MVP decision should be easy

If only picking the MVP winners was this easy every year. This season it is clear who baseball’s best of the best is, and they have certainly made themselves known.

The National League’s MVP has been clear since the All-Star break, as Albert Pujols has made the league’s other pitchers look helpless. Pujols, who won the MVP award last year, is on pace to lead the league in just about everything. Pujols leads the NL in home runs, RBIs, walks, slugging percentage, runs, on base percentage and OPS. He is second only to Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez in batting average, who is hitting .330. But I guess no one is perfect.

There is no doubt that Pujols is the best hitter in the National League, but is he the most valuable? The debate about the difference between the most valuable player and the best player has been raging since Alex Rodriguez took the American League crown with the last-place Texas Rangers.

The MVP should be the player who aids in the success of their team more than any other player in the league. Pujols has made things easy for voters on both sides of this debate as he is both the team’s most important player and the player with the best stats.

Another factor in Prince Albert’s favor is that there are no other players who can touch him; all of the NL’s most prolific power hitters such as Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard and Adrian Gonzalez have another player on the team who can carry the lineup.

Pujols’ Cardinals really depend on him and he’s delivered all year as they are on their way to taking the NL Central crown, a spot many had once given to the Chicago Cubs. The Cardinals are without a doubt a talented team as well, but the offense starts and ends with Pujols. Average talent like Matt Holliday and Ryan Ludwick surrounds Pujols, while players like Howard and Fielder havew Chase Utley or Ryan Braun behind them.

The MVP race in the American League is a bit more interesting, but it is still fairly obvious who the MVP is. It’s just a matter of convincing Yankee fans that Joe Mauer has been more valuable to the Twins than Derek Jeter to the Yankees.

While the Yankees are running away with the division, the Minnesota Twins are nipping at the heels of the Detroit Tigers, who have had control of the division for most of the year. With their slugging first baseman out for the rest of the season, it lies on Mauer to catapult the team to the playoffs. Even if the Twins miss playing in October, Mauer has been the league’s most valuable player.

His batting average pops out when you look at his numbers. Mauer leads all of baseball with a .373 batting average. If he continues on this pace, he can be the MVP with the highest end of season batting average since some guy named George Brett hit .390 in 1980. Mauer also leads the AL in On Base Percentage, on base plus slugging percentage and slugging percentage. Not bad coming from a catcher, a position historically reserved for players who could hit some homers and that’s it. Mauer is probably the most prolific catcher since Pudge Rodriguez of the ‘90s, and no one worries about Mauer being on the juice like Pudge.

Unlike Pujols, Mauer actually may have some competition, namely Derek Jeter of the Yankees. Jeter has never won an MVP, but he has come close. He is generally believed to be a first ballot Hall of Famer, but the MVP has eluded him. The closest he’s come to winning it was in 2006 when Mauer’s teammate Justin Morneau won.

Jeter has had an excellent year, even by his standards. His power numbers are up, he’s stolen a ton of bases and his defense is the best it has been in years. But in deciding which player has a greater value, one has to look at how much he has helped his team win. Mauer’s numbers against his own division are much stronger than Jeter’s numbers against his AL East counterparts. Mauer is averaging .397 against teams in the AL Central, while Jeter is hitting .302 against the East. Not bad, but some feel that because Jeter plays in a better division, it is inevitable that he should have a lower average. The AL East is better, but not 95 batting average points better.

Jeter is without doubt a legend; one of the best players in Yankees history, it was a fact made clear when he passed Lou Gehrig for the all time leader in Yankees hits lead. Mauer may not be as legendary, but he is more valuable. It looks as though Jeter will just have to settle for being the best shortstop in Yankees history and not an AL MVP.

You can reach this columnist at slindauer@theeagleonline.com.

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle