Son of Yhency

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The argument for Papi

Oh man, I don't want to do this. But I must.

You see, living in New York City, I'm surrounded by Yankee fans. Not a surprising fact, I know, but a revolting one nonetheless. And they all love A-Rod. Again, not too surprising. But why??

At work a few weeks ago, we had a persuasive communications class as part of some ongoing training. Our assignment for the day was to make a persuasive speech on the topic of our choice. So I spoke about why David Ortiz should be voted this year’s AL MVP. I went through the arguments for -- unbelievably clutch hitting and unparalleled clubhouse leadership -- and openly acknowledged the one argument (the only one!) against -- he's a DH.

Listen, if we're talking about the best player in the AL (and maybe all of baseball), you'd be stupid not to say A-Rod. But we're talking about the most valuable, and that's a completely different story.

Anyway, it just so happened that the speech of the girl who went after me was about why A-Rod deserved the award. And what do you know, her entire argument centered on the fact that Papi’s a DH. Great rebuttal. No, really.

So folks, with the MVP award being announced this Monday, let's figure this out, once and for all. Of course the award has something to do with how good you are, strictly as a baseball player. And I've already conceded this distinction to A-Rod. But in terms of value to a team, I’m arguing that Papi blows him out of the water.

It's common knowledge that Papi is immensely clutch. (And clutch hitting, which some used to say was more imagined than based in reality, has been proven to be very real.) Of his 47 home runs in the regular season, something like 20 either tied the game for the Red Sox or put them ahead. In the last week of the season, with the Sox' playoff hopes in jeopardy and the team losing to the Blue Jays, Ortiz tied the game in the 8th with a home run and then singled in the 9th to bring home the winning run. And then there's the whole winning the 2004 ALDS on a walk-off homer, winning Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS with a walk-off homer and winning Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS with a walk-off single thing. He's clutch, people.

It's also common knowledge that A-Rod cannot hit when anything is on the line. I know the playoffs aren't considered in the MVP voting, but did you see what he did in the ALDS this year?? He had two hits (in the entire series!!), zero RBIs, an error that allowed the Angels to win Game 2 and hit into what was effectively a series-ending double play in the ninth inning of Game 5. During the regular season, it was the same story. I had the misfortune of going to the game where he hit three homers and had 10 RBIs against the Angels. But the final score of that game? 12-4. Great production, wrong time.

I could talk until my face is blue, but as we know, baseball is all about the numbers. Common knowledge and anecdotes may prove a player’s value, but they’re not tangible. The numbers are. And they don’t lie. So let's take a look at some of the most telling ones.

First, a quick look at these guys’ basic stats for the year:


As you can see, they’re basically even. A-Rod’s better in average, Papi’s better in RBIs, and it’s a push in the other two categories. This is why most people think it's a coinflip between these two guys.

But it's not a coinflip. Dig just a little deeper and you'll see the disparity. Specifically, let’s look at the situational hitting stats for these guys. Because it’s one thing to hit when it doesn’t matter but completely different in an important situation:

With the bases empty:


Advantage in this typically non-important situation clearly goes to A-Rod. But lets see how this breaks down with runners on base:


Whoa, look at that! With just having runners on base, Ortiz all of a sudden becomes a better hitter and passes A-Rod (who becomes a worse hitter) in all stats. But let's dig a little deeper. Let's look at the situations not just when runners are on base, but when runners are in scoring position:


And the disparity widens! A-Rod, in this even more clutch situation continues to decline while Papi considerably improves. And the best part is, there's more. Let's look at runners in scoring position, with two outs:


Are you kidding me?!?!? While A-Rod doesn't get any worse here, Papi just blows him out of the water. I mean, that's not even close. In what is generally the most important time for clutch hitting, Papi hit 66 points better in average than A-Rod, 78 points better in on base percentage and 207 points better in slugging!

So here's the point, kids: Whether you hear all the stories or just look at the cold, hard numbers, in the most important times, Ortiz is without a doubt the better hitter. And that's what makes him so special and so valuable. But if you want just the best hitter in baseball, who will pad your lead in non-important situations, then I guess A-Rod's your man. I'm sure Astros fans would be clamoring for him right now, what with all those bases loaded, two out situations they couldn't execute during the World Series.

Then there’s the whole clubhouse leadership thing. When’s the last time you heard some story about A-Rod rallying the troops? Ever? Can’t say I have. He’s too busy playing poker and being bitch-slapped by Gary Sheffield for that sort of thing.

With Papi, you never stop hearing about how important he is to his teammates. Whatever’s required off the field, he does it. And if you can somehow argue that that doesn’t matter in the MVP voting, you’re an idiot.

I really can’t even fathom how people can vote for A-Rod as the Most Valuable Player. It’s beyond me, really. I invite you to persuade me otherwise, but I just don’t see it happening. And please don’t throw me that DH crap because it just doesn’t fly. As already discussed, there’s far too much else that goes into the consideration set for that to hurt him that much. So until I hear any convincing arguments otherwise, Papi has to be your AL MVP this year. I pray sportswriters voted the same way.