How to Determine Who’s MVP Worthy

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How to Determine Who's MVP Worthy

There is lots of talk about who should win the American League Most Valuable Player. Even Don Cherry is weighing in. He and just about everybody else, including me, believe Blue Jays 3rd Baseman Josh Donaldson is the front-runner to be the American League Most Valuable Player. Donaldson would be the second Blue Jay to win the award and the first since George Bell in 1987.

Donaldson has been on fire since he was acquired from Oakland in the off-season. He has not only hit home runs and driven in runs, he has done so in situations where the team needed to score to win the game or at least stay alive. Add to it, Donaldson has been superb in the field. Take his diving catch in the stands in Tampa Bay back on June 24th for example. Those things have allowed the Blue Jays to challenge the New York Yankees for the American League East pennant and Donaldson to supplant Jose Bautista as The Guy in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse.

While Donaldson has put up the numbers to prove he is MVP worthy, there are some who feel Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels should win it because… well, he’s Mike Trout. Seriously. It seems the name alone is enough for a player to be declared the best in the league, ignoring the numbers and the contributions the player makes. If you apply that way of thinking in the NHL, Sidney Crosby would be the Hart Trophy winner each and every season and the Habs would be Stanley Cup contenders each and every year. And believe me, there are fans of the Canadiens who are stupid enough to believe it.

What this also show is numbers are only part of the story. There are other intangibles that need to be considered. Things that can’t be measured in numbers like saving runs at critical times, being a leader on the field, and how his presence in the line up makes his teammates better. If the MVP race was determined by head-to-head meetings, Donaldson would win it hands down based on what went on over the weekend. But those three games do not make you baseball’s best player. If you want to go by the numbers, as of August 24th, Donaldson is hitting .302 with 34 home runs and 100 RBIs. Trout is batting .297 with 33 dingers and 73 runs driven in. Then you factor in WAR (wins above replacement), a little statistical element designed to put a value in the player’s contribution, where Donaldson has a slight edge at 7.2 compared to Trout’s 7.0 according to FanGraphs.com.

I remember when Blue Jays pitcher Pat Hentgen and Yankees hurler Andy Pettite were going up for the Cy Young award in 1996. Baseball analyst Peter Gammons felt Pettite should be the favourite even though he trailed Hentgen in just about every pitching category. Gammons believed in the fact that because Pettite was pitching for a contending team in the Yankees and Hentgen was on a Blue Jays team sitting last in the division, it was enough to give Pettitte the Cy Young. Fortunately, the baseball writers collectively used their common sense and Hentgen ended up winning the award. Gammons may have had his ego bruised as a result but his brain fart did little to put a dent into his high baseball IQ.

But back to Donaldson and Trout. The MVP race in the American League is far from over. Gregg Zaun feels Trout should win over Donaldson only because of the position he plays in Centerfield, a position deemed more defensive-minded (Shortstop, Catcher, 2nd Base) than say at 3rd Base. But there are a lot of things to factor in when choosing a league MVP and they have just as much weight as playing on a winning team or makes dazzling plays. You have to be careful how you base your argument for MVP. I don’t think you can narrow it down to one or even two things. Simply put, there is no formula to picking a winner. Those who had Trout’s name already on the ballot at the start of the season better find some Liquid Paper.

Also see:

Don’t Judge a Game by the Scoreboard
Why We Like to Lay Blame and Not Give Credit
Everyone’s a Critic

 

The Blue Jays are Doing Well, So Why All the Panic?

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04 September 2014: Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Drew Hutchison (36) watches from the dugout during the MLB regular season game between the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg FL.

The Blue Jays are in the hunt to take the American League East. But they are coming off a tough series at home to the New York Yankees where they won only one of the three games over the weekend. After the series concluded, the Blue Jays sent down pitchers Drew Hutchison and Aaron Loup to the minors and called up a couple of position players, Matt Hague and Ezequiel Carrera, to replace them on the roster.

The moves should not as a total surprise. Gregg Zaun has pointed this out on a number of occasions. The Blue Jays will spend the next two weeks on the road where, despite his performance in his last two starts, Hutchison has struggled. Coupled that with the number of off-days during that stretch, his spot in the rotation will not be necessary. While many experts felt the Blue Jays can go with a 4-man rotation for the time being, I don’t think any of them expected to see Hutchison sent back to Buffalo. Same goes with Loup who hasn’t been used much since the acquisitions of LaTroy Hawkins and Mark Lowe. But at least Hutchison will be able to work out the kinks and Loup will be simply be getting in work. Hague and Carrera will provide a luxury that the Blue Jays never had all season, depth on the bench. The Blue Jays have won 15 of their last 18 games. All this should be a sign that the team is doing well as they make a run for the playoffs. But many in the media don’t see it that way.

Why on earth has there been so much emphasis on the sending down the 5th starter in the rotation, which Hutchison has become? If people are starting to sweat over this, the problems Hutchison has on the road is the least of their worries. Perhaps you don’t have to look further than the last story I wrote on Danny Valencia. There are people in Toronto who will believe anything they read. Let me take that back, they will believe anything from publications like the New York Times, Huffington Post, and ESPN, just 3 organizations that are more about politics than sport. But we’ve seen posts on Facebook and Twitter from these sources and people still buy them hook, line, and sinker.

