The AL MVP award will be announced today, which means Ben Zobrist is about to become the latest and maybe most controversial name in the fight between those that believe stats are the end-all, be-all and those that think Sabermetrics is synonymous with Satan.
According to Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Zobrist was the most valuable player in the American League this season*.
So what does this mean for Zobrist’s MVP chances and the value of WAR as a Super Statistic?
Zorilla will not win the AL MVP. Only a handful of the most radical statheads have dared make that argument. But Zobrist likely won’t even finish in the top 3 and that might just be too much for te Sabermetric side to handle.
WAR is an excellent stat that attempts to place all players on a level playing field regardless of position, league, home ballpark or female hair color preference.
WAR value includes a players contributions at the plate and in the field (for batters) or on the mound (for pitchers) and also takes into account the value of the position a player plays.
It is unbiased. No matter how fair we try to judge, our eyes will always bias even if not at a conscious level.
The likely winner of the AL MVP, Joe Mauer is at a disadvantage in WAR because the stat is unable to accurately assess the defensive value of catchers.
Even most WAR believers don’t think Zobrist was the most valuable American Leaguer this year, which essentially admits that the stat is not perfect (it is not). But those that still doubt the value of WAR will see that as proof that WAR is unreliable.
Zobrist was second only to Franklin Gutierrez in the AL in defensive value. Was Zorilla the second most valuable defensive player in the AL this season? We are not even sure Zobrist was te second most valuable defensive player on the Rays. And if Zobrist’s defensive WAR is skewed, then why should anybody accept his total WAR?
WAR is universal, so we should be able to compare players in the AL to players in the NL. Albert Pujols posted a WAR of 8.4 in 2009. Would anybody dare argue that Zobrist was more valuable than Pujols?
*Actually, if we are going to be true to WAR, Zack Greinke was the best player in the AL with a 9.6 WAR. Justin Verlander was the second best pitcher at 8.2 WAR.