Tango, playing the Devil's Advocate (sort of) for non-Mauer contenders for American League MVP, lays down four reasons to at least question Mauer's candidacy. The big finish:
- 4. Zach Greinke. That's huge argument against Mauer.
I don't have a horse in this race. Mauer is not a million miles ahead. Depending what kind of glasses you wear, he's somewhere between two laps ahead of all the nonpitchers in this marathon to barely ahead, and either tied with Greinke or at least a lap behind Greinke.
It's not gained any currency at all in the mainstream media, and precious little anywhere else. But one significant implication of FanGraphs' overall valuations is that the greatest pitchers are every bit as valuable as the greatest hitters. Tim Lincecum is worth exactly as much as Albert Pujols; Zack Greinke is worth every bit as much as Joe Mauer.
And this isn't a freak season. Last year, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee were worth more than MVP Dustin Pedroia.
What if FanGraphs is right? Do we want pitchers winning MVP Awards every year? No, probably not. But there's little danger of that. What we probably should want is for voters to at least consider starting pitchers for the award, as it's been 23 years (1) since a starter has won. For a long time, starting pitchers have had a shot only when they've won a huge number of games. Now that they very rarely win even 20, they very rarely get more than a sniff from the MVP voters.
It probably shouldn't be that way. I don't know that I would vote for Greinke for MVP this season. But I sure would spend a lot of time looking at him. And while he might well win the Cy Young Award despite winning only 14 or 15 games -- which would be a Great Leap Forward -- it's probably asking too much, right now, for him to finish even among the top five on the MVP ballot.
Baby steps, though. Baby steps.