Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Who is the Braves MVP for 2013?

 

No doubt – a remarkably solid year for Freddie Freeman, and many are mentioning him for League MVP consideration as well.  Let’s take a look at the All-Star numbers he’s put up:

  • 105 RBI and still counting.  A week+ ago I was thinking “huh- he’s at 88 RBI… might have enough games left to break 100.”  Yeah… I think he got there.  He’s 3rd in the National League (Paul Goldschmidt 123; Jay Bruce 107).
  • Batting average:  .314.  9th in the NL, and leading for the Silver Slugger (Joey Votto, .308, Goldschmidt .304).
  • Walk percentage:  16th (10.5%).  Votto has a ridiculous 18.1%.
  • On-base percentage:  8th (.392).
  • Fangraphs WAR:  11th in the NL (4.5).  Baseball-reference WAR:  5.1
  • He’s 2nd on the team in homers (23), average, BABIP, and runs scored; first in slugging and fWAR
  • All of that, and he’s actually about 70-80 plate appearances short of the league leaders (thanks to getting 2 weeks’ off in April).

Update:  In my haste, I neglected a couple of stats that really show Freddie’s worth to the team this year:

  • With any runners on base, he’s hitting .366
  • With Runners in Scoring Position (RISP), it’s a ridiculous .435.  Exactly when pitchers should be on their best stuff is when Fredman is doing his best work.
  • Fangraphs has some stat they call ‘Clutch’… presumably it would be a measurement of what you’d think it would be.  Freddie’s ‘Clutch is 1.50.  I don’t know what that means, except it’s the 6th highest in baseball behind guys like Adrian Gonzalez, Carlos Sanatana, Goldschmidt, and Chris Davis.

 

But is he really the team’s MVP?

Let’s consider a couple of other names - and yes, I tend to subscribe to the thinking that pitchers are distinguished with the Cy Young award, so the MVP award should honor position players specifically.  I understand the arguments each way, but the fact that pitchers tend to be considered only if there is no stand-out position player settles the argument for me.

  • Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Jason Heyward.  You could build a case for him.  Certainly once Fredi Gonzalez decided to try him in the lead-off spot, he has thrived.  But with only 98 games played, his absences (though not his fault) have reduced his overall value – never mind what the team might have done had he been in that #1 slot all year.  A slow start had him hovering with Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, but Jason’s second half has been exceptional:  .306 average with significant RBI increases, reduced strikeouts, and a higher homer rate.

 

  • Apparently Frank Wren is shrewd… fleecing Arizona for Chris Johnson.  2.9 fWAR – nearly matching Justin Upton‘s! – and currently second in the league in hitting.  Crazy BABIP at .402.  How good is that?
    • Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

      Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

      Fangraphs has the records of 14,593 individual major league seasons of batting-title ‘qualified’ hitters since 1871.  That’s 3,791 different players, averaging four seasons apiece.

    • The highest BABIP in a season is .480 – by Levi Meyerle in 1871.
    • The highest BABIP for somebody in the last 100 years is Babe Ruth – .423 in 1923.
    • Chris Johnson currently ranks 31st on the all-time chart…and 11th among seasons since 1900.
    • The most recent seasons with better numbers included Manny Ramirez (2000, .403) Rod Carew (1977, .408), Jose Hernandez (2002, .402) and Roberto Clemente (1967, .403).  Even Ichiro Suzuki‘s best BABIP was “only” .399 (2004).
    • Other names on that chart?  Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, George Sisler, Cap Anson (1872-1881), Billy Hamilton (mid-1890′s).   We are witness to history here.  

 

But there’s one other name I want to propose as the Braves’ MVP for 2013…

 

Andrelton Simmons – the Defense Doesn’t Rest

Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Simba.  Because defense matters.  Because he’s turning in his own historic performance this year – possibly the best shortstop season everAnd he’s grinding out a .246 average with… what? Where did seventeen homers come from?  He only had nine for his entire professional career before 2013!

Check this out:

  • fWAR Rating:  4.4 for Simmons, 4.5 for Freeman.
  • bWAR Rating: 6.6 for Simmons (8th in all of baseball!); 5.1 for Freeman.  Yes, baseball-reference.com is valuing his defensive contributions even higher than fangraphs does, but that’s kinda my point here.
  • On fangraphs’ total defensive rating chart, Simmons has a 30.7 rating.  The highest is 33.2 – Manny Machado.  But of course, there’s a difference between third base and short stop.
  • Andrelton currently has 42 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved).  The next closest shortstop is Pedro Florimon (Twins) with 13.  Simmons has only 25% more innings than Florimon, but thanks for asking.  That stat has only been tracked since 2002, so we can’t compare it to Ozzie Smith, for instance, but let me give you a few points:
    • 42 represents the highest number ever for DRS
    • The next-closest shortstop ever was Adam Everett in 2006:  34.
    • Ex-Brave Jack Wilson posted 32 for Pittsburgh in 2005.
    • Troy Tulowitski’s best was 31 in 2007.
    • Ex-Brave Seabass (Alex Gonzalez) gave us a 27 in 2010.
    • Ex-Brave Rafael Furcal saved 24 runs in 2005.
    • Simmons’ schools them all.
  • Next closest DRS at any position this year…or any year:  Carlos Gomez (Brewers)… in Center Field… with 37.

So yes – while I stopped to point out the historic season Chris Johnson is having, you need to pause again to understand just how good Simmons have been this year:  it is the standard that all SS seasons will be measured against for years to come… unless he himself bests it.

Let’s suppose for a minute that Simmons saved no runs this year – opponents scored 42 extra runs vs. Atlanta.  Can we guess the impact?

  • Current team ERA:  3.19.  Part of the DRS metric is premised on a player saving a run that ordinarily would not be salvaged.  So for this purpose, I will assume that there are 42 extra earned runs allowed.  Earned runs then jump from 492 to 534, ERA jumps to 3.46 (5th instead of 1st).
  • Extra runs extend innings.  We can’t quantify that, as many of the ‘saved’ runs were not turned into outs.  Others may have scored anyway, but then some of the innings would have generated even more runs.
  • While Simmons has been extraordinary, Chris Johnson has been… bad:  his defense ranks in the bottom 25% (-3.9 total rating; -7 DRS).
  • While Simmons has been extraordinary, Dan Uggla has been… actually worse than Chris Johnson.  His total rating of -3.7 is marginally better, but among qualified second basemen, Uggla is 18th … with only 19 names on the list.  Oh, and he’s yielded eighteen more runs (DRS -18) than the average second sacker.
  • For the record, Freeman’s DRS at first base is 7.  That’s actually pretty decent for his position – he’s tied with Votto for 5th overall (Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs is first with 15).
  • All that to say this:  how bad would the Braves’ infield have been without Simmons’ heroics?

Were his offense just a bit more productive (.294 OBP, only 5 steals… though only 8% K-rate and 17 homers pulled out of … somwhere), then I don’t think it would even be a question.  Still, he’s tied for fifth on the team in RBI; third in runs scored.  But don’t ignore the defense:  and it’s expressly for this reason that I nominate Andrelton Simmons for Braves’ 2013 MVP… yes, despite last night’s unfortunate “hustle error.”

 

But now:  what say ye?  Vote for the Braves’ MVP here…

Who has been the Braves MVP for 2013?

  • Freddie Freeman (63%, 30 Votes)
  • Andrelton Simmons (31%, 15 Votes)
  • Chris Johnson (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Brian McCann (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Evan Gattis (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Jason Heyward (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Justin Upton (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Jordan Schafer (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 48

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