Monday, November 22, 2010

Ryan Zimmerman Gets Chase Utley'd

The BBWAA released the outcome of the voting for the National League MVP earlier today and Joey Votto ran away with the award. Votto grabbed 31 of the 32 first place votes while Albert Pujols vultured the remaining top vote to prevent the sweep. Both hard slugging first basemen were deserving of the award so it's not worth dissecting how close the two really were despite the wide margin of victory. Besides, Rob Neyer already did that.

Instead, I'll use this space to complain about Ryan Zimmerman's 16th place finish. I may have written a few words in the past about the lack of MVP support that Chase Utley has received over his career. I mean, Utley has been the second best player in the NL since, roughly, 2005 but the highest he's ever finished in MVP voting is 7th. Hell, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard have even won MVPs when Utley was a more worthy candidate. I could go on but there's some pretty ominous wording in this restraining order. (Can't resist; Utley finished with the 14th best fWAR and received zero MVP votes this season) Okay, on to Zimmerman and his Utley treatment.

I had Zimmerman third on my BBA ballot which might have been a tad high in retrospect but I wouldn't have had him lower than 5th-ish. How could I be so far off from the people who get paid to write about baseball? What do they know that I'm missing? Let's go to a little Twitter conversation with Fox Sports' own miniature baseball insider Ken Rosenthal.

First I'd like to take a moment to reflect on how polite I was. I was surprisingly calm for something I so vehemently disagree with. Contending team? That's it? Really? Strap on the nerd boots and let's go to the stats...

Ryan Zimmerman
142 G, 25 HR, .307 AVG, .388 OBP, .510 SLG, 13.9 UZR, 7.2 fWAR (Fangraph's WAR)

Scott Rolen
132 G, 20 HR, .285 AVG, .358 OBP, .497 SLG, 10.6 UZR, 5.0 fWAR

In Rosenthal's eyes, playing for a contending team negates the fact that Zimmerman was worth TWO more wins than Rolen. That is a significant gap even with the 10 extra games Zimmerman played. Rolen only finished two spots and eight points ahead of Zimmerman in the final tally but it still hurts my brain.

I might put more stock in WAR than I should but Fangraphs loved Zimmerman this season. His 7.2 WAR was only one tenth of a point behind Albert Pujols and two tenths behind Joey Votto. That would make him the third most valuable in the National League for the 2010 season. Yet, like Chase Utley before him, he was almost ignored in MVP voting. Why?

Much of Zimmerman's value is tied to his brilliant defense at third base. While there aren't any perfect metrics for defense, the nerds in basements have been making big strides in understanding defense and it's value. But, I guess it's still easier for the mainstream media to give votes to a terrible fielding first baseman who hits 31 home runs and strikes out over 150 times (Ryan Howard received a 2nd and 3rd place vote).

Still, 16th place is absurd. And so begins my crusade to get Ryan Zimmerman more MVP respect. Don't hold your breath, Ryan, it didn't help Chase any.

More fun with the NL MVP results
*Troy Tulowitzki finished 5th; five voters left him off of their ballots.
*Martin Prado finished 9th because why not.
*Brian Wilson finished well ahead of Adam Wainwright, Ubaldo Jimenez and Josh Johnson.
*Jimenez received one fourth place vote and that's it.
*Carlos Ruiz (Chooch!) finished ahead of Brian McCann.
*Buster Posey finished 11th including one third place vote. Not a bad year.

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