October 8, 2001
The Daily Prospectus
I've written about most of these at length elsewhere, so commentary will be brief.
American League MVP
1. Jason Giambi, Athletics
Giambi gets a little credit over A-Rod because of the notion of importance-to-a-winning-team, but his real advantage is his better RARP and VORP numbers. Nearly 80 points of OBP is a huge gap, comparable to the distance between Rodriguez and Carlos Lee. Boone over Alomar is the same thing: Boone's a bit better offensively anyway, and gets the nod thanks to his defensive performance.
The gap between Alomar and Thome is large. The three hitters can be pretty much thrown in a hat. I ordered them by time in the field. Beltran is a surprise, but his defensive performance warrants this ranking. He had a better year with the glove than Suzuki, who in turn has a playing time edge over Juan Gonzalez. Jeter's defense knocked him down from about sixth.
National League MVP
1. Barry Bonds, Giants
The top of the ballot has been argued to death, but I have to believe that Bonds's sweep of the three records he was chasing, his massive September, and the sheer weight of the gap between him and the other guys will carry the day. I thought Aurilia or Johnson would crack the top three, but the seasons by Sosa and Gonzalez were so amazing that they easily outdistanced the other two.
After that, the NL has a ton of good hitters who didn't play much defense. Jones is a clear #6, while Schilling was worth more than just about every other position player in the league. Pujols has had a hell of a year, but isn't a third baseman, not this year. Nevin's glove is really bad, dropping him to tenth. Brian Giles, Gary Sheffield, Lance Berkman, Larry Walker... a whole bunch of guys are perfectly valid down-ballot candidates.
American League Cy Young Award
1. Mike Mussina, Yankees
I'm comfortable with my top three, and recognize that just about any ordering of them would be valid.
Mays leads in SNWAR and VORP, and is going to be the stathead candidate, but what bothers me about him is that he threw more than a third of his innings against the Tigers and Royals, with an ERA of 1.84. I haven't done an analysis of all the candidates, but an eyeballing of splits showed that neither Mussina nor Garcia had anything quite that dramatic. I can't shake the feeling that giving Mays the Cy based on that performance would be wrong.
It helps that Voros McCracken's defense-independent numbers support the idea of Mussina as the best pitcher in the AL.
Even acknowledging that there's evidence of Roger Clemens pitching to the score, there's more evidence that he wasn't quite the pitcher Buehrle or pick-a-random-Athletic was. I can see putting him in one of the final spots, but there's no case for him in the top three that doesn't ultimately rest on the run support he received.
National League Cy Young Award
1. Randy Johnson, Diamondbacks
That is one weird ballot, made more so by the fact that extending it to six names would add another Brave, John Burkett. Still, it was one of the easier lists to compile, and I doubt there's a serious argument to be had here. Jon Lieber fans, note that he was the luckiest pitcher in the NL, per Michael Wolverton.
American League Rookie of the Year Award
1. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
People who want to deny Ichiro the AL Rookie of the Year award based on his experience in Japan ignore both the award's history and the fact that Karl Rhodes just hit 55 jacks over there.
All three of these players are a credit to their respective front offices. The Mariners threw a lot of money at both Ichiro and his old team to acquire his services. The Indians took a 20-year-old Sabathia north with them, stuck with him through his command problems, and didn't make the mistakes the Cubs made with Kerry Wood in 1998. The Angels grabbed Eckstein on waivers, and gave him an opportunity to heal their shortstop scar.
National League Rookie of the Year Award
1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals
You know what I'm curious to see? Whether any BBWAA ballot is turned in with a name other than these three on it.
Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. You can contact him by clicking here.