How not to vote for NL MVP

I’m glad Albert Pujols won the NL MVP award, because he richly deserved it.  He was far and away the best player in the National League this past season.  While perusing the vote totals, I noticed that Pujols received 18 of 32 possible first-place votes, and was listed no worse than fourth on every other ballot – except one.  Someone’s ballot had Pujols at seventh.  Who, I wondered, thought there were six better players than Pujols in the National League this year?

Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, that’s who.

Here is his ballot:

1. Ryan Howard, Philadelphia
2. C.C. Sabathia, Milwaukee
3. Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles
4. Carlos Delgado, New York
5. Aramis Ramirez, Chicago
6. Prince Fielder, Milwaukee
7. Albert Pujols, St. Louis
8. Ryan Ludwick, St. Louis
9. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee
10. David Wright, New York

After goggling at that list, I then read his explanation.

[Howard] almost single-handedly carried the Phillies to the playoffs by batting .352 with 11 homers and 32 RBI in September. I like to weight my voting to teams in the playoff hunt because I think that puts more pressure on players and separates the men from the boys. There’s little pressure on players having big years if their teams aren’t playing for anything at the end.

With the Cardinals finishing fourth, I voted Pujols seventh on my ballot. I don’t consider MVP to be “the most outstanding player” award and therefore don’t just go by who had the best stats. I like to credit players for lifting their teams to the post-season or at least keeping them in the race until the very end.

I understand that the Cardinals would not have been even close to the wild-card berth without Pujols, but I still like players who elevate their game in crunch time and lift their teams to new heights. And I thought Ryan Ludwick had just as much to do with keeping the Cards in the hunt as Pujols did. St. Louis did stay in the wild card race until mid-September, but mainly because the Brewers and Mets were gagging at the time.

It’s a subjective vote and every writer has his own preferences. That’s why I voted for Sabathia second and Ramirez third because even though they played in the league only half a season they were primarily responsible for putting their teams in the playoffs…

…This is an inexact science. With 10 names on the ballot, you could move guys around and drive yourself nuts putting them in the spot you feel is best. But that’s the way I voted. In sheer offensive numbers, Pujols certainly is tough to beat, which is why it’s understandable that he got so much support.

Where to begin?

My first question to Haudricourt would be…well, my first question would be whether or not he had been taking some new medication, I think.  I would then ask him things like:

1)  How do you put three first baseman ahead of Pujols on your ballot?

2)  How do you justify putting Carlos Delgado (one of the aforementioned first basemen) ahead of Pujols, when his team didn’t make the playoffs either?  Also, how do you justify putting Delgado on the ballot at all, given that he wasn’t one of the four best players on his own (non-playoff) team?  Wright, Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, and Johan Santana were all better and more important to the Mets than was Delgado.  He’s the fifth-best player on a team that didn’t make postseason play, and you ranked him sixth in the entire league.

3)  How do you justify voting Ryan Howard first?  Speaking of voting for someone who wasn’t the best player on his own team, Howard was the third-best infielder on the Phillies last year.  Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins didn’t make your ballot (Utley in particular strikes me as a dubious omission), but you ranked Howard first overall.  Now, I will say you weren’t the only writer buffaloed by Howard’s outstanding month of September, so in that you are in line with a lot of the other voters.  I’m not sure how you can say a great final month completely outweighs the rest of his season, though.  He had an OPS of 791 in August, which last I checked is the month before September.  Of course, that was better than his June (726 OPS) or his April (645 OPS).  Were you aware that the August-September “playoff push” stat line for Pujols was significantly better than Howard’s in that time period (and, incidentally, a lot better than Delgado’s)?

4)  Explain this line – “St. Louis did stay in the wild card race until mid-September, but mainly because the Brewers and Mets were gagging at the time” – how do you then justify putting five players from those two teams on your ballot, including three of them ahead of Pujols?  And wasn’t this gagging also helping Howard’s Phllies?

5)  Do you really think Ryan Ludwick “had as much to do with keeping the Cards in the hunt” as did Pujols?  Seriously?

6)  Did you know that Manny Ramirez’s offensive explosion in August and September, great as it was, wasn’t really much different than that of Pujols?  (For the record, Ramirez had an OPS of 1232 in those two months, Pujols 1186.)  Now, Manny did have to play his home games at Dodger Stadium, but on the other hand Pujols is the best defensive first baseman in the league, while Ramirez is arguably the worst defender at any position in the majors.  Then there is the fact that Ramirez’s MVP case in the National League for the period before August is {empty set}.  Pujols, of course, was raking in the NL all season long.

At least Pujols did win the award.  Still, imagine if it had been very close, and this guy’s seventh-place vote for Pujols had been the difference…