I’ve been inspired by a thoughtful post at Hot Foot Blog to do my own analysis of the Mets team MVP in 2008. I’ll look at 3 stats: VORP, WPA, and WARP, which I think are useful for making an MVP ballot. To save time, I’ll only look at Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Jose Reyes, Johan Santana, and David Wright as candidates.
To start off, here are the important traditional stats for the fab 5:
Beltran: .284/.376/.500, 27 HR, 112 RBI, 25/28 SB
Delgado: .271/.353/.518, 38 HR, 115 RBI, 1/2 SB
Reyes: .297/.358/.475, 16 HR, 68 RBI, 56/71 SB
Santana: 2.53 ERA, 234.1 IP, 3.27 K/BB, 0.88 HR/9, 163 ERA+
Wright: .302/.390/.534, 33 HR, 124 RBI, 15/20 SB
To refresh memories, VORP stands for “value over replacement player.” A player’s offensive performance is compared to a “replacement level” player at the same position. This fictitious player is a low-level player who is readily available at cheap cost. A position player’s VORP represents how many more runs his team would score over the course of a season than if a replacement player was in the lineup instead. A pitcher’s VORP represents how many more runs his team would give up over the course of a season compared to the replacement pitcher.
1. Johan Santana – 73.4
2. David Wright – 66.2
3. Jose Reyes – 62.9
4. Carlos Beltran – 57.6
5. Carlos Delgado – 38.5
If Santana was switched with a replacement pitcher, the Mets would’ve given up 73.4 more runs. Reyes rates so high because great offensive shortstops are tough to come by. Delgado rates so low because great offensive first basemen are a-dime-a-dozen. Note that VORP doesn’t factor in stolen bases.
WPA, “win probability added”, is a fascinating statistic. It was created based on the concept that every play in a baseball game, whether it is a ground out, strikeout or homerun, will add or subtract from a team’s probability of winning a game. For different outcomes, a player’s WPA will increase or decrease based on how much each play adds or subtracts from his team’s chance to win. It is a rudimentary way to measure “clutchness”, as it weighs a player’s performance based on the situation. This is to say that a walkoff homerun will add much more to a player’s WPA than will a homerun hit when already ahead by 7 runs. A scoreless inning pitched in a blowout is not weighed as heavily as a scoreless 9th inning pitched in a 1-run game.
1. Carlos Beltran – 5.02
2. David Wright – 4.18
3. Johan Santana – 4.08
4. Carlos Delgado – 2.38
5. Jose Reyes – 1.32
This does not necessarily mean that Beltran was the most “clutch” player for the Mets this year. It simply means his offensive contributions resulted in a greater probability of the Mets winning than did the other players. Despite being 3rd on this list, it should be noted that starting pitchers’ WPA’s are generally lower than batters. Santana was 4th in the majors in WPA, while Beltran was 6th. Cliff Lee led pitchers with a 5.96 WPA; Manny Ramirez led all hitters with a 7.57 WPA.
WARP1 is a stat I don’t think I’ve looked at yet in this space. It’s similar to VORP, but measures “wins above replacement player”. It accounts for both offense and defense, and determines how many wins a player contributes compared to a fictitious “replacement player” at the respective player’s position. Unfortunately, I couldn't locate Santana's WARP1, so he will not be evaluated here. Based on a quick Internet search, I don't think a WARP1 leader's list for pitchers is readily accessible. If someone can find one, please let me know. At this point I think Johan’s spot on my ballot is pretty secure…
1. Wright – 9.6
2. Beltran – 9.3
3. Reyes – 8.8
4. Delgado – 7.8
Based on these stats, my ballot would look like this:
1. Johan Santana
2. David Wright
3. Carlos Beltran
4. Jose Reyes
5. Carlos Delgado
Santana led the league in ERA and was pretty impressive in VORP and WPA. I think this is a safe pick. When was the last time a Mets starting pitcher could convincingly be called the team MVP? Dwight Gooden in 1985? Bret Saberhagen in 1994? I’d have to look it up. There will be those calling me a fool for putting Reyes above Delgado based on Jose’s poor, but not downright awful, September. To them I say that I look at a baseball season as 162 games long. The overall contribution of a player towards scoring and preventing runs over a full season is more important to me than a 10 or 3 game sample. Also, while Delgado did have a very good season, the fact that he plays first base (and not very well defensively at that) hurt his standing on my ballot. The #2 spot is a virtual toss-up, and you can't go wrong with Wright or Beltran in this spot.