So, You Think Andruw Jones Should be the MVP…

I will say this flat out, Andruw Jones is one of my favorite baseball players of all time. I’ve always liked and defended him. This year has been “the year” we’ve been expecting from Andruw for so long, and I think that he is going to get even better and possibly win multiple MVP awards in his career. However, I don’t think he deserves it for the 2005 season. I say this with a heavy heart, because so many of my friends have written me proclaiming this year to be Andruw’s year. I want to believe them so badly.

So many of the anti-Andruw arguments have been plain stupid—if you think Andruw should be denied the MVP because of his batting average in scoring position, I’ll give your opinions the time they deserve. Obviously, if he’s not doing things with men on, he’s making up by doing very well when they are not on. My goodness, the guy leads the league in RBI and he’s hitting poorly with men in scoring position. Hmmm, I wonder how he’s doing it then?

Some people say AJ’s defense is off, I don’t buy that either, though it’s not a bad argument to make. The guy may not look fast, but no one takes a better angle to the ball and carries such a huge gun. The fact that the defensive measures we use are so limited gives them little value. His ZR, RF, Assists, Put Outs, Errors, etc. aren’t so hot, so what? Judging AJ on these measures is like dumping a supermodel because she has a pimple on her back. David Pinto’s PMR, a very good defensive measure, has him as the top regular center fielder for two-years running. I don’t know what he rates this year, but I bet it’s good again.

After reviewing these arguments, I was actually starting to believe that maybe AJ was deserving of the MVP. I can’t say exactly how much defensive skill he needs to catch up with the other candidates—Derrek Lee and Albert Pujols, who clog up the old-folks home of first base on defense—on offense. And there’s no doubt he’s leading the intangibles category, you can’t argue with that. ;-) I needed to know if he was even close.

So, I decided to go back to the stats for another look. Let’s break this out using linear weights. Here are the top ten NL batters in linear weights (minimum 500 PAs).

Rank	Name		LWTS	Games
1	Derrek Lee	81.144	146
2	Albert Pujols	74.366	150
3	Jason Bay	57.518	149
4	Bobby Abreu	50.176	150
5	Carlos Delgado	50.004	133
6	Miguel Cabrera	49.332	148
7	Todd Helton	48.154	131
8	Brian Giles	44.248	145
9	Andruw Jones	42.984	149
10	Adam Dunn	42.400	147

And my heart sinks. There’s Andruw at number (gulp!) nine on the list, just edging out Adam Dunn. No matter how much better Andruw is on defense. No matter how “clutch” his hits have been. No matter how much his leadership matters. No matter how much his home park hurts him. I don’t see how Andruw makes up for the difference between himself and Lee and Pujols. I can bump him up to number three without any guilt, based on all of the other stuff he does well. But, Lee and Pujols are just in a different class of player this year. That’s testament to how good they have been, not to how poorly Andruw has played.

Braves fans, hold on. An MVP season from Andruw Jones will come. It’s just should not be this year. If I had a vote, I’d vote for Lee.

28 Responses “So, You Think Andruw Jones Should be the MVP…”

  1. Marc Schneider says:

    You are probably right about Andruw not really deserving the reward, but I think he will win. Most of the voters, I suspect, are not paying much attention to linear weights. What they are paying attention to is the fact that Andruw has 50 home runs. That’s a figure that gets attention. Plus, the narrative all year has been that Andruw is carrying an injury-plagued, young Braves team. Pujols and Lee dominate the sabermetric categories, but Andruw dominates the “populist” categories; since few sportswriters bother to learn anything about sabermetrics, and combined with Andruw’s visibility and the number of dramatic “Sports Center” homers he has hit, I think Andruw will win.

  2. smt says:

    Marc Schneider: I agree somewhat with your assertion that voters tend to look at triple crown numbers and the “story”. However, I’m not sure they’ll give it to him because of his low BA.

  3. John W says:

    My sentiments exactly. I would love for him to win eventually, but it’s a shame if Lee or Pujols doesn’t walk away with it this year.

  4. Aaron says:

    So the challenge becomes: Can we redefine “valuable” to the point where Andruw has a shot?

