TDG Roundtable: The MVP Debate
Every week on Fridays, our writers here at The Dynasty Guru will be bringing you some quick hit musings about a particular topic so you, the reader, can get a blast of info from a bunch of different writers with some passionate opinions. This week, our great staff give you some great players to add from the waiver wire for the stretch run.
Phil Barrington Choices for AL and NL MVP
MVP AL: Shohei Ohtani, P/DH
This one is easy, even with Vladito having a monster season, his teammate Marcus Semien earning himself a ton of money this offseason with a great year, and Sal Perez having the greatest hitting season for a catcher ever. No player has ever done what Ohtani has done, period, with the hitting combined with pitching. Furthermore, his hitting numbers alone make him a top MVP candidate, and his pitching numbers are great as well. I have heard a few arguments as to why Ohtani does not deserve the MVP, and Guerrero does. One, if Ohtani does this every season, will he be MVP every season? As I don’t know the future, and while it is great people are putting that kind of stock in how good Ohtani can continue to be, no one knows the future, and thus I will not judge today’s MVP race based on that fact. Two, is that Guerrero may win the Triple Crown. Well, Triple Crown winners have not won MVP before, and while Vlad has had a great hitting season, him being a first baseman hurts in this case, as he is not bringing elite defense to the table. Third, the Blue Jays may make the wild card, while the Angels will not make the playoffs. I wonder, if Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon were healthy, would we be looking at the Angels being more competitive? Absolutely. While Vladito should not be hindered by having fellow MVP candidate Marcus Semien as a teammate (along with Teoscar Hernandez, George Springer, and Bo Bichette), I cannot penalize Ohtani for not having his best teammates this season. So, again, easy choice here, Ohtani.
MVP NL: Fernando Tatis Jr. SS/OF
This one is really tough. As of this writing, both Bryce Harper and Fernando Tatis Jr. have near equal claims to the MVP. Tatis Jr., if he did not miss time due to injury, would easily win. Both their teams have equal records, and both have excellent stat lines; Harper leads the league in OPS at 1.047 and OPS+ with 181, to go along with 33 homers and 13 steals and 169 Runs + RBI in 129 games. Tatis is leading the NL in home runs with 39 and slugging .620, with 186 Runs + RBI in 117 games. It is very close, and I think the voters will choose whichever one leads his team to the playoffs, as that is often used as a tiebreaker when two players are so close, as Harper and Tatis are. As much as I love Bryce Harper, and I wrote about my devotion in our recent Triple Play on the Phillies, my choice is Tatis Jr., winning his first.
Ross Jensen Choices for AL and NL MVP
AL MVP: Vladimir Guerrero, Jr.
I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate compared to what I think most of my contemporaries here at TDG will say about AL MVP and go with Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., as opposed to Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani has had a remarkable season on both sides of the diamond. He is right in the thick of it in the home run chase, while also posting an ERA under 3.30 and leading the league in WAR. If he wins it, it would be deserved. That said, in his first 2/3rds of the season, talking heads and Twitter personas began tossing out misguided comparisons of Ohtani to Babe Ruth and labeled his 2021 season the greatest ever. C’mon, really? Despite his multifaceted talents, Ohtani is still more likely to finish his season with a WAR closer to an average (non-MVP) Mike Trout season. In addition, unfortunately, Ohtani has hit a bit of a slump lately – his average has tailed off dramatically (at .255 as of writing) and he has yielded the home run lead to Vlad and Salvador Perez. While he has been effective on the mound, piling up 146 strikeouts, he has piled up even more in the batter’s box, with 179 whiffs. 200 by year end is well within reach. There was always an argument for Vlad, but that has increased dramatically with Ohtani’s struggles and especially with him being sidelined as a pitcher for the remainder of the season. Vlad has an opportunity to win the Triple Crown at 22 years old and has been the best hitter in the AL in 2021, by a decent margin in this writer’s opinion. He is also carrying his team to the playoffs. These factors will weigh on voters’ minds when they cast their ballots. Awards are not given out for half season accomplishments: what Ohtani has done on both sides is a marvel, but the greatness Vlad has displayed on one side outweighs it.
NL MVP: Juan Soto
This is less about what will happen and more about what should happen. There is practically zero chance that Soto wins the MVP award in 2021, with his team sitting in dead last in the NL East. However, Soto is the best hitter in baseball (apologies to Mike Trout here). The Nationals will never trade Soto, because they recognize he is the Most Valuable Player in the league. He leads the league in walks, with 127 (and only 87 strikeouts) in part because opposing pitcher’s know he is MLB’s best hitter. Despite a slow start, Soto currently sports a slash of .315/.461/.530. Stop for a second and admire that .461 OBP. He reaches base in nearly half of his appearances! His second half has been absurd, .359/.528/.651. If he keeps it up, he will likely finish with an OPS above 1.000 with a shot at leading the league in that category. His numbers practically scream Barry Bonds (who won 7 MVP awards). His WAR is the highest in the NL. The only argument I see against him is that his team is not doing well. Pitchers see it, the Nationals see it, it’s time for voter’s to recognize that he is the best player in the league by giving him the MVP award!
Brett Cook Choices for AL and NL MVP
AL MVP: Shohei Ohtani
This one is easy. There has been so much talk around Shohei this year (with good reason because he is a freak) that I wouldn’t be surprised if he was named the American League MVP. Guerrero has more home runs this year as of now, and more rbi’s and runs, but so what!? Ohtani has also stolen 19 more bags this year.
