Jacoby Ellsbury For AL MVP

There seems to be no clear cut MVP candidate for the AL. The vast vast majority of the time an offensive player wins the MVP award, but when the offensive class becomes weak, we start to hear rumblings and grumblings of the Cy Young winner deserving the MVP (see: Johan Santana in 2006 when his teammate Justin Morneau, undeservingly, won the MVP). We're starting to see that this year with everyone seemingly on the Justin Verlander bandwagon. I won't scream outrage if Verlander wins it, but I don't believe he does deserves it.

I believe Jacoby Ellsbury does.

First, I'll give my arguments why I believe Ellsbury is the best player in the American League. Then, I will give reasons why Ellsbury is better than the two other leading AL MVP candidates: Jose Bautista and Justin Verlander.

The main reason why I believe Ellsbury deserves the MVP is because he has the best WAR (9.2) in the American League. He actually has the best WAR in all of baseball. No one else has a WAR above 9.0- except Ellsbury.

I think people think of Ellsbury as this speed guy who can steal 70 bases and is a pretty decent lead off man. But in 2011 he changed his entire game by adding power and a lot of it. Right now Jacoby Ellsbury has 31 home runs- which is tied for 5th in the AL. Ellsbury actually leads his team in home runs. He has more homers than Adrian Gonzalez (27), David Ortiz (29), and Dustin Pedroia (20). However, I believe this perception that Ellsbury still is this speed guy plus the fact that he plays with such offensive powerhouses overlooks just how good Ellsbury has been on offense.

Ellsbury's triple slash line is this: .322/.377/.551. Ellsbury is hitting the ball, hitting the ball with power, and getting on base. That's two of the five tools right there.

While Ellsbury is hitting for power he still has retained his speed stealing 38 bases (4th in the American League) and is the only American League player in the 30/30 club this year. That's three out of the five tools.

Despite how good Ellsbury has been on offense this year, the main reason he deserves to be the AL MVP is because of the fourth tool- his defense. There are absolutely at least five other AL offensive players that are better than Ellsbury, but they do not have the kind of defense that Ellsbury has. Ellsbury is 4th in the AL in defense according to the Fangraphs Fld stat, 5th in the AL in UZR/150, and 2nd in the AL in Revised Zone Rating. No matter what defensive metric you use, Ellsbury has been amazing at it.

Bill Simmons thinks (and frankly so does most baseball fans) that the MVP should go to the best offensive player. Simmons thinks one should vote on MVP candidates based on how fearful do pitchers feel pitching to a particular batter. I think this is faulty reasoning in today's day and age considering all we know and can measure about baseball players. While offense is obviously extremely important, it's ignorant to think that you should discount a players defense when half of every game a player plays he is also on defense. We can now measure (admittedly not with the great preciseness and efficiency that we can measure offense) how well a player plays on defense and how that contributes to how many wins they add to their team.

As DME posted in this article about how he believed Chase Utley deserved the 2009 NL MVP over Albert Pujols, defense matters- especially the defensive position you play. Ellsbury plays at a premium defensive position (CF) and is very good there.

I will note that Ellsbury is terrible at the last of the five tools- defensive arm- but to me that's the worst of the five tools, an overrated measure of any player's game, and is probably an archaic notion by now- especially if you have fantastic range.

Now let's talk about why Ellsbury deserves the MVP over Jose Bautista. The simple and easy answer is defense. While Jose Bautista is far and away the best offensive player in the American League (1st in wOBA, OBP, and SLG) he still is 0.8 points behind Ellsbury in WAR- because his defense actually helps lose games for Toronto. Bautista has a -4.5 Fld, -11.2 UZR/150, and a .922 RZR (good for only 15th in the AL). Plus, Bautista plays at a non-premium defensive position (RF).

DME argued with me that Baustita deserves the MVP more than Ellsbury because when two players are close in who deserves to be the MVP, you have to discount defense because you can't really measure it as well as offense so you have to use offense as the tiebreaker. I think this logic is flawed in two ways. First, the basic premise of this argument discounts everything baseball has done in the past five to ten years establishing defensive statistics. If you're going to discount the metrics we have available to us to determine MVP candidates then you need to discount them entirely. You either believe in them or you don't. You can not say you believe in them in one aspect but not in another. Next, he says that different sites and experts have different evaluations of how to measure defense which contributes to why defense should be discounted. How Fangraphs measures defense is much different than how The Hardball Times measures it. However, no matter if you're using an old school scout's eye or an advanced stats website, Ellsbury is far and away the better defender this year.

Lastly, I believe Ellsbury deserves the award over the great Justin Verlander. People seem to forget just how much pitching only 35 games out of the 162 game season limits how much you contribute to how many wins your team has. Currently Justin Verlander only has a 7.0 WAR. Ellsbury, Bautista, Dustin Pedroia, Curtis Granderson, and even Ian Kinsler have better WARs than Verlander. In fact, Verlander is tied for first in pitching WAR with C.C. Sabathia! Verlander's not even the clear cut #1 picther in his league (although he obviously is the AL Cy Young winner and the best pitcher in the AL in 2011).

The only way I'll give an MVP to a pitcher is if the pitcher has one of the greatest pitching seasons ever. While Verlander has having a very good season, this season doesn't come close to either of Pedro Martinez's 1999 or 2000 seasons (and both of those seasons even Pedro didn't win the MVP). As much as I like and respect Verlander and his amazing season, he doesn't play in enough games to deserve the MVP. That's why we have a Cy Young category to begin with.

In conclusion, GO ELLSBURY! I'm fine sitting on this island by myself. If you believe Verlander or Bautista deserves the MVP more than Ellsbury, that's fine and I won't vehemently diagree with you. If you believe anyone else like Granderson or AGon deserves the MVP then you're an idiot and I will vehemently disagree with you.