    My gut instinct tells me Andruw is a great hitter for a center fielder, perhaps even more so this year than Pujols has been for a first baseman. I don’t have access to fancy BPro stats like “Value Over Replacement” or the any trust in how they’re calculated, and I want something I can figure out in under two minutes, so I glance at the ESPN stats page and sort each position listed above by OPS (they don’t have linear weights … what’s up with that), hoping for something to jump out at me.

    Five strenuous clicks of the mouse later, my lists appear. Doing some quick subtraction, Andruw beats out the median CF (.16) by more than Giles or Abreu beats out the median RF, Bay, Cabrera, or Dunn beat out the median LF, or Pujols beats out the median 1B.

    What’s that? Lee beats out the median 1B by .185? Well, that’s easily overcome by Andruw’s defense, timely hitting, leadership skills, carrying the whole team on his back, being in a pennant race, and … uh … intangibles.

    So, there, definitive proof.

  5. Aaron says:

    Wait, are those linear weights park-adjusted? Lee might drop down a bit when you take some of those HRs away.

    (Same with my jokey OPS bit, too.)

  6. studes says:

    Hey JC, that comment about RBI’s is a little off. You ask why he leads the league in RBI’s? Well, because he leads the major leagues in at bats with runners in scoring position! (175)

    That’s why BA with RISP is important; it gives context to a player’s RBI opportunities.

  7. Aaron says:

    The RBI lead also has to do with the homeruns he hits. He leads Cabrera and Burrell by 14 RBI. He’s hit 18 and 20 more homeruns than those players. So the RBIs he gets just from the homeruns more than accounts for his RBI lead over the #2 guys in the category.

  8. JC says:

    I didn’t put the numbers here, but AJ, while he has had a lot of RISP ABs, he has also been productive when there is only a runner on first. He’s been driving these guys around at very a high rate.

    I think RISP AVG is mainly silly because I think it’s heavily driven by luck. If his numbers are good without RISP, then he’s still helping his teammates by pushing himself further around the bases to give them more opportunities.

  9. Greg Andrew says:

    Andruw’s defense might have been good enough to make the gap when he came up, but it’s not these days. He’s still very good out there, but he’s not the defensive phenom we saw in his first few years. This is no doubt due to age and the fact that he’s bulked up to hit all those home runs.

  10. studes says:

    Well sure, RISP AVG isn’t a stand-alone stat. But it adds context to his other stats.

    You’re capturing the fact that he’s helping his teammates by pushing him/them further around the bases in your linear weights stat.

    But a straight runs created or linear weights stat overestimates his actual contribution to the team, because he hasn’t performed as well in more potentially productive situations.

  11. JC says:

    But a straight runs created or linear weights stat overestimates his actual contribution to the team, because he hasn’t performed as well in more potentially productive situations.

    Well, but that’s kind of my point. I don’t really care about his actual performance in this area because RBI are largely based on luck. I’m not arguing that his RBI totals are relevant because he’s doing better in these other situations. I’m throwing them out altogether. If he had 200 RBI, I’d say that his high RISP AVG is irrelevant.

    AJ has 175 bats in RISP situations, and the outcomes of these situations have gone badly. However, it’s very possible he’s performed better than this, and the lack of observations has not allowed this to balance out. Given AJ’s .217 RISP AVG in 175 ABs, there is 95% chance that his true RISP ability lies withing .061 of .217. This is a range that contains his actual batting average, generated from a much larger pool of data.

    With runners on first and second he’s hitting: .300/.340/.660/1.000. With runners on first he’s hitting: .305/.387/.676/1.063. With the bases empty he’s hitting: .290/.352/.688/1.040. The reason I like LWTS is that they average out the value over his overall performance. Given his LWTS we can say his contribution is overweighted on the RISP numbers, but they are undercounted for non-RISP situations.

    I’m not arguing that RISP is totally unimportant, but I don’t think it should be a factor in MVP voting unless the players are very very close along all other margins.

