Sep 24, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Houston Astros second basemanJose Altuve
(27) hits a single during the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jose Altuve should have won the AL’s Most Valuable Player Award as a member of the Houston Astros last season. He led both leagues in average (.341), hits (225), led the AL in stolen bases (56), and won the Silver Slugger Award for AL second basemen; all as a member of a fourth place team.
The MVP award often spawns heated discussion, as it is highly subjective. What does it mean to be “Most Valuable”? Is it the best player in the league? How do you define ‘best’? Is it the pitcher with the most wins, or the hitter with the most home runs? What about a player that wins a batting title for a fourth place team?
The most valuable player is the man that helped his team the most, and in my estimation that almost never happens on a first place team, or even a team with a winning record. My choices for MVP almost always come from teams well under .500.
Teams finish with a winning record because they have players (emphasize the plural) that have very good or great seasons that combined, produce more wins than losses.
A team with a losing record does not have many players with productive seasons. That’s why they lose more than they win – they don’t have the muscle, the firepower, or the overall talent to win more than they lose. I am a firm believer that the MVP almost has to come from a losing team.
That is why I picked Jose Altuve – the batting champion from a fourth place team – as the American League’s Most Valuable Player.
Many look at Wins Above Replacement. Mike Trout led the majors in WAR with 7.87, while Altuve tied for 20th, at 5.99. WAR is essentially how many wins were gained based on that player’s contributions. According to the article What IS WAR?, at Fangaphs.com., “Given the imperfections of some of the available data and the assumptions made to calculate other components, WAR works best as an approximation.”
It is an approximation – not a definitive measure.
Mike Trout is a terrific player, but in my opinion, his 2014 season was not the most valuable to his team. The Los Angeles Angels went to the playoffs, and it wasn’t only due to Trout’s play, as they had major contributions from many players. On the other hand, the Astros had few big contributions other than from Jose Altuve.
Several Angels stepped up and did their part to power the team to a playoff spot. Howie Kendrick led the team with 183 hits and a .293 average; Erick Aybar and Albert Pujols were not far behind. Pujols drove in 105 runs, good for 2nd on the team. Five other Angels besides Trout had 120 or more hits; four other Angels had 30 or more doubles.
The point is it wasn’t just Trout providing the offense for the Angels. Yes, he led the team in more offensive categories than any of his teammates; however, he had plenty of help in powering them to baseball’s best record, 98-64. (Minus Trout’s 7.87 WAR, they would have won 90 games and still made the playoffs.)
The Astros had very little offense other than Altuve. Matt Dominguez was 2nd in hits with only 121. Chris Carter was the RBI leader at 88, with Dominguez the next closest with 57 (besides Altuve’s 59). Only two Astros had as many as 21 doubles, less than half Altuve’s total. The Astros were 2nd in MLB in strikeouts, with 1442 (behind the Chicago Cubs), while Altuve struck out only 53 times.
Although Altuve’s WAR is listed at 20th best 5.99, it is clear the Astros would not have come anywhere close to the 70 wins they accomplished, without Jose’s stunning achievements. (In my opinion, nowhere close to the six games his WAR suggests. It is further proof to me the WAR stat is flawed.)
Because the Angels had so many players with significant offensive numbers, and the Astros didn’t – except, of course Jose Altuve – it tells me that Altuve was more valuable to his team than Trout was.
It’s all subjective anyway, but for me, the clear MVP choice, without question or hesitation, is Jose Altuve.