-than-average-hitting and poor-fielding 1B who had a whole bunch of chances with runners in scoring position. Even if you believe crazy things like the MVP has to come from a contending team, this is one pick that EVERYONE should be able to agree on.

Posted by: BillP2 | November 19, 2008 8:17 PM | Report abuse

The irony is that the VORP numbers actually understate the difference between Pujols and Howard. VORP only measures offense relative to position. The huge defensive advantage that Pujols has over Howard isn't in there. It's really hard for me to believe that anybody who actually watched Pujols and Howard play this year would think that Howard was more valuable. Pujols does so many things well, while Howard is totally one dimensional. Howard was probably only the 5th most valuable Phillie, behind Utley, Rollins, Lidge, and Myers (The gap between Rollins, Lidge, Hamels, and Howard is much smaller than the gap between Utley and those four, so any order of those four can be justified; I would put Howard 5th but other reasonable people would put him higher) . People have to stop focusing on nonsensical stats like RBI and start paying attention to what players actually do during games. RBIs make for great exclamation points in newspaper stories, but they tell you very little about an individual player's overall performance. RBIs don't even actually happen; they are just scoring decisions - they aren't like singles, doubles, triples, stolen bases, putouts, etc - those things actually happen Anybody who thinks Howard was the most valuable player in the NL this year should be embarrassed about their total lack of knowledge about baseball, not to mention their utter lack of common sense.

Posted by: gregandrew | November 20, 2008 1:29 AM | Report abuse

Wow. That's frighteningly wrongheaded and utterly incoherent ... so completely off-base that I have to conclude that some alien consciousness is now inhabiting the body of the baseball writer I once respected so much.

Anyway, Alien-who-apparently-controls-Boswell's-mind, I won't repeat the comments that reasonable readers have been making about both of your MVP choices and the "reasoning" that led to them. I agree with them, but there's no point in rehashing those cogent arguments here. Instead, I want to focus on the obvious fact that your contributions to the Post on the topic of baseball have, for some time, been WILDLY at variance with anything resembling human-like patterns of thought. When that happens, always doubt the human origin of the contribution.

On that basis, I call upon you to desist in your illegitimate occupation of the mind of our longtime friend Tom Boswell. Leave him and allow his own mind, once again, to form his own human thoughts. You've held him captive long enough, alien usurper. If you knew anything at all about baseball, you'd have known that your masquerade could not remain undetected for long. The real Tom Boswell could never consider writing such utterly thoughtless and embarrassing drivel had he volitional control of his own typing fingers. Unlike you, alien imposter, the real Tom Boswell knows baseball and fully recognizes the failings of superficial and relatively unimportant stats like 'runs batted in' and 'saves'. He knows that they're both extremely poor measures of individual accomplishment because they rely on so many factors that are not under the control of the player to which they're credited. You obviously don't have the first hint of understanding about these things, and that ignorance has undone you; your ignorance has finally allowed your wrongful occupation of Tom Boswell's body to be detected.

So, on the behalf of human baseball fans everywhere, and on the behalf of the respected baseball writer whose mind you have imprisoned, I command you: Depart from him! Depart from him now and return his body to his own sure and competent control. Depart from him, alien beast, and begone!

Posted by: Tom_P | November 20, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

larko - i actually like that analogy but i dont think it changes anything. pujols on a 0-162 team of awful, awful players would still have a better year than howard on a world champion team (full of players who are also more valuable than him i would add).

more importantly, you'd still trade that pujols on a awful team for the howard on a great team. that makes pujols more valuable. to me. youve obviously convinced yourself otherwise but i would guess that has more to do with loyalty to boswell than to any kind of reasonable argument you could think of.

Posted by: kendynamo | November 20, 2008 10:49 AM | Report abuse

It's as simple as this: if you subtract Pujols from the Cards lineup, how good would that team be? Probably a 70 win club. If you subtract Howard from the Phillies, they still contend for a playoff spot (Utley, Rollins, Burrell, Victorino, Hamels, Lidge, Madson, Myers etc. could get it done). Therefore Pujols is the Most Valuable Player. I wouldn't have even had Howard in the top 10.

