Ladies and gentlemen of the Court of Public Opinion, today I would like to talk to you about a man I think you should name the MVP: A Mr. Ryan Howard. Something happens to Mr. Howard in September: he literally becomes a Tower of Power (Editor’s note: Oh brother). But has his latest surge, including last evening’s game-winning, two-run dinger in the 8th, been enough to merit him MVP legitimacy?
My friends, the answer to that question is a resounding yes. (Editor’s note: Resounding? We’ll see).
If it pleases the court, I will now present Article A – home run and RBI totals for the NL’s leaders.
Home runs: 1. Ryan Howard – 45 2. Adam Dunn – 37 3. Ryan Braun / Carlos Delgado – 35 5. Ryan Ludwick / Albert Pujols – 33
RBI’s: 1. Ryan Howard – 136 2. David Wright – 114 3. Adrian Gonzalez – 111 4. Aramis Ramirez – 107 5. Carlos Delgado – 104
Nobody is close to Mr. Howard in these categories. His 8 home run lead over Adam Dunn is impressive, but I’d like to focus on the RBI total. A 22 RBI lead over his closest contender? Astounding, to say the least. Let us not forget that he’d be leading the AL in both of these categories, as well. Please keep this in mind as we continue our evaluation.
Before we go further, I would like to present my list of players who, currently, deserve a serious look for the MVP award. These players are: Albert Pujols, David Wright, Carlos Delgado.
These players just miss the cut: Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee (nearly identical stats, makes it hard to determine which has been more important to team, team likely out of playoffs), Ryan Braun (has gone cold lately, unless he gets hot and helps Brewers make wildcard, in which case he’s back in), Ryan Ludwick (his own teammate, Mr. Pujols, has just been far more impressive).
In all honesty, it will be difficult for either Wright or Delgado to win the award. They’ll split the vote, and if the Phillies win the division over them on Howard’s back, he’ll most likely get the nod over each of them. That brings us to Mr. Pujols.
Why consider Pujols? Well, his .357 batting average and .461 OBP are just silly (both second in NL), he has 33 long balls and 101 RBI’s, and his .645 slugging percentage is tops in the NL, 59 points higher than any other player in the league.
Yeah, he’s pretty damn good.
So why should Howard win the award over Pujols? Baseball is all about winning. If the Phillies make the postseason, and Howard’s hot ways help push them there while Pujols and the Cards take vacation, Howard gets the edge there. Plus, it is a whole lot easier to win games when you score runs. So, which of the two produced more total runs? To figure it out, I added RBI’s and runs scored and subtracted homers, as otherwise they would be counted twice, since both a run and an RBI is produced by a home run.(Editor’s note: As a collective “DUHHHHHHHH!” is exclaimed from the throats of stringent sabermetricians everywhere).
Ryan Howard – 186
Albert Pujols – 161
Is this difference enough to make up for the fact that Howard has 139 more K’s than Pujols, or that his batting average is 108 points lower, or that Pujols is better in the field? If Howard gets to 50 dingers and 150 RBI’s (somehow), then it absolutely is. That, however, is unlikely.
So, the argument, it seems, becomes a philosophical divide as to what is more valuable: is it the consistency and nearly flawless plate game of Albert Pujols, or the pure run production of Ryan Howard? And after answering that question, we need to specify it even further: who has been more valuable to their particular team? And finally, how has that player’s impact on their particular team affected the rest of the National League? (Editor’s note: And I’ve gone cross-eyed).
In general, most people would tell you that the steady production of Pujols is more valuable than Howard’s erratic power. Every at-bat with Pujols is frightening: you know he’s likely to put the ball in play or draw a walk because he’s disciplined, he can turn your nasty pitches into fisted singles, and if you make a mistake, he’ll kill you. With Howard, if you can get him to chase bad pitches, he’s putty in your hands. He’ll kill your mistakes at a higher rate than anyone in baseball, but he’ll also whiff a whole lot.
But then again, the Phillies have their Albert Pujols in Chase Utley, the guy who is supposed to give pitcher’s fits with his mix of tough at-bats and power. Ryan Howard’s job is to produce runs, and he does so better than anyone in the National League. As a matter of fact, Howard has produced 25.1% of all of the Phillies runs this year, as opposed to Pujols producing 22.8% for the Cards. (Howard 186 out of 741 total, Pujols 161 out of 706 total). It may not be consistent and often isn’t pretty, and I’d like to see him put the ball in play a bit more, but he does his particular job better than anyone in baseball.
So, Pujols may give you scarier at-bats on the regular, but Howard fits his role better than anyone in baseball. Seems to me as though they are equally vital to their respective teams. Thus do we move to our final inquiry – which of the two has more greatly impacted the National League? Fact is, if Howard stays hot, and the Phils make the playoffs (especially by winning the division), then Howard has. It all comes down to your determination of value and league impact: I value Howard being the best in baseball at his run-production role on a Phillies team that makes the playoffs a bit more than I do Pujols being the best all-around hitter in baseball on a team that likely will miss them. In my opinion, if the Phillies miss the playoffs, or Howard suddenly goes ridiculously cold over the final stretch, it goes to Pujols, easy. But if that isn’t the case, I give it to Howard by a nose.
I leave it to you, the jury sitting in this Court of Public Opinion: what is your verdict?