Ohtani has also pitched over 123 innings this year. Just so you have a 2021 comparison of how valuable that is to a rotation, Carlos Rodon has only pitched four more innings than Ohtani. Granted Rodon has a sub 2.50 earned run average while Ohtani boasts a sub 3.50, any team would take that kind of a production from a starting pitcher, and that isn’t even factoring where his major production came from (hitting).
When it comes to the baseball diamond, Ohtani literally does everything. And he does all of those things well. The fact that Guerrero has (barely) more home runs than Ohtani, and 20 plus more runs and runs batted in isn’t enough to crown Guerrero the most valuable player. Even with a batting average sixty points higher, Guerrero still isn’t the most valuable player in my mind.
The best way I can say it is Guerrero’s offensive production beats Ohtani sixty percent to forty percent. But Guerrero didn’t toe the rubber and lead his team to nine victories (this could increase to ten. Ohtani has. Ohtani has a nine and two record this year in twenty-two games started. But Ohtani has what Guerrero and no other MLB player has, dominance behind the mound and plate. This, in my opinion, is the argument that trumps all arguments, and the argument those voting on this prestigious award will arrive at in the off-season.
NL MVP: Juan Soto
The only argument that we can come up with for why Soto shouldn’t be the National League MVP is that he plays for the Bad News Bears. Isn’t it horrible that we live in a world where all who see what you are doing know that you are the best, and yet you are still denied that distinction simply because those around him didn’t perform? If you deny the player that everyone knows is the most valuable player simply because his team wasn’t a playoff contender, then you aren’t looking for the most valuable player in the league. You are looking for the most valuable player on a winning team. And narrowing your value of a player to only fit the criteria of a player on a winning team doesn’t encompass the whole truth of what is most valuable. You can be the league’s most valuable player on a below average team.
I know you can because that is exactly what Juan Soto is. Ohtani can do everything in baseball really well, but no one hits like Soto. Soto has 130 walks to 84 strikeouts. Tonight he actually set the walk record for the Nationals and he picked up two more home runs. His plate discipline is otherworldly as he boasts an on-base percentage currently sitting at .466. Soto is basically on base every other at-bat. He is the best player in baseball at 22 years old and he absolutely deserves to be crowned the most valuable player of the National League. I will go even further to say that If you could vote the most valuable player for each league and the most valuable player of the entire MLB, I would say Juan Soto without any hesitation. He is the best player in the world with or without talent around him.
Ken Balderston Choices for AL and NL MVP
MVP AL: Shohei Ohtani, P/DH
I’m really looking forward to the AL MVP debate, with there really being no debate of Shohei Ohtani being the winner in my opinion, but there will be a heated debate over what the MVP means. We’ll hear plenty of narrative surrounding ‘most valuable to his team’ and a triple crown winner (if Guerrero does in fact win the triple crown) has to be MVP. Afterall, this was the narrative back in 2012 when Miguel Cabrera won both the triple crown, and the MVP award over Mike Trout. At the time many writers voting for the MVP award were just familiarizing themselves with the statistic of WAR, a stat Trout outperformed Cabrera in 10.5 to 7.1 according to Baseball Reference. And of course all the old school voters who awarded Miggy the MVP that year, many of whom are still voting for the award, will have to side with Guerrero this season, or admit they made a mistake and owe Mike Trout a metaphorical steak dinner. That season, Miggy and the Tigers won the AL central division, while Trout’s Angels were a fairly distant 4 games back of the wild card. Eerily similar to 2021, where Vladdy’s Jays are pushing for a playoff spot, while Ohtani’s Angels fell out of the race in early September, and are currently under .500. So what does most valuable to his team really mean? Or maybe a more direct question would be… is a player like Ohtani responsible for the poor play of his teammates? He did, after all, pitch 123 innings, with an ERA of 3.28 so far while also hitting 45 home runs (so far) in only 589 plate appearances. Also, what if the Jays miss the playoffs? Isn’t second place the first loser, meaning if the Jays miss the playoffs, what does it really matter how close they were? I’m not going to repeat all the stats and accomplishments you’ve already heard, but baseball has gotten by with a vague description of what the MVP is for generations. Debate might raise interest, and is basically free advertising for the game, but the MVP is a prestigious award. It’s time to start admitting we know more about the game today, than we did 30 years ago and making the winner less objective. It’s time to start giving credit for something that has never been done before, rather than fail to progress as a game. Ohtani is the MVP.
MVP NL: Fernando Tatis Jr. SS/OF
Statistically – this race is very close, with Juan Soto and Bryce Harper being viable options to win the award, and let’s sprinkle in some votes to Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, & Freddie Freeman too. I’m not going to split hairs on the stats, there are still games left to be played after all, but Tatis’ shoulder injury pushes him over for me. In case you don’t remember, Tatis missed a little over two weeks in the middle of the playoff chase (Soto and Harper have both also spent time on the IL this year). The Padres have been flat ever since, highlighting just how important to the team Fernando is, but he agreed to come back early and play the outfield to help the team win. Yes, a lot of players would do the same but the perception of the Padres changes immensely with Tatis in the lineup. Tatis spent a large portion of August, after he came back early from the injury… struggling. Are we going to take him down a notch, because he put the team first? Isn’t that the definition of an MVP? He’s been white hot in September, despite the team falling short of supporting him (again). This should be one of the closest award votes this offseason, and imagine what it would be like if Ronald Acuna was healthy. The best take away here is how bright the future is for the NL with the triumvirate of Tatis, Soto, and Acuna, and baseball in general.