Friday, October 31, 2008

Pedroia or Youkilis or Maybe Morneau

Ok you know I'm not picking that we got that out of the way.

Last year I wrote an argument for Mike Lowell as MVP knowing full well that he wasn’t going to win the award but I felt like he deserved recognition for having a great season. Well this year my insert-Red-Sox-player-name-here for MVP is back but this time it’s between two players that could (and one of them should) be named the leagues most valuable player.

To be honest I had a hard time deciding between Pedroia or Youk for MVP, so lets let their numbers and intagables slug it out and see if we can’t come up with an MVP.
Their numbers are pretty comparable, Youk had better power numbers this season but Petey led the league in more categories.

El Caballito - Dustin Pedroia

The 2007 Rookie of the Year improved in nearly every category this year and led the Red Sox back to the ALCS as one of the best hitters in all of baseball. His credentials are pretty impressive.

Petey led the AL in hits (213), doubles (54) and runs scored (118). He was also in the top five in the American League in seven other categories. He was second in batting average (.326), third in at bats (653), singles (140), runs created (123), times-on-base (270), sac files (9) and at bats per strikeout (12.6).

What the hell, for spits and whistles he was also in the top ten in four other categories. He was ninth in games played (157), seventh in extra base hits (73), his power/speed numbers were eight in the AL and he made just 474 outs, seventh in the AL.

It’s also pretty impressive that I witnessed 30,000+ people chanting ‘DON’T SUCK PEDROIA’ at a game early in the season last year and at the end of the season fans were chanting ‘MVP’. Oh yeah and he won the Rookie of the Year award last season.

Kevin Youkilis…Yooooooooook

Youk had his best season in the majors in 2008 hitting .312 while driving in 112 runs and hitting 29 homers and 43 doubles…all career highs. Youk played very well when he was moved to the clean up spot after the Manny deal and the combination of Youk and Bay proved to be a very good trade off for Manny.

Also you have to take into account the fact that Big Papi wasn’t Big Papi this year. If Papi is the hitter he usually is then I think Youk comes up with even more opportunities to drive in runs and come up with clutch hits. He’s also one of the best in the majors at making productive outs. Even when he doesn’t get on base he makes something happen. Youk tied with Pedroia for third in the AL with nine sac flies.

One of the key pieces to the Youkilis for MVP argument is the fact that he can seamlessly play two positions. That actually might tip the scales in favor of Yoooooooooook.

In 2007 Youkilis won a Gold Glove at first base making zero errors with 990 put outs and 90 assists in 135 games. He might not have been perfect this year, Youk made four errors at first in 125 games, but he also played 36 games at third base after Mike Lowell started battling injuries. He also played two games in right field. The guy gets it done, whatever the Sox need he gets it done.

Numbers are typically the linchpin of any MVP argument but Youk’s versatility has to account for something though. While the MVP award is voted on prior to the playoffs you have to think that with out his ability to play both first and third played a major role in the Sox getting to the post season.

When Youkilis moves to third you really don’t lose much defensively and it allowed the Red Sox to have Mark Kotsay or Sean Casey in the lineup. It also meant that the team didn’t have to move Jed Lowrie out of position. I’d say that Youk’s ability to play two positions definitely makes him one of the indispensable guys on the roster.

Both guys play the game the same way, which is one of the reasons fans react the way they do to those two. During the summer Tito put Pedroia in the clean up spot for a couple of games and when reporters asked him about it his attitude 'it’s about fucking time'…ahhh how can you not root for this guy.

This isn’t really a factor in the MVP race but I think it warrants mentioning. Both Pedroia and Youkilis are prime examples of the Red Sox move towards building the through the minor leagues, which is not something they were known for until very recently.

Now I’m not trying to say the Red Sox are gritty underdogs or anything like that, they’re not the Rays, I know. They do have the second or third highest payroll in the majors but they have started to build a stronger and stronger farm system under the current ownership.

Guys like Pedroia and Youkilis are prime examples of the Red Sox increased strength within the farm system. Up until recently the Red Sox would sell their prospects for big name players at the trade deadline. Youkilis was one of the first guys that started that trend for the Red Sox and it has continued with Petey, Jacoby Ellsbury and Jed Lowrie.

That was a little bit off topic but like I said I thought it warranted mentioning. The Sox hung onto Youk and now he’s a potential MVP and they promoted Pedroia and he responded by winning the RoY and now is in the hunt for MVP.

There is no doubt that both Youk and Pedroia had their best seasons in the majors in 2008 but it’s hard to determine which guy was more valuable to the team. Lets look at a straight up numbers comparison.

Pedroia – 157 G – 653 AB – 118 R – 213 H – 54 2b – 17 HR – 83 RBI – 20 SB – 50 BB – 52 K - .326 BA - .376 OBP

Youkilis – 145 G – 538 AB – 91 R – 168 H – 43 2b – 29 HR – 115 RBI – 3 SB - 62 BB – 108 K - .312 BA - .390 OBP

Neither guy has run away MVP numbers like A-Rod did last season but compared to the other favorite Justin Morneau they are certainly competitive. A.K.A here come the token Justin Morneau comments so I can pretend that I’m not a total homer…no worries I know I am.

Morneau – 163 G – 623 AB – 97 R – 187 H – 47 2b – 23 HR – 129 RBI – 0 SB – 76 BB – 85K - .300 BA - .376 OBP

Also in fairness to Morneau I’ll add this…He was tops in the league in games played, he played in all 163 of the Twins games, which is pretty f’n valuable, he was fifth in the AL in plate appearances (712), fifth in hits, seventh in total bases (311), fifth in doubles, second in RBI, second in sac flies (10) and first in intentional walks.

The intentional walks stat stands out because that shows how much other teams respect his abilities. He also led the league in RBI on an ok team, which again reaffirms his value.

I don’t think it would be any kind of outrage if Morneau were to win the MVP, clearly he’s got the numbers to back up the argument, but I don’t think his 2008 season was remarkably better than either Pedroia or Youkilis.

Power numbers are often the first thing that gets mentioned when you’re talking about the MVP award. Most people go straight to home runs and RBI as their first indicators of who should be MVP. There’s no doubt Youk had better power numbers than Petey but we’re not talking about a guy that only hit three homers and drove in 45 runs.

As a number two hitter Pedroia drove in 83 runs and had 17 home runs, compared to 29 from Youk and 23 from Morneau. In my humble opinion Pedroia’s all around excellence stands above everything else.

Morneau and Youk were better at driving in runs and had better power numbers but they are expected to when they hit where they do in the lineup. With Pedroia you got even more than you bargained for with the way he handled his bat hitting for both average and power, his defense and his ability to carry the team as a second year player.

I don’t think the Sox would have been nearly as good without Kevin Youkilis and Justin Morneau is definitely one of the best players in the Major Leagues, but in my opinion Dustin Pedroia gets the nod for MVP.

But I won’t be too upset if Youk wins it either. And after all that typing Justin Morneau will probably be the one that actually gets the award. Since there was no run away candidate, as a baseball fan, that wouldn’t be so bad either.

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