Posted by: ChrisDTX | November 20, 2008 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Gosh, it would seem that there are very strong feelings about the application of stats out there, judging from the ad hominem nature of some comments (or maybe that's just the Internet talking). I don't tend to delve into stats like OPS or VORP myself so I don't have an opinion there, but I will say that I've been a fan of Boz' writing for some time. From a literary standpoint, there is definitely value added there, IMO, even if the prose is not always larded with the latest and greatest stats. ;-) I've also appreciated his reasoned approach and respect for the humanity of those about whom he writes. Sometimes in this age of Internet discourse and number-crunching we can lose track of the fact that those are fellow human beings on the playing field or at the keyboard.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | November 20, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

natsfan1- haven't read enough Boswell to have an opinion on his writing in general (lots of people I respect say he's great), but there's nothing even remotely "reasoned" about this article. See, for instance, where he lauds Howard for his .320 average with RISP, ignoring the fact that Pujols hit .339 with RISP. Even by the most traditional stats there are, Pujols CRUSHES Howard, and about 35 pitchers in the AL CRUSH K-Rod. The problem is that he examines exactly one stat in either case -- RBI and saves. It's just about the least-reasoned thing I've ever seen.

Posted by: BillP2 | November 20, 2008 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, Uncle Teddy, I think Baseball Insider could post pics of a naked Trader Jim ingesting the blended-up writings of Bill James and it still wouldn't touch our Skins traffic.

Posted by: DanSteinberg1 | November 20, 2008 5:38 PM | Report abuse

Tom Boswell is a fine human being. I state that without any intent at patronization. But he is clearly wrong here. TG for the Internets where I can read a Joe Posnanski (and BTW, the posts in his blog are remarkably civil and informed; wish I could say the same for WaPo comments). Pujols was way ahead of Howard in most every category. Put Howard in STL and the Cards are out of it by June. Put Pujols in Philly (playing hurt, BTW) and Philly still wins.

Larko -- I like your persistence but you've got the losing argument here. The problem with your Cadavers analogy is that it confuses the issue. Sub the 1927 Babe Ruth for Pujols -- the point you made still stands, though in greater relief; you telling me you'd say the 2008 Howard was MORE VALUABLE than the 1927 Ruth?

Posted by: gbooksdc | November 20, 2008 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Here's what's so sad about this analysis. The brilliance of Total Average was that it recognized that positive offensive value does not exist in a vacuum: it must be considered *relative to the outs the batter used up.*

Let's accept for the moment that R and RBI are accurate measurements of value (even though they are in fact team-context sensitive). Howard has the edge here: his (R + RBI) /2 is 125.5, and Pujols is just 108. A 17.5 run edge is not to be sneezed at it, and if Boz weren't the inventor of TA you might understand how the logic might have stopped there.

But Howard made 477 outs and Pujols made 370 (for real, including outs on the bases and not counting ROE; the adjustment favors Howard). 107 freaking outs. Four games worth. An average bunch of 2008 NL teammates is going to score 18.1 runs given 107 extra outs to work with. Good teammates are going to do even better. And in fact, if you divide the above value figures by outs made and multiply by 27, Pujols has the edge, 7.88 to 7.10. That's big.

So even if you base your value argument solely on R and RBI (or just on RBI, where Pujols has the edge in RBI/Out, .315 to .306), Pujols was more valuable.

When you add in Pujols' defensive edge (18 runs according to Fielding Bible Plus / Minus, 40 according to Dave Pinto's PMR), it's not close. But you wouldn't have needed to go that far; all Boz needed to do here is take the standard, most cliched approach to MVP assessment (as he did) and add the single insight of the importance of cost in outs made. Which is just the TA formula.


Posted by: ericmvan | November 21, 2008 12:28 AM | Report abuse

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