Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Bryce Harper vs. Yoenis Cespedes MVP Debate

The Most Valuable Player or MVP is not always a player from the best team or even a player on a team that makes the playoffs, the MVP is the player who means the most to his team win or lose.  The Baseball Writers' Association of America tells their members very little in regard to who “qualifies” as an MVP candidate.  They do send out a letter every year though and one of the things they do specifically state is that “the MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier”, that’s because a team makes the playoffs not a single player by himself, a player should not be looked up as better because his team is in first place, just like a player shouldn’t be looked upon worse because his team is in last place.  Just look at Ernie Banks, one of the greatest baseball players ever.  He won NL MVP in both 1958 and 1959 despite the Cubs finishing 10 games under .500 in ’58 and 6 games under .500 in ’59.  Are people looking back to those years and saying he didn’t deserve to win MVP because the Chicago Cubs didn’t make the playoffs, no they are not.  Look at Ryan Howard in 2006, he finished the year hitting .313 with 58 home runs and won NL MVP based off his numbers, he wasn’t wrongfully penalized by voters because the Phillies finished 12 games back of the Mets in the NL East.  Then we can look at the inverse of that, in 1992 Dennis Eckersley won AL MVP as a member of the Oakland Athletics, a team that won the AL West by 6 games.  Despite his team making the playoffs he did not deserve to win MVP in 1992, he wasn’t even the best MVP candidate on his own team, Mark McGwire was.  Why should a player’s MVP candidacy be disputed because of the other 24 players on a team’s roster and because of decisions made by his own coaches and members of the team’s front office?

Ever since Yoenis Cespedes had his first multi-hit game for the New York Mets on August 3rd against the Marlins, a game in which he had three hits all doubles and four RBIs in a 12-1 win, he has appeared in the National League Most Valuable Player discussion.  Then on August 21st against the Colorado Rockies when he went five for six with three home runs, a double, seven RBIs and a stolen base this discussion became part of the MVP debate and the talks really escalated.  At this point they were 12-6 with him and this was the beginning of a seven game winning streak, the second five game winning streak they had in their brief time with Cespedes.

Since that time he has hit nine more home runs, bringing him up to fourteen in his first 36 games with the Mets, including six already in the first eight games of September.  Over those same eight games he has 16 of the Mets 84 hits (19.048%) and has accounted for 13 of their 53 RBIs (24.528%).  So while those numbers might look ridiculous even for an eight game period there is another MVP candidate who has played even better not only over those eight games, not only over the whole span of Cespedes being a member of the Mets, but over the course of the whole 2015 season, Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.

Cespedes as a member of the Met: .312/.357/.675
Harper since the Cespedes trade: .352/.491/.600
Cespedes in all of 2015: .298/.333/.554
Harper in all of 2015: .336/.467/.657

This extreme differential in on base percentage can be attributed to the contrast in walks.  Since becoming a member of the Mets, Cespedes has walked nine times and 28 times total in 2015 compared to Harper who has walked 35 times just since Cespedes became a Met and 109 times in 2015, which ranks second in baseball to only Joey Votto.  So while Cespedes and his OPS of 1.032 (36 games) have been a great addition to the Mets, the Nationals would be one of the worst offensive teams in baseball without Bryce Harper and his MLB best OPS of 1.124 and his MLB best wRC+ of 201 (0.104 and 23 ahead of second place Miguel Cabrera) (2015 season).

Bryce Harper has not only been the best player in the National League and the best player in all of baseball this year but the season he is putting up at the age of 22 is one of the best ever.  According to baseball reference WAR calculations if the season ended today Bryce Harper would finish with a WAR of 9.0 which would be good for 8th best ever by a player 22 or younger, ahead of the season Mike Trout had for the Angels back in 2013 (8.9), ahead of even the season Trout had last year when he won AL MVP (7.9) and ahead of the season Eddie Mathews had for the Milwaukee Braves back in 1953 (8.3) when he hit 47 home runs, the most ever by a player 22 or younger.  But some people don’t like WAR so we can look at his slash line also, the ONLY other player to have slash line like Harper’s or better at the age of 22 or younger is Ted Williams back in 1941 (.406/.553/.735).  And do you know the last time any player had a slash line like Harper’s or better, it was Barry Bonds in 2004 and guess what he won, NL MVP.  So before you say that Cespedes deserves to be NL MVP or even really be in the discussions, think about this, Harper’s current slash line has only been produced 27 times, by 12 players, 7 of whom are in the Hall of Fame but I know the Nationals aren’t going to make the playoffs so Harper can’t be as valuable to his team.


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