The Rundown: Kris Bryant’s MVP Candidacy, Latest on Alex Cobb, Cards Make Formal Proposal for Stanton

Though a lot of people were down on Kris Bryant’s 2017 campaign, many Sabermetrics fans have pointed out that his performance was just as good this year as in his 2016 MVP season, though the third baseman’s traditional statistic measures (BA/HR/RBI) seemed to indicate otherwise. And he did get a first-place vote from Mark Bowman, an Atlanta Braves beat writer, who explains why he named Bryant first on his 2017 NL MVP ballot.

The key statistics were wRC+ (Bryant’s was 148 in 2016 and 146 in 2017) and wOBA (.396 vs. .399), indications that Bryant basically had the same offensive year this season that he had last year when he captured 29 of 30 first-place votes. It’s a fascinating read that explains why modern analytics trumps traditional statistics when it comes to player production for some voters.

A 100 wRC+ is an average score, meaning that Bryant was 46 percent better than the average player in 2017. Giancarlo Stanton finished with a 156 wRC+ and Joey Votto’s was 165. Clearly both players deserved the 10 first-place votes each received, but it wasn’t a stretch for Bryant to be nominated either.

All that being said, Bryant himself indicated he really isn’t a fan of Sabermetrics.

FanGraphs’ version of WAR had Bryant third in the NL among position players with 6.7 wins above replacement, behind Stanton and Anthony Rendon, who tied for first at 6.9, and just ahead of Votto and Charlie Blackmon.

Bowman’s article also indicates how much metrics have changed baseball over the last 15 years since Moneyball was released. One of the most indefensible MVP award winners in baseball history occurred in 2002, when SS Miguel Tejada of the Athletics won. That 2002 A’s team was ironically the basis of the Michael Lewis book and subsequent movie. Tejada had a special season, slashing .308/.354/.508 with 34 home runs, 131 RBI and a wRC+ of 129. The A’s finished in first place with 103 wins thanks to a 20-game winning streak.

Meanwhile, SS Alex Rodriguez finished with a 158 wRC+ thanks to a slash line of .300/.392/.623 that included 57 home runs and 142 RBI, good for 10 wins against replacement. He received 5 of 28 first place votes though he was statistically 29 percent better than Tejada. It was the best season of A-Rod’s career, and easily the best performance of 2002. But the Rangers finished dead last in the AL West with 72 wins, 31 games behind Oakland.

You could say that Rodriguez juiced that season but you have no proof (Barry Bonds won seven MVP awards under that suspicion anyway), or you can defend Tejada’s MVP award because he was one of many leaders during Oakland’s magical season, though that’s without merit as well. Not only has Tejada dealt with accusations of his own, but Andre Dawson won an MVP for a last-place Cubs team in 1987.

The MVP should go to the most valuable player in the league by definition, it just doesn’t always work that way. Look at Ted Williams, a player who probably could have won MVP every season he played. That includes 1947, when he was outright robbed, allegedly because a Boston writer left Williams off his ballot completely.

Cubs News & Notes

Heading into Thanksgiving, the industry consensus is that the Alex Cobb showdown will come down to Cubs vs. Yankees, according to Peter Gammons. That same scenario may play out for Shohei Ohtani, too. That’s my gut feeling, not that of Mr. Gammons.

Minor League Baseball, headed by John Sickels, puts out a great series on baseball prospects by team each winter, and his Cubs edition should be released before the end of the month. His blog is one of the better community efforts in baseball, and the group discussion is always a great read.  In preparation of that list, Sickels asks a number of Cubs organizational questions for 2018 including:

  • Is Kris Bryant at his peak now or can he actually improve?
  • When will the efforts to add pitching to the Cubs’ system bear fruit?
  • True or False: 2017 first-round pick Alex Lange is actually an under-rated prospect.

For community answers, scroll down to the comments section. The responses are well thought out and even enlightening in some cases.

Reports have come out that the Cubs are eyeing Brandon Morrow as a potential closer while others have speculated that the Cubs could try to acquire Zach Britton from the Baltimore Orioles. An op-ed piece for the INQUISITR says the Cubs need to re-sign Wade Davis.

Perhaps Dillon Maples is an option to close next season. Brendan Miller breaks it down.

Former Cubs SP Carlos Zambrano is on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot, which was mailed to voters this weekend. Other nominees include Chipper Jones and Jim Thome. I don’t want to get too much into the historic controversy regarding the HOF. I am not a fan. It is nothing more than a popularity contest with some voters and I am still bitter that Ron Santo was passed over for induction every year of his natural post-retirement life. No doubt Zambrano will receive some support, a clear indicator that the entire voting system needs an overhaul.

Weekend Stove

Not much to report, and it will probably be a slow news week, but here’s a few rumors worth noting:

There continues to be widespread interest in SP Tyler Chatwood.

The Blue Jays are the favorite to sign 15-year old phenom Orelvis Martinez as an international free agent.

The Cardinals are the second team to make an official offer for Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton has reportedly said he prefers not to be traded to St. Louis and he does have full no-trade rights, but this story just won’t go away.

Buster Olney indicates that the Orioles are probably aiming for too high of a return for closer Zach Britton. He feels the Marlins are in a similar situation with Stanton.

Eric Hosmer could earn the biggest contract of any free-agent hitter on the market this offseason.

Stories from the 2017 season that were bigger than baseball itself.

Monday Walk Up Song

I Don’t Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats

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