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He's good.

This year, Martin Gandy of Talking Chop is hosting the SportsBlogs Nation Baseball awards, which are designed to parallel all the end-of-season awards the BBWAA gives out: MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Manager of the Year.

For the rest of the week, I'm going to share my ballots.  Battlekow also took part, so you'll get to see who he voted for, as well.  Without further ado, here are our picks:

Jeff's ballot:

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Miguel Cabrera
  3. Carlos Beltran
  4. Ryan Howard
  5. John Smoltz
  6. Chase Utley
  7. Lance Berkman
  8. Roy Oswalt
  9. Bill Hall
  10. Hanley Ramirez
Battlekow's ballot:
  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Carlos Beltran
  3. Lance Berkman
  4. Chase Utley
  5. Ryan Howard
  6. Miguel Cabrera
  7. Jose Reyes
  8. Alfonso Soriano
  9. Barry Bonds
  10. Brian McCann
As you can probably tell, both of us are contrarians.  I would guess that 4th and 5th are as low or lower than you'll see Ryan Howard on any BBWAA ballot.  But, of course, there's more to value than lots of dingers.  Howard had a great season, but compared to an Albert Pujols season that was merely run-of-the-mill for him, it just wasn't good enough.  It doesn't help that Albert is a Gold-Glove caliber first baseman, and Howard...well, isn't.

A few comments on some of my choices, and why I made them:

  • Prince Albert is simply the best.  The guy had 86.6 VORP--in other words, he was worth almost nine wins above replacement with the bat.  The way the Cardinals have played lately, that's about the sum total of their offensive attack.  Those 86.6 runs, you might recall, came despite an injury that kept him out of nearly 20 games.  Pro-rate his VORP for a full season and he's up to over 95 runs.  Given that Prince Albert might be the best first baseman in the league, this vote is a no-brainer.

  • My most controversial placement may be putting Miguel Cabrera at #2.  He surely belongs in the top ten, probably in the top 5, but I can see the arguments for any number of guys to slot in right behind Albert.  Miggy's defense isn't stellar (depending on which metric you like, it's pretty darn bad), but the fact that he played MLB-caliber third base earns him points in my book.  That he put up the impressive numbers he did in the middle of the Marlins lineup (which wasn't a whole lot more powerful than Nashville's) is worth still more.

  • Controversial pick #2: John Smoltz at #5.  I have a lot to defend here: I didn't even pick Smoltz for the top spot for Cy Young.  In a lot of ways, Smoltz served the same purpose for the Braves that Cabrera served for the Marlins.  In the middle of what was, at times, a horrendous rotation, he made quality start after quality start after quality start.  What's more, when the Braves were still in the hunt, he pitched all the better.  In seven starts between June 28 and August 1, he allowed only 14 runs in fifty innings, going at least 7 IP in six of those outings.  Since the only aspect of the Braves that was worse than their rotation was their bullpen, those extra innings were probably more valuable than any other quality production the team could've gotten from anyone on either side of the ball.

  • I'll freely admit that Bill Hall at #9 is a homer pick.  At the same time, it's a defensible one.  (What's more, I don't find it hard to imagine at all that Hall will find himself, legimately, in the middle of an MVP race in the next few years.)  Among NL shortstops, Hall is basically tied for 4th in VORP, behind Rafael Furcal, Jose Reyes, and Hanley Ramirez.  

    Hall's versatility, however, is where his true value comes in.  Essentially, Hall allowed Ned Yost to make a new decision every day of the season: who are the three most valuable infielders to put at 2B, 3B, and SS.  Unlike nearly every other manager in baseball, Ned didn't have to worry about who went where: put Hall somewhere, and the rest works out.  Billy ended up playing mostly shortstop, of course, but had JJ Hardy and Corey Koskie stayed healthy, Hall would've made all those players look better: giving Hardy, Koskie, Rickie Weeks, and Brady Clark occasional rest, and providing the Crew with some much-needed power after Carlos Lee was traded.

So, who wants to disagree with me?

Update [2006-10-3 12:28:37 by battlekow]: Battlekow here, yo. I thought I'd provide some similiar insights into my thought process:

  • First of all, I'm not into the whole pitcher thing. I have nothing against those who are, and I understand that specific voters wholly excluding certain positions can screw up the voting. Were I an actual MVP voter, I might take the pitchers into more serious consideration, because I don't want to be like the NY writer who cost Pedro Martinez an MVP by leaving him entirely off the ballot; however, this is not the actual MVP vote and I feel comfortable voting according to my belief that hitters and pitchers should have separate MVP awards (Henry Aaron award notwithstanding).
  • I was very close to putting Beltran first. Pujols is a great defensive first baseman, but Beltran is an ungodly defensive center fielder, and I think that factor has been generally underappreciated. However, I also adhere to the argument that in MVP voting, things like RBIs and clutch performance matter; I think the MVP should be chosen based on what he did, regardless of whether or not he's likely to repeat it. Based on this, I took the Hardball Times' Clutch factor into heavy consideration, and look who's on top: Mr. Poo Holes. Granted, Beltran was a very respectable tenth, but Pujols' overall package of insane stats, clutch ability, and elite defense at his position were too much to ignore. Similarly, I have Lance Berkman third because of his clutch ability and underrated defense.
  • Barry Bonds is being forgotten by everyone, or least written off, but by any standard other than his own, he had a great year. Sure, he make have been worked around too much, thus inflating his OBP, but that's still value he's providing to his team. He also played surprisingly good defense in left (pretend you didn't see that clank at Miller Park two weeks ago).
  • I find Brian McCann's lack of plaudits puzzling, especially considering the praise heaped on a certain Minnesota catcher: Joe Mauer is a positive phenomenon, and McCann is "Who?" If he can stay healthy next year, I think he has a good chance to be a lot higher than tenth on the MVP ballot.
  • Apologies to Furcal and Wright. You guys will be getting your flower baskets any day now.