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March 4, 2010 3:35 PM

The Mystery Behind Joe Mauer's Missing MVP Vote

As you probably know, Joe Mauer missed being the unanimous AL MVP last year by a single vote.  That vote went to Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers, and was cast by a Japanese writer from Kyoto who covers the Seattle Mariners.  Tyler Kepner of the New York Times tracked down this writer, Keizo Kinoshi, and asked him to explain his logic in voting for Cabrera.  While Kinoshi appears to give some sound arguments, they are fatally flawed.

JoeMauer2.jpgFirst, he argues that a Tigers lineup without Cabrera is weaker than a Twins lineup sans Mauer.  Not sure if you are familiar with the concept of replacement level players Mr. Kinoshi, but Cabrera would likely be replaced by a decent first baseman, while Mauer would likely be replaced by an abysmal catcher.  The two players WAR's reflect that, 8.1 for Mauer and 5.5 for Cabrera.

Second he argues that Cabrera did not have as strong of a supporting cast in Detroit.  I will concede him that point with regard to the hitters.  After Mauer, Minnesota's top five hitters accumulated 17.5 WAR, as opposed to 14.5 for the Tigers.  Pitching, however, is a different story.  Justin Verlander contributed as many Wins Above Replacement as the Twins top three pitchers.  Edwin Jackson was as good as Minnesota's top hurler, Scott Baker.  I find it hard to believe that someone can say a team that lists Scott Baker as their top pitcher (based on WAR) is the better team.

Finally, he argued that Cabrera was more valuable because he played 160 games, whereas Mauer only played in 138.  I understand that this is where the cultural differences come into play, as Japanese players are expected to be very durable, but come on!  A player's value is not based solely on how many games they play, but how much they contribute.  Taking it to the extreme, would you rather have a player who played 80 games but hit 80 home runs, or a player who played the full 162 games but never got on base once?  Despite playing 22 fewer games, Mauer still contributed more to his team than Cabrera.

My last comment is with regards to the fact that Kinoshi did not know about Cabrera's alcohol related situation on the final weekend of the season when he cast his ballot.  That was pretty big news.  It seems to me that someone who has access to an MVP ballot should know about that sort of thing.

Anyways, it was nice of Kinoshi to come forward with an explanation, and he seemed genuinely convinced that he had made an informed decision, but I am a little sceptical about how he values MLB players.

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