Recently, FSN Wisconsin has been showing a text to vote poll asking who the fans think of as the 2010 Brewers MVP. The choices are Rickie Weeks, Corey Hart, John Axford, and Casey McGehee. Hart and McGehee were at the top of the poll as of the last broadcast.
That’s absolutely ridiculous.
Axford doesn’t even belong in the discussion. Yes, he was fantastic and he is probably the club’s Rookie of the Year. However, he only pitched 57 innings. Even if he were Mariano Rivera, he wouldn’t have compiled enough value to warrant team MVP consideration in that few innings. His 2.0 WAR (according to FanGraphs) makes him a valuable asset and a key to the bullpen going forward. However, and I know I’m repeating myself, that just isn’t MVP quality, even on this team.
Now we come to Hart and McGehee. Hart had a rebound year, hitting .284/.342/.530 and hitting the sparkly 30 HR/100 RBI mark. McGehee showed that last year wasn’t as fluky as certain members of the Brewers blogosphere were afraid of. He put up a .284/.337/.460 line – not quite as good as last year but still above average.
Both players are still poor defensively. McGehee simply doesn’t have the range at third to be anything more than mediocre, and it’s obvious that Hart came up through the minors as a first baseman. McGehee and Hart were rated as 6 and 8 runs below average at their positions respectively. Although they are both solid hitters, they aren’t at the elite level which could compensate for this and move them into the higher tier of players.
That leaves us with Rickie Weeks. Weeks has hit .269/.364/.463 this season, a slash line which doesn’t look quite as good, at least aesthetically, as Hart’s. Despite the batting average, it’s better than McGehee’s and just slightly worse than Hart’s – the 67 point advantage in slugging is worth slightly more than Weeks’s 22 point advantage in OBP. One could argue that Weeks and McGehee have similar defensive value – 2B and 3B are equally premium positions, and Weeks isn’t exactly an elite defender. Some systems have him rated as a -10 defender this season, and others have him as league average. Personally, I’m inclined to put him somewhere between that – between -3 and -6 would be my personal estimate, as he definitely looks improved over his early career. The race could seem close given just this data, but we’re missing one important component.
That’s plate appearances. There’s a massive plate appearance gap among these players, and that’s where Weeks’ value really takes off. Weeks has 741 PAs this season against 656 for McGehee and 599 for Hart. Weeks has effectively played a sixth to a quarter of a season more than the two players respectively, and that has a ton of value. That’s why Weeks has more value than both McGehee and Hart by both BB-Ref WAR (which doesn’t like his defense) and FanGraphs WAR.
Of course, a look at both of these lists shows that maybe we shouldn’t have written off Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder as MVP candidates for this team, along with Yovani Gallardo. However, given the list from FSN Wisconsin, the choice is clear to me: it has to be Rickie Weeks.