hangoverRob Neyer discusses the case of Ben Zobrist as the American League Most Valuable Player.

Just off the top: Zobrist leads the American League in FanGraphs’ Runs Above Replacement (51.5) but he’s just 20th in Baseball Prospectus’ Wins Above Replacement (4.1).

Why the difference? Maybe one of our favorite lines of all time (emphasis ours)…

Why the big difference? Simple: According to FanGraphs, Zorilla has been phenomenally good at second base, and excellent too in the outfield; according to BP, he’s been just an average fielder this season. And just when you thought the pinheads had figured out defense

Of course, then Neyer goes in the opposite direction and deducts points from Zorilla’s candidacy for not scoring enough or driving in enough.

As a practical matter, Zobrist isn’t in the top 10 in the AL in runs scored or RBI. That’s why he’s not going to draw a great deal of support from the voters.

Of course, those are the two categories that Zobrist has the least control over.

In the end, Neyer says that he is “not convinced that Zobrist is the most valuable player in the American League.” And we have to agree. Heck, he might not even be the Most Valuable Ray. If the Rays were in first in the AL East by a couple of games, we might have a different story.

Zorilla’s MVP chances [ESPN]

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13 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Link please? Is this free from Neyer's blog or part of the ESPN Insider stuff?

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  2. Possum Avenger says:

    I think most "in the know" believe Fangraphs UZR to be much better than anything produced by BP. Since Silver left BP has done almost nothing worthwhile.

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  3. Andy Kline says:

    As of right now, Zobrist is our MVP. Not the AL MVP, though.

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  4. Beth says:

    I think more accurately Zobrist is one of the only members of the Rays who has played above expectations. I'm not sure if that makes him "most valuable, but certainly he is up there with CC and JP Howell for "least disappointing."

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  5. bobrittner says:

    Of course, Neyer is not saying that Zobrist "should" not be named MVP because of his lag in runs and RBIs. He is merely saying that voters are less likely to vote for him because of that.

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  6. Don says:

    I almost have to laugh..."experts" now arguing wether or not Zobrist is our MVP.....These same "experts"(incl. this site) 3 months ago were calling him a "utility player"..all the while I was screaming that he was one of our best players sitting on the bench! Oh well.... hind site makes "experts" actual "experts"......

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    • bobrittner says:

      You are confusing reasonable analysis with accidentally being right. I might hit a lotto jackpot; that does not mean I am clairvoyant. I might see an A league pitcher and say he will be a major league star; if he becomes one that does not make me a scout.

      Until the middle of last year there was no reason to think Zobrist would develop into even a decent bench player let alone a regular. The Rays got him because he had demonstrated excellent plate discipline in the minors, but it often happens that light hitting infielders do not translate that into the majors.

      From then through early this year he seemed to develop more power and ultimately more plate discipline as well. Nobody watching him play prior to last July could have anticipated that, and nobody watching him since should have assumed it would continue. So far it has and seems real, but to be screaming that he is a star after 1/2 year of success is not foresight; it is foolishness. And to appear to be right despite being foolish is nothing to gloat about.

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      • Don says:

        I tell you about real foolishness...
        Your exactly right about the timing of the coming out of Zo....about last
        July when he started to get a chance to play...I couldn't believe his progress, and hitting "awareness" that I have not seen here with most of our players, plus, I really did not see any problems in the field!
        Now 2009...as a labeled "utility" player sitting on bench we have to put up with the Gabe & Gabe comedy act in right field, esp at the plate...
        My best guess if Zo starts in right ...my foolishness tells me we would be in a much better position than we are right now...(not to mention Aybar/Burrell joke!)

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        • bobrittner says:

          Yes, everyone saw it. The question remained whether the obvious improvement was real or simply a hot streak, something that even the worst players in the majors go through. Many fans react to momentary phenomena assuming they mean more than they really do. It is the Kevin Maas syndrome. Naturally a player who is hitting well will appear to have better mechanics or awareness. There is not one of us who cannot point to the lucky guess when we forecast excellence from a player whom we saw do well once or over a month or so. Of course we conveniently forget the innumerable times we missed badly with that sort of foolishness.

          As for the Gabes in RF, they are among the most productive tandems in the league both offensively and defensively. Kapler who started the year as if he were toast has become a significant contributor, and Gross remains a valuable platoon/bench player. They both hit well and are getting on base at a terrific rate. Meanwhile, Zobrist had more ABs than either of them before he moved to replace Iwamura, so there is no issue that he would have added value had he been in RF from the start. He was performing admirably in his super-utility role, was used regularly, and we got the added advantage of both Gabes providing useful ABs as well.

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  7. Don says:

    Last observation on Zo and I'm done... Gabe & Gabe playing instead of Zobrist early in the season...was one of biggest mistakes by the Rays (Maddon esp.) this season!!

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  8. bobrittner says:

    Your opinion would be at best debatable in any case, but more of a problem is that your fact is wrong. Zobrist played plenty of RF to start the year, playing full games there 13 times before May 25 (when he became the 2B regular after Iwamura's injury) and often moving there late in games after starting elsewhere. When he did not start there it was often because he was replacing an injured player elsewhere (Upton for example) or getting ABs by allowing someone else a day off. Neither of the Gabes kept him out of games or significantly limited his ABs.

    When he did not start, he often came in early and finished games or was used in particularly high pressure situations where he continued to excel and help the Rays win games. Contrary to your assertion, one of the most intelligent things the Rays did this year was to designate Zobrist as the super-sub and maneuver his versatility to its best advantage.

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    • Don says:

      Let me try....one more time...see if you can get this...
      The more a player like Zo plays (hits) instead of sitting on the bench as a "super-sub" (actually new term for Zo...now its "super") the more runs are scored, the more games are won....to play Kapler,Gross or anyone else, as it turns out, is STUPID... try to understand or I'll change your name to Maddon Jr,.................................

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