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Defining Value: Rodriguez Wins MVP

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Every year, The Baseball Writers Association of America casts their collective vote to determine the American & National League Most Valuable Players

Monday afternoon, their 2005 vote was in, and Alex Rodriguez won his second MVP in 3 years.

How did he do it? The numbers don't lie. Rodriguez had a spectacular year at the plate. He led Ortiz in almost every catagory offensively, in both standard and sabermetric statistics. Many people will say that Rodriguez plays defense, something that Ortiz doesn't provide for his team.
This is true, but Rodriguez was 10th of 14 in 3B fielding win shares.

It mattered little to the voters. Rodriguez earned 16 first-place votes and 331 points, while Ortiz received 11 first-place votes and 307 points. Did it matter that Rodriguez pushed his team to the division title? Not to the voters, who had their tallies in before the playoffs started. No one can deny his numbers for the year. Everyone knows David Ortiz is a clutch hitter, but even that word has varied definitions. One statistic at The Hardball Times lists their own "clutch" index as:

"(a) formula that includes the impact of a batter's batting average with runners in scoring position and the number of home runs with runners on. The specific formula is Hits with RISP minus overall BA times at bats with RISP, plus HR with runners on minus (all HR/AB) times at bats with runners on. This stat is not a definitive description of "clutch hitting," just one way of looking at it."

Take that stat and apply it to the two front-runners in this year's campaign.

AR- -8.8
DO- 4.2

If this is the only thing that mattered, then there wouldn't even be a vote. Negative 8.8? Ouch. Then again, Manny Ramirez had a "Clutch Rating" of 19.7, so maybe we'll need a re-count? Alas, this is not the "Most Clutch Player" award, something that would then go to Manny Ramirez by THT's standards.

Finally, we come to the word "value", which has been fought over as long as there's been debate about a "Most Valuable Player".

I'll use a statistic called "Price Per Win Share", an index that can outline a player's worth to a team based on salary and statistical performance.

val·ue:

#2 Monetary or material worth: (the fluctuating value of gold and silver).

There's little debate here. Alex Rodriguez made 26 MILLION dollars in 2005. His Price Per Win Share is then $702,703. David Ortiz, on the other hand, had a PPWS of $169,354. Taking their respective ball clubs into account, the Red Sox Team Price Per Win Share Average was $455,625. The Yankees were at $722,591.

Both players were under their respective team average, meaning their contributions (despite Rodriguez's salary) were worth the expense. Granted, its a little unfair to A-rod considering the monetary value of Ortiz's contract, which is why Ortiz was less than 1/2 of his team's PPWSA (AND under the LEAGUE average, which is impressive for a player over 20 win shares).

So even that argument goes in favor of Rodriguez. Sure, he gets paid a ridiculous amount of money. Probably too much, but based on the spending of his team, he came in UNDER the value mark set by their payroll and performance based on this statistic.

Value's definition continued:

#3 Worth in usefulness or importance to the possessor; utility or merit: the value of an education.

In terms of proportional Win Shares, David Ortiz didn't even lead his own TEAM. Manny Ramirez tallied 12% of his team's Win Shares (while earning 18% of the payroll but that's a story for another day) while Ortiz racked up 11% (4% of team payroll.)

Rodriguez was worth 13% of his teams's win shares, and also made 13% of their payroll, an even match. I'm sure he planned THAT. This again demonstrates not only Ortiz's incredible monetary value to the Red Sox (he's made less in his entire CAREER than Rodriguez made before this year's All-Star break.), but also how Alex Rodriguez's contract status should have less bearing on his detractors' arguments.

All in all, there are going to be those who think this year's award was a sham, and those who think that the writers nailed it. I think they nailed it. Sure, David Ortiz had a great year. We love him, but his numbers and production just can't line up with Rodriguez this year, despite being GREAT in "Close and Late" situations.

He had a good enough year to make it close (as reflected by the voters), and that's more than enough to celebrate.