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ESPN.com: Page 2 : A night in the pennant race

Eric Neel:

Did I mention Pedro and Smoltz are going on at the same time? Rusch has been booted from the office TV, perfect game brewing and all. Smoltz is struggling in the early innings — lots of pitches, lots of time for Pete Van Wieren to go off on Andruw Jones and the MVP race. Van Wieren couldn’t stop talking about a column Ken Rosenthal had written suggesting Jones’ batting average with runners in scoring position might be the one weakness in his MVP resume. “If you want to find something negative you can always find something wrong with someone,” Van Wieren kept saying. (I’m paraphrasing.) “In this day and age, when there are so many numbers available to us, you can say something bad about everyone.” (More paraphrasing.) I like that Van Wieren likes his guy. And I like that he’s up in arms about anyone running him down. Really, I do. But it’s not a stretch to challenge Jones’ MVP candidacy. Forget batting average with runners in scoring position; just put his OPS (.941) up against Mr. Pujols’ (1.047). Factor in that Pujols matches Jones’ lead in home runs and RBI with considerable leads in batting average, stolen bases, hits and doubles. And then consider that both men play Gold Glove defense, and both men have been stalwarts for clubs hit by injuries to key players (Chipper Jones in one case and Larry Walker, Reggie Sanders and Scott Rolen in the other), and at the very least you have a tight race.

16 thoughts on “Continue discussion here”

  1. I see his point, but one cannot simply say Chipper was it. You have to look at the injuries to the pitching staff, the division, and the general talent of the team. I’m not trying to say Andruw is God here, but I think it’s safe to say that the Cards play in a weaker division, and are more of a solid team than Atlanta- at least in the beginning of the year. Raul Mondesi, anyone???

  2. andruw’s gold glove defense is much more critical in my opinion since defense in center affects more games than defense at first base.

  3. I agree that Andruw is not a slam dunk for MVP. If he puts up really good numbers in September he would be an easier pick. But you have to strongly consider him for what he did when Chipper was out.

  4. You gotta be kidding me. “They both play Gold Glove defense.” That’s laugh out loud funny: comparing a first baseman’s first rate defense with Andruw in center field.

    IMO, the ONLY reason Andruw wins ( and he should) is because of his defense. The guy’s right: other people have better numbers offensively as a whole. But he is not digging an occasional low hop out of the dirt: he’s the best defensive center fielder EVER.

  5. It’s hard for me to say that, bledsoe, since I never saw some the all-timers play, but he’s definately the best I’ve ever seen. Probably the best since widespread television coverage.

  6. It is rare to have a center fielder with Andruw’s combination of power and defense. That makes him very valuable. And center field is a much more important and challenging position defensively that 1st base. And, it’s easier to find a masher who can play 1st competently. However, the gap in offensive contribution between Lee/Pujols and AJ is pretty darn large. I have not yet seen any objective evidence to suggest AJ’s defensive contributions even come close to overcoming the difference in offensive contributions. Think of it this way: suppose the Braves started Langerhans as the everyday center fielder, but magically replaced the LaRoche/Franco combo with Pujols or Lee. Do you really think the Braves would be worse off in the standings?

  7. I get tired of playing the Marlins and the Phillies and the Natspos, but I never get tired of kicking the shit out of the Mets.

  8. Theoretically, it’s easy to find a first baseman who can hit better than Ryan Langerhans, not so easy to find a competent center fielder who can. However, in the Braves’ case that hasn’t been true. But I think replacement level offense at first has to be set a lot higher than in center.

    I want Andruw to win if only because Sheehan’s head might explode. Of course, seeing as how he keeps picking against the Braves year after year after saying he’s not going to pick against them any more, it’s possible that his head has already exploded.

  9. If you’re not a BP subscriber, I’ll summarize: he doesn’t think that Andruw should get any consideration at all, apparently because defense in center field is only more important because of “highlight plays” and because of some ill-considered ranting about “merit versus moments”. Andruw hits a homer to break a 2-2 tie game in the midst of a pennant race? That’s a “moment” and should be thrown out, because winning games in a pennant race doesn’t matter. Andruw drives in 17 runs in 12 games as the Braves pull away from the pack? Same thing. This is why people dislike sabermetricists.

    I’m on the stathead side most of the time, as my trolls will testify. Yet I’m a “soft” sabermetricist. I came to this from reading Bill James, and one thing I took away from James is that you consider all the evidence, which means while statistics are a tool you can’t ignore everything else and just give the award to the guy with the best statistics. We wouldn’t need an award then, because we all know who has the best statistics. The Braves are winning the division by 6 1/2 games, and Andruw’s won four or five games with walkoff hits. You can’t just ignore that in a pennant race because you’ve decided that the MVP is an award for the guy with the best statistics.

  10. Is it sabermetricist or sabermetrician? I’ve always thought the latter.

    Of course, I wouldn’t know, as I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the sabermetric party.

  11. First of all, I would laugh in the face of anyone who says that Pujols is a Gold Glove firstbasemen. Secondly, if you put Andruw at first, I am sure that he would play the position better than Pujols would center field.

    Yes Pujols is a better hitter than Andruw, and there is no questioning that. I don’t think the Cardinals are that much better than the Braves if you match them up player for player. Where do they have an advantage. Firstbase, catcher maybe, I guess Centerfield is a wash. But would you rather have their outfield or the Braves? Pitching staff is a wash, and the middle infield difference should make up for what the Braves lack at first. So how can you say they are a better team?

  12. Going into today, the Cardinals have scored 34 more runs than the Braves, and given up 22 fewer. So by that alone (run differential being a pretty reliable way to predict future performance), you can say they’re a better team, though it means little head-to-head.

  13. One should keep in mind schedule imbalance when comparing the Cardinals and Braves this year. The Cardinals get more games to beat up on the Brewers, Pirates, Cubs and Reds while the Braves have more games against all the wild card contenders in the NL East.

  14. When you identify Chipper as the only injury against the full deck of Cards, it belies a bias to painting Pujols as more deserving.

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