  12. studes says:

    Well, it sounds like you want to make an MVP argument based on a player’s “true talent”, taking lucky distributions out of the equation. To me, the MVP is all about what a player actually contributed, not how he would have played if the sample size were large enough. So I personally think BA with RISP is very relevant to the MVP discussion.

    Having said that, I don’t totally disagree with your final point “I don’t think it should be a factor in MVP voting unless the players are very very close along all other margins.” That’s certainly a more reasonable point of view than calling it “plain stupid!” :)

  13. Aaron says:

    Wait, studes, I’m confused. If MVP is about what a player “actually contributes”, then why do the number of opportunities matter? I mean, in actual contribution, 100 RBIs are 100 RBIs regardless of how many shots you have at getting them. I would think under the actual contribution standard, number of hits with runners in scoring position would mean more than BA.

  14. JC says:

    Sorry, studes. It was aimed in a particular person’s direction (not you) who was making that his sole reason for not voting for AJ. Didn’t mean to come off as an asshole…which is something I have trouble with far too often. ;-)

  15. studes says:

    Thanks, JC. I’m never like that, myself. ;)

    Aaron, that’s a good question. You could make the argument that all opportunities should matter. But the thing with RBI’s is that they are dependent on the performance/contribution of Jones’s teammates. By giving Jones credit for all those RBI’s, you’re giving him some of the credit that his teammates deserve. That’s why I’d ignore RBI’s altogether, as JC suggested.

  16. Kyle says:

    Since JC wants me to share it, I’ll put out what I’ve found.

    To find the true “value” of each event (single, double, triple, home run, walk, hit by pitch, etc.), I took a look at BP’s run expectancy chart.

    First, I add up the expected amount of runs with no men on base and then average it out.

    Second, I do the same for having a man on 1st base; then a man on 2nd base; and then a man on 3rd base.

    Third, I subtract the average of expected runs with no men on base from the average of expected runs from the aforementioned situations.

    Finally, to get the value of a HR you add 1 + the average of expected runs with nobody on base.

    *I plan on adding base runs to this as well, but since I don’t have PBP data I have to do it all by looking through retrosheet, which obviously isn’t available for 2005 yet. This is also why I’m excluding SB and CS at this time.

    I don’t yet have a good background in statistics (just out of high school), so I could use some help running some regression analysis and the standard deviation, so if anybody wants to help that would be great…But anyway, from what I’ve seen so far it looks to correlate very well with runs scored and I think it may be even better than metrics such as EqA, Linear Weights, etc.

    Running the numbers for 2005 on Pujols, Lee, and Jones, I got the following numbers:

    Pujols: 120.3 RC (runs created), 0.325 RCPO (runs created per out), and 8.778 RCPG (runs created per game/27 outs).

    Lee: 125.6 RC, 0.340 RCPO, and 9.188 RCPG.

    Jones: 114.8 RC, 0.280 RCPO, and 7.562 RCPG.

    It’s not fair to leave it at that, though. If it were, I’d say that, at about 1 win better on offense, Lee would easily be the MVP. So I decided to use 2005 park factors to see the number of singles, doubles, triples, homeruns, and walks each player would have if they were playing in a neutral park. I then calculated my formula using those numbers.

    Here’s what I got:
    Pujols: 115.6 RC, 0.309 RCPO, and 8.342 RCPG

    Lee: 123.1 RC, 0.333 RCPO, and 8.979 RCPG

    Jones: 121.7 RC, 0.297 RCPO, and 8.015 RCPG

    As you can see, once you put in park factors, Jones surpasses Pujols in RC while being only 1.4 runs behind Lee.

    He’s still quite a bit behind them on RCPO and RCPG, but that’s not what the MVP is about. It’s about who has been the most valuable, and the fact that Jones is able to play more games, thereby creating more total runs than Pujols has value.

    Lee is still ahead of him, though. But I doubt there’s a single person who would really claim that, with as close as Jones and Lee are, Lee has a.) more offensive value compared to the average 1B than Jones does to the average CF and b.) Lee’s defensive contribution, even if he’s the best defensive 1B in the NL, is as valuable as Jone’s in CF even if it’s now only slightly above average.

