Granillo: Braun, Cabrera and sluggers’ MVP chances

From SABR member Larry Granillo at Baseball Prospectus on September 20, 2012:

Ryan Braun is not going to win the MVP award this year. Even with the Brewers surging into the playoffs thanks to an unprecedented triple swoon by the other National League Wild Card contenders, there are, ahem, reasons that Braun won’t walk away with the trophy. One of those reasons plays catcher for the San Francisco Giants.

Statistically, there is no doubt that Braun has a case for the award. He leads the National League (through Tuesday) with 40 home runs, 104 RBIs, 326 total bases, a .601 slugging and a .990 OPS. His .315 batting average is fifth in the league and his 96 runs scored are second. He also has 27 stolen bases already on the year and may very well finish with a 40/30 season. In most any year in history, that case would be enough to win the award, personal issues not-withstanding.

Buster Posey is having a pretty good year himself. In 50 fewer plate appearances, Posey has only eight fewer hits than Braun. That’s enough to help put Posey’s .333 batting average at third in the league. He also has six more doubles than Braun despite the fewer at-bats and a respectable-unto-itself 22 home runs. Posey’s .409 on-base percentage is also 20 points higher than Braun’s .389, while his 73 runs scored and 93 RBIs complete the all-around great season Posey has put together.


All of this leads me to wonder, is it getting harder for players from offense-heavy positions to win the coveted postseason awards? Braun may seem like the wrong guy to use as an example, seeing as how he already has two shiny pieces of hardware on his shelf back home, but the end results belie the difficulty he had in achieving them. In 2011, Braun only won the award because of voters’ obsession with the semantics of the word “valuable”. In 2007—an age so long ago Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were still in (major league) uniforms—he won by the slimmest of margins despite a massive defensive difference that voters often overlook. And now, in 2012, he isn’t likely to win it at all, no matter how many times his name appears on the leaderboard. Will the new awareness for a player’s overall worth—getting on-base, hitting for power, playing defense, running well—mean fewer honors for players who, in the past, might have waltzed away with the awards?

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Originally published: September 20, 2012. Last Updated: September 20, 2012.