It is one of those mind games that players, coaches, and managers like to get into. Now we are seeing it in sports journalism. You put that false impression into people’s heads and all of a sudden they will start believing it. Believe this: the Blue Jays will be playing past October 4th.

Also see:

Firing Exposes Incompetence… Among Fans and Media
Outsiders Strike Again
Sports Media is Becoming Boring

Is This the Year for the Blue Jays?

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Is This the Year for the Blue Jays

I have to admit, I never thought Alex Anthopoulos would pull the trigger on a big trade at the July 31st deadline. Not only did he get one big-name player but two. Landing shortstop Troy Tulowitzki from Colorado was a coup in itself but the acquisition of starter David Price from Detroit blew everybody away.

Those two additions have made the Blue Jays better. But what is just as important as the new acquisitions is how the team performed in their series this past weekend against the Kansas City Royals. The Blue Jays had every part of their game working in taking 3 of 4 from the reigning American League champs. Remove that rough outing on Saturday by Mark Lowe, another late acquisition by Anthopoulos from Seattle, and they could have swept the Royals out of the country.

I saw something during that series that I had never seen from a Blue Jays team in almost two decades. It is the fact that they will not be pushed around, whether it is by opposing teams or umpires. The team was able to handle themselves quite well against the Royals on Sunday especially when it was clear the calls were not going their way. I loved the way everyone in the Blue Jays dugout was ready to fight when the benches cleared in the 8th inning. When you see and hear everyone having each other’s backs you know how good the chemistry is in the Blue Jays clubhouse.

What the Royals did with their headhunting is poke the bear. Combine that with Ned Yost’s butt-kissing (“I thought home plate umpire Jim Wolf did a tremendous job.”) and perpetrator Edinson Volquez playing the victim card (“(Josh Donaldson) was crying like a baby”), the Blue Jays will use that game as motivation to go after not just a wild card spot but the American League East division. And they will catch the Yankees. Because unless New York’s offense can maintain a 10-run-per-game pace the rest of the way, the problems they face with their pitching will make them vulnerable down the stretch.

All this leads me to believe this Blue Jays team has what it takes to go far. They have suddenly become crazy good but like I’ve said before everyone has got to stay healthy if they want to get into the post-season for the first time since 1993. The way things look right now, I expect both the Blue Jays and Royals to meet up in the American League Championship Series. That one will make the Habs-Bruins rivalry look like a picnic.

Also see:

Bad Blood is Good for Sports
Surprised by the Blue Jays’ Success? You Shouldn’t Be
Health will Determine if the Blue Jays Contend

 

Two Views on the Valencia Move and the Importance of Role Players in Sport

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Two Views on Valencia Move and the Importance of Role Players in Sport

The questioning of Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos’ decision to designate Danny Valencia for assignment after the big trades made at the non-waiver deadline shows how fans view the importance of role players in sport. Most championship teams in any sport have at least two or three of these players on their roster.

The recent acquisition of Troy Tulowitzki and Ben Revere meant Valencia’s playing time would be cut significantly. He essentially became the 25th man on this Blue Jays roster, a spot that is now occupied by Munenori Kawasaki. But that doesn’t mean the positive impact he provided throughout the season would diminish too. Having a guy like Valencia who doesn’t bitch and whine (like many on social media, bulletin boards, and blogs) about the lack of playing time is a rare commodity. He was willing to do whatever manager John Gibbons asks of him to do, even if it meant riding the pine for the remainder of the season. Valencia is also a guy who can keep a clubhouse atmosphere positive when things are going down. Taking Valencia off the roster at this point of the season left many, including me, scratching their heads.

But I also have to take a cynical view of this situation. I mean why all of a sudden people in Toronto are crying foul over Valencia’s removal from the team? This is a sports city where there have been calls for teams like the Blue Jays to attract more star players in order for them to make a run for a championship. No better example than the Maple Leafs where so-called experts feel they have too many goons (even after the departure of Colton Orr and Fraser McLaren) and not enough skilled players.

Also, the amount of outrage towards Anthopoulos on designating Valencia for assignment is about as empty as the outrage towards the Minnesota dentist that killed that lion in Africa. Don’t get me wrong, I was just as surprised of this move as anyone else but there is bigger fish to fry. Valencia is by no means an insurance policy in case someone like Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion get hurt. You have to be as high as the CN Tower to believe that. If any one of those guys go down, the season would be over for the Blue Jays regardless. As much as Valencia was a good offensive bat against left-handers, there are 8 other right-handed bats ahead of him that can also do the job. Add to that the turf at Rogers Centre made him a more defensive liability. Even if Valencia had stayed, Anthopoulos would have still needed to get another utility man especially if he can be a third catcher and a left-handed hitter coming off the bench.

I feel sorry for Valencia in a sense that he is a good guy for all the reasons I have explained. I’ve been in his shoes before in radio. If more corporations (and the media for that matter) value character as much as they do the bottom line then there would be no concerns about high unemployment and low workplace morale. It was good to hear that Valencia has landed on his feet in Oakland. But this is not the first time a good guy has been cut from a team and it won’t be the last. People in Toronto who still can’t get over it should either move on or seek counselling.

Also see:

Blue Jays Need Players… Ones That Don’t Get Hurt Easily
Get the Right Player First, then Spend the Money
Winners Blaze Their Own Trail