    Surprising as this is to me, right now I would have to say that Andruw Jones to this point in the season is the 2005 NL MVP.

  17. Aaron says:

    Where did you get your park factors?

  18. Kyle says:

    Where did you get your park factors?

    I calculated them myself using the ((Home RS + Home RA) / G) / ((Road RS + Road RA)/G)

  19. Kyle says:

    I should add that, just to clarify, that I used that formula to find 1B, 2B, 3B, HR, and BB park factors. Obviously I subsituted in the appropriate numbers as well.

  20. studes says:

    Nice job. A couple of comments:

    I’m not a fan of one-year park factors, but I have Atlanta as a slightly better hitter park this year than either St. Louis or Wrigley. I don’t know why yours are different.

    The outs are definitely important, and most people don’t handle them correctly. By looking at your linear weights without considering outs, you’re giving Jones a clear advantage. Outs aren’t just an indication of playing time. They’re negative value.

    I would suggest you follow the pure linear weights approach by giving outs a negative value and adding them to your total linear weights.

    Just my two cents.

  21. Anon says:

    Kyle, it seems to me like what you’re doing is basically linear weights for a bases-empty situation. Maybe I misunderstand, but by that method, is a walk worth the same as a single?

    You might want to check out this page from Tangotiger’s site.

  22. Mark Stacy says:

    Addressing JC’s note that Andruw Jones’ defensive numbers aren’t so hot and Kyle’s comment above that Jones is now “only slightly above average” as a center fielder:

    Coincidentally, I’ve been having the same MVP discussion about Jones with a friend, who used Jones’ sudden drop in range factor as a point against his candidacy.

    I suggested that such a drop could be due to factors other than a loss of speed or defensive ability. I went looking for Braves pitchers’ G/F ratios and pointed out that with Hudson joining the team and Smoltz rejoining the rotation, along with Ramirez and, when he was able to pitch, Hampton, the Braves have a moderate to extreme groundball staff now. They’ve had such pitchers before, of course, most notably Maddux, of course, but it appears to me they haven’t had so many at one time or as extreme a groundball pitcher as Hudson — even more extreme than Maddux — in at least the past 5-6 years.

    I also noted that since Andruw is on his way to producing his usual 25-35 doubles, it doesn’t appear he’s lost much speed, if any. And it would be strange for a guy in his prime with such an outstanding defensive record to suddenly lose his speed enough to drop his RF nearly an entire out per game.

    On the basis of this evidence, I suggested Andruw is as good a center fielder as he’s ever been — it’s his TEAM that has changed.

    This would also serve to explain why Furcal, who until now DOES seem to have been a slightly above-average defensive shortstop, is suddenly in contention with the Pirates’ Jack Wilson for a Gold Glove.

    From your observations and any statistical evidence you may have access to, would you agree or disagree with this assessment?

    Thanks.

  23. Mark Stacy says:

    Addressing JC’s note that Andruw Jones’ defensive numbers aren’t so hot and Kyle’s comment above that Jones is now “only slightly above average” as a center fielder:

    Coincidentally, I’ve been having the same MVP discussion about Jones with a friend, who used Jones’ sudden drop in range factor as a point against his candidacy.

    I suggested that such a drop could be due to factors other than a loss of speed or defensive ability. I went looking for Braves pitchers’ G/F ratios and pointed out that with Hudson joining the team and Smoltz rejoining the rotation, along with Ramirez and, when he was able to pitch, Hampton, the Braves have a moderate to extreme groundball staff now. They’ve had such pitchers before, of course, most notably Maddux, of course, but it appears to me they haven’t had so many at one time or as extreme a groundball pitcher as Hudson — even more extreme than Maddux — in at least the past 5-6 years.

    I also noted that since Andruw is on his way to producing his usual 25-35 doubles, it doesn’t appear he’s lost much speed, if any. And it would be strange for a guy in his prime with such an outstanding defensive record to suddenly lose his speed enough to drop his RF nearly an entire out per game.

    On the basis of this evidence, I suggested Andruw is as good a center fielder as he’s ever been — it’s his TEAM that has changed.

