The Cubs 2008 MVP
The Cubs get to enjoy their off-day with a nice come from behind win yesterday and a 5-1 road trip that puts them on the right side of the .500 mark away from Wrigley. They'll play 16 straight starting tomorrow, 13 of those coming at home and the three road games at Pittsburgh. It seems like a great time to increase their lead in the Central, but the Brewers have a pretty easy go of it as well. The schedules through September 4th (three game series unless otherwise noted):
Cubs (16 with 13 at Home): vs. Reds, vs. Nats, @ Pirates, vs Phillies (for 4 games), vs Astros
Brewers (14 with 9 at Home): vs. Astros, vs. Pirates, @ St. Louis (2 games), @ Pitt, vs. Mets
Cardinals (13 with 7 at Home): vs. Pirates(2 games), vs Braves, vs. Brewers (2 games), @ Astros, @ Diamondbacks
So that's looking forward, but what about taking a look back at the 2008 season. Peter Gammons on Friday brought up Geovany Soto's name as an National League MVP candidate and it got me thinking about who is the Cubs 2008 MVP.
Your candidates after the jump...
Geovany Soto - 2nd among NL catchers in OPS and Win Shares behind Brian McCann...gets mad props from his pitchers for his defense and handling of the staff..4th in the NL in CS%(.293). Using the Baseball Reference Play Index, I did a search for catchers 25 or younger with an OPS+ of 115 or greater with at least 450 PA's. Soto's current 122 OPS+ ranks in there with the likes of Ted Simmons, Thurman Munson and Gary Carter.
Mark DeRosa - Leads the team in runs scored (79) and is third in OBP among those who qualify. Among the regulars, he leads the team in batting average with runners in scoring position as well. Hs defensive versatility should not be overlooked.
Aramis Ramirez - Among the Cubs hitters that qualify, he leads them in OPS(.895) and Slugging Percentage(.508). He also leads the team in RBI's, doubles and Runs Created. 2nd on the team in Win Shares.
Alfonso Soriano - For a guy who missed a chunk of time, he still leads the team in home runs with 22. If he qualified, he'd be second on the team in OPS with .901 behind someone else that doesn't qualify - Jim Edmonds. The team is 49-20 when he has played.
Jim Edmonds - Mea culpa. Would lead the team in OPS (.969) and SLG(.594) if he had enough plate appearances. I don't care to talk about his continued showboating on defense.
Ryan Theriot - Leads the team in batting average(.316) ,OBP(.396) and steals (18)...also in caught stealing with 13.
Carlos Zambrano - Leads the team with 17 Win Shares. Has a .929 OPS and has hit .433 with runners on and .478 with runners in scoring position. He pitches too. 12-5 with a 3.38 ERA and second in VORP (38.3) to Ryan Dempster.
Ryan Dempster - Leads the team in ERA(2.92), wins(14), innings pitched (163.1), strikeouts (149) and - holy shit - WHIP(1.16).
A lot of deserving candidates, but let's turn to one more number to try and help their cases.
A quick look at the WARP-1 totals from Baseball Prospectus of our regulars and top two pitchers. WARP-1 (Wins Above Replacement Player) tries to factor in defense and position scarcity.
Well, who would have thunk that Mark DeRosa would lead the team? And I have to admit that at first I didn't even include him in the short list. I'm not exactly sure how he's doing that, but his ratings by BP defensive numbers are all well above average for all the positions he's played. Where 100 is average, DeRosa is 112 at 2b, 110 at LF, 127 at RF and 110 at 3b. And while hitting with runners in scoring position is not necessarily a skill that can be repeated - it's something that usually migrates around the players normal hitting levels - it is an extremely important stat when evaluating a season or a team's success. And players certainly can have career years in that area. DeRosa's hitting .333 with runners in scoring position with a .927 OPS as I mentioned. Although that pales to Soriano's 1.041 OPS with RISP, and trails Ramirez at .972 and Edmonds at .937, it's good enough to put him tied for second in RBI's on the team and he has the advantage of playing most of his games at second base, where it's still harder to find a bat. If you look at the league averages for players at each position, second base in the NL has the third lowest OPS (.741) to catcher (.717) and shortstop (.725). Of course, that's a pretty good argument for Geovany Soto being the Cubs MVP, now isn't it?
Before I looked at the WARP-1 numbers, I would have chosen Soto just ahead of Soriano and that's based mostly on playing time. I think Soriano's impact when he's been in the lineup has been tremendous. That not only shows in the team's 49-20 record when he plays, but in his own individual numbers where he is raking the ball this season. We'll see how the season bears out, but it'll be interesting debate as the season draws to its conclusion.