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With two weeks left in the season, a baseball fan is supposed to make some wild claims for who deserves which awards. So here goes, for the MVP; I’ll try and make an attempt at the Cy Young award soon.

Well, and how do I figure out this one? The first step, for me, is to get a list of ten or so of the best players. One good way to do this is via the Baseball Prospectus and their EqA and RARP table. EqA is an attempt to make a single metric for offensive production which accounts for context, such as whether the hitter plays in a pitchers’ park or a hitters’ park, and so on. RARP is how much better a player is than the others at his position, purely in terms of offense. Anyway, I pick off ten names from that list. Then I look at their stats, primarily OBP and SLG, but also counting stats and RBIs (which I know are team-dependent, but show actual hits in useful situations). I’ll probably look at home-away splits. Most years, I’ll narrow it down to a few players based on those, probably each one at a different position, and it’ll be a case of deciding between those players. My tiebreakers are defense, which is mostly anecdotal as I don’t trust the metrics, and if RBIs come into play the rate numbers with runners in scoring position, and then the really context-based matter of how much the games counted. That last will only really come into play if I’m stuck between two and I can’t really decide.

Anyway, here’s the initial list:

AL: Melvin Mora, Ichiro! Suzuki, Carlos Guillen, Vlad Guerrero, Gary Sheffield, Miguel Tejada, Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Eric Chavez, David Ortiz, Travis Hafner, Miguel Tejada

NL: Barry. Also, Jim Edmonds, Albert Pujols, Adrian Beltre, J.D. Drew, Mark Loretta, Scott Rolen, Lance Berkman, Todd Helton, Bobby Abreu, Carlos Beltran, Hideki Matsui?

And here are my thoughts as I narrow down:

AL: Manny Ramirez seems to be pretty clearly the best hitter in the league again. Gary Sheffield and Vlad Guerrero are up there too. This Travis Hafner is pretty good too, hunh? But if I’m looking for a reason not to give it to Manny, it’ll be his defense, and Hafner’s a DH, so Manny still has a very slight edge, there. Does Gary Sheffield or Vlad Guerrero make up the gap in fielding? I’d guess not, but I’m not sure. Anyway, there are three very good outfielders, all pretty close to one another. Any other positions? Tempting to keep Pudge in the running, too, but he’s not that much better than the other catchers. Melvin Mora had a hell of a year at third base, as did Eric Chavez, but Chavez missed a lot of games. Carlos Guillen had a hell of a year at shortstop, much better than Miggy Tejada. There aren’t any standout second basemen; David Ortiz DH’d too much for me to want to give it to him over one of the outfielders who hits just as well.

So, I guess I’m left with Manny Ramirez, the best hitter but a bad fielder at an easy position. I have a sense that Carlos Guillen is a good fielder, at a hard position, and Melvin Mora a below-average one at a pretty hard position. I’m inclined, slightly to call Carlos Guillen a tad more valuable, but it’s really close. Manny’s got great ‘clutch’ stats, too. Hmph. Maybe, um. Oh, heck, Manny. No, Carlos. No, Manny. Oh, hell with it.

NL: Damn, he’s good. There’s just no way that he’s a bad enough fielder, and Scott Rolen a good enough one, to make up for a gap like that. And just for fun, with Runners in Scoring Position, Barry Bonds has a SLG of .969—remember, that doesn’t count the one hundred walks. Entertainingly, it looks like Barry has come to the plate 164 times with runners in scoring position and has 64 AB out of it, and Scott Rolen has come to the plate 161 times with runners in scoring position and has 144 AB out of it. One way to look at it—Rolen has 42 more RBI in those situations, so he’s done a better job of knocking people in, which is important for winning games. Another way—Rolen has 52 more outs, so he’s done a much worse job of keeping rallies going. Anyway, I’m just amusing myself with numbers, here, because nobody is as valuable as Barry Bonds this year. Again.

But the most important thing, I think, is who the awards should be named after. It seems dopey to have the pitchers’ award named after Cy Young, but the MVP not named after anybody. How about the NL MVP being the Hank Aaron award, and the AL the Babe Ruth award? Or maybe it would be better to celebrate high peaks for a single-season award like that, and call it the Rogers Hornsby and the Ted Williams? I don’t know. Your suggestions welcomed.