    This would also serve to explain why Furcal, who until now DOES seem to have been a slightly above-average defensive shortstop, is suddenly in contention with the Pirates’ Jack Wilson for a Gold Glove.

    From your observations and any statistical evidence you may have access to, would you agree or disagree with this assessment?

    Thanks.

  24. Kyle says:

    I’m not a fan of one-year park factors, but I have Atlanta as a slightly better hitter park this year than either St. Louis or Wrigley. I don’t know why yours are different.

    I’m not either, but my thought process was that we’re only looking at value for this year so we should look only at the run scoring environment for this season. Of course I could be convinced otherwise, though…

    I had Atlanta as a better hitters’ park overall as well, but HR have been significantly cut down by Turners’ Field this year, which is obviously gives Jones a big advantage (or disadvantage depending on how you’re looking at it ;) ) especially since he hasn’t done much else.

    The outs are definitely important, and most people don’t handle them correctly. By looking at your linear weights without considering outs, you’re giving Jones a clear advantage. Outs aren’t just an indication of playing time. They’re negative value.

    Thanks for the suggestion. I just ran the numbers and here’s what I get:

    Negative Value (without park factors):
    Pujols: -63.8
    Lee: -63.6
    Jones: -70.7

    Negative Value (with park factors):
    Pujols: -64.5
    Lee: -63.8
    Jones: -70.7

    Linear Weights (without park factors):
    Pujols: 56.5 RC
    Lee: 61.9 RC
    Jones: 44.1 RC

    Linear Weights (with park factors):
    Pujols: 51.1 RC
    Lee: 59.4 RC
    Jones: 51 RC

    I would like to run these numbers with all NL 1B vs. NL CF to see who has more value compared to their peers. Then it would be interesting to add defense and baserunning into the mix. I’m still guessing that Jones comes out ahead, but I’m not so sure anymore.

  25. Kyle says:

    Kyle, it seems to me like what you’re doing is basically linear weights for a bases-empty situation. Maybe I misunderstand, but by that method, is a walk worth the same as a single?

    You might want to check out this page from Tangotiger’s site.

    Yes, you’re right. It was actually one of the problems I had with it, but I didn’t know where to find that information (that you linked to).

    I just wish I could get that information for 2005.

    Also, is there a site that keeps track of LWTS for midseason?

  26. Greg_Dickens says:

    Just to preface this as I am a cards fan. But as far as the doubles = same speed, I would have to disagree with those numbers as your power goes up your doubles should also. Case in point would be David Ortiz I think we would all agree that he is way slower than AJ, but he still has 38 doubles this year. Also I think a couple of alarming stats for speed and base running could be Jones lack of SB and runs compared to both Lee and Phat Al, albeit I don’t see a ton of Braves games so I can’t say what the reason for it is though.

  27. Mark Stacy says:

    Greg Dickens,

    Good point about David Ortiz. Could the differences in ballparks have anything to do with this? Is Fenway a doubles park? Could Ortiz have learned to dump doubles off the Monster or something?

    As regards changes in Andruw’s stolen base totals, at least, I wondered if that might not be a function of his position in the lineup. A random scan of about a dozen box scores from 2000, when he put up some decent SB numbers, shows he was batting second or sixth most of the time, whereas now (or last night, at least) he bats cleanup. I think it’s generally true that you might ask your No. 2 hitter to run a bit more than your No. 4 hitter.

    I’m a Pirates fan, BTW, so I have nothing better to do this time of year. :-)

  28. Mark Stacy says:

    Well, to answer my own question (I mentioned I have nothing else to do), Ortiz’s doubles split is 19-19, so he gets no obvious benefit from Fenway there, this season at least. What’s interesting, though, is that I also looked at Jones’, Pujols’ and Lee’s home-road splits, and none of them is getting significant power help from his home ballpark, not even Lee. In fact, Jones is having a 60+ road-homer season (20-30), and Ortiz could join him (19-27). Pujols’ power numbers seem about even. Lee hits for more power on the road.

    But none of them has as extreme a split as Andruw. Whether that weighs in his favor as an MVP candidate or not, I really don’t know.