or: If Albert Wins, This Is Also A Very Long Open Thread
So the NL MVP is being announced today—keep the timestamp in mind, since we here at Viva El Birdos like to combine the amateurish nature of blogging with the slow-paced, deadline-focused structure of newspapers—and I'm going to be honest: if Ryan Howard wins it, that's it. I'm done. The BBWAA can pick their winners and so can the Scientologists, for all I care, but I'm not going to pay any undeserved attention to either set.
Ryan Howard, if he wins, will win because he drove in 32 runs down the stretch in an admittedly great month of September to Lead the Phillies to the Playoffs. Here is a list of the players' hitting by month, ordered by raw EQA—Baseball Prospectus doesn't give out the adjustment that makes it look like batting average, so far as I can tell—to adjust for Howard's high slugging percentage and Pujols's high OBP.
For three months this year—out of six!—Ryan Howard was the bad Richie Sexson, or Cory Snyder, or Dave Kingman, or any other stiff, godawful slugger who couldn't reach first base if his arms were ninety feet long. Giving him the MVP would reward him for that.
In his three great months—the ones where he was carrying the Philadelphia Phillies to the World Series on his back, uphill—Howard hit .297/.375/.675. That OPS is sixty-five points lower than Albert Pujols's year-long mark. Albert Pujols was better than Ryan Howard with the bat all year. He was better when his team won (.401/.516/.789 vs .294/.382/.620) and when his team lost (.306/.396/.498 vs. .192/.279/.438); he was better in the first half and improved his numbers in the second half—like Howard did—only he was way better again; he was better at day and at night, in domes and in the open, in the rain, the sleet, and the snow, always and forever.
Albert Pujols hit better with two strikes on him—.270/.351/.460—than Ryan Howard did in April, June, and August.
He did all this while playing the best defensive first base in the league; while being a far better baserunner; while playing in a pitcher's park.
This MVP would be far more about the Philadelphia Phillies having better pitchers than it would be about Ryan Howard's value. If the Phillies had Albert Pujols in the lineup in April, May, and June there would be no need for a late-season surge, and, more importantly, Ryan Howard would be pinch-hitting for Cole Hamels all year. If the Phillies had Albert Pujols in the lineup in September they still would have made the playoffs, and they probably would have had the same record. If Ryan Howard wins this year the old joke will really be true: he'll have two MVP awards and zero Albert Pujols awards.