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Talking Baseball

Your weekday baseball fix. Some days.



Posted by Dave on Friday, July 16, 2004

If an Elite Slugger Makes a Run at the Triple Crown, Does Anybody Notice?

If a tree falls to the ground in an empty forest, does it still make a sound? If a firework explodes overhead but no one's around to watch it, can it still be seen? One would hope, if the perceivers were present, we could sense these things. But, what if Manny Ramirez makes a run at the Triple Crown, does anyone take notice?

The last man to reach the feat was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. The National League hasn't had a winner since 1937 in Joe Medwick. So, it would stand to reason that anyone who's in the running for one of baseball's holy grails would receive considerable media coverage. How close is Ramirez? Let's take a look at the Batting Average, HR, and RBI leaderboards (as of the all-star break):
 


                      AVG
1. Ivan Rodriguez    .369
2. Melvin Mora       .347
3. Vladimir Guerrero .345
4. Manny Ramirez     .344 
 
                      HR
1. Manny Ramirez      26
2. David Ortiz        23
3. Hank Blalock       23
4. Alex Rodriguez     22
6. Vladimir Guerrero  20 

 
                      RBI
1. David Ortiz        78
2. Manny Ramirez      77
3. Vladimir Guerrero  77
4. Miguel Tejada      75
5. Hank Blalock       68

Clearly, Manny will have the most difficulty winning the batting title. He trails Ivan Rodriguez by a full 25 points - not chump change in a race that's already more than half over. But this has been an entirely abnormal first half for the Detroit squatter. Take a look at what a normal first half is for Pudge (well, for the last three years, anyways). He has hit 70 points better than most would expect him to. In addition, at the decrepit age of 32, he should be in decline, even by non-catchers' standards. I can't expect Pudge to miraculously hit .370 for this reason. He also has been catching the entire first half. This leads to wear and tear on the body, and generally manifests itself in the worsening of the catcher's offensive performance.
 
If Manny maintains his current batting average, and Pudge stays healthy, Pudge needs to hit according to this equation: ((Current Avg.)*(Current # of GP) + (Future Avg.)*(Team Games Left)*(% of Games Played Thus Far))/(Eventual Total GP) = .344 = (.369*77 + (Future Avg.)*(77)*(77/85))/(162*(77/85)) ---> Future Avg. = .318.

Soak that in. If Pudge hits LESS than .318 and Manny keeps up his current .344 batting average, Manny overtakes Pudge. Even if Manny hits .335 the rest of the way, Pudge will likely only need to hit .310 or less to allow Manny to overtake him. You know how most people say, "I'm not a betting man..."?, well, I am a betting man and I would definitely bet on Pudge hitting .310 or less in the second half. Whether he injures himself and keeps his lucky first half mostly intact remains to be seen. He can't be injured too much, however. Then Pudge won't qualify for the batting title.

Melvin Mora? He's never been even close to this proficiency at the plate. Manny should overtake him. Manny's main competition in the average department could be Vlad. They're relatively close now, so it wouldn't be difficult to pass Vladdy.

How about HR/RBI? Well, Manny's leading the field by three in HR and finally has protection in the Boston lineup. He should be able to bomb enough to win the HR title - although ARod hit two last night and looks to be hot on Manny's tail. As for RBI - it's no secret the Red Sox have the best lineup in baseball. They were missing two of their marquee hitters (Trot Nixon, Nomar Garciaparra) for the vast majority of the first half and they still managed to score the third-most runs in MLB. Manny, now with the benefit of protection, should see fewer IBB and more RBI opportunities. He's already second, trailing only The Cookie Monster. Guerrero and Ortiz are Manny's main competition, but I would wager that Manny will finish with the most RBI of the individuals. Truthfully, I'd take the field beating Manny, however.

Let's not mince words though. Winning the Triple Crown will be difficult for Manny. Manny must realistically overtake two people in the race for the batting title - one with a substantial lead on him. He must hold onto the HR title with two others having an outside shot at overtaking him (Ortiz and Guerrero) and one with a legitimate shot (ARod). In addition, he needs to win the RBI crown and wrest the top spot from Ortiz. He has many more competitors there and the race is closer. Still, Manny does have a good shot at it, and I wouldn't be surprised if he became the first triple crown winner since Yaz.

A player with a legitimate shot at the Triple Crown should have everyone voting for him for MVP, but Manny's been getting no such hype. Granted, Vlad is having an outstanding season, besting Manny in runs by a significant amount 73 to 55. In the Triple Crown categories they're neck and neck. Here's the kicker, though: Manny leads Vlad by 40 points in OBP (.432 to .392) and by more than 80 points in slugging (an ungodly .673 to .591). What you then get is a 120 point lead in OPS and a 40 point lead in Gross Production Average (.363 to .324). Surely this should merit at least some MVP consideration, right?

Back to the question then: If Manny Ramirez makes a run at the Triple Crown, does anyone take notice?

It seems the answer to the question is, unfortunately, no. It's not for a lack of perceivers, either. There are hundreds of columnists and thousands of members of the media, so it would seem that someone should catch on to Manny's stellar play thus far and potential run at history - but they haven't. Besides the absence of articles written about Manny's hunt for the Triple Crown (due in large part to IRod's fluky average, no doubt), one can look at the dozens of folks weighing in (incorrectly) on the midseason AL MVP.

Taking a look at the Google results, there's not a one that speaks of Manny as the midseason AL MVP. Most favor Guerrero (here, here, and here) due to "carrying the Angels through injuries," even though I'm pretty certain Manny was doing the same. Even the fans prefer Guerrero. Hell, even everyone's favorite Cy Young Fluke, Jack McDowell, prefers Guerrero.

What's even worse? The fact that some folks believe Ivan Rodriguez is the midseason AL MVP. It's not like Manny has a forty point lead on Pudge in GPA too. In fact, he doesn't, he only has a 38 point lead (.363 to .325).
 
If you want to use the arguments for MVP people normally use you're in trouble. Yes, the Tigers have climbed out of the cellar admirably, but you can thank more than Pudge for that. Carlos Guillen has put together truly a career year and the pitching is vastly improved. Sure, Pudge has done a lot for his team, but for all his heroics, The Tigers are still a fourth place team - not a good thing to put on your MVP resume. In addition, the Tigers have not had any injuries that Pudge has helped them "battle through." The Sox have had injuries and Manny's really taken a machete to them.

If you want to use the arguments you should be using for MVP, Manny wins them all. He has a better VORP (53.7 to 50.4 for Pudge) and has a better GPA. "But Pudge plays catcher!" Well, Manny's RARP (Runs Above Replacement Position) is still better: 47.3 to 42.0, in large part because catchers are so adept with the stick these days. Where did I get all these statistics? From the website that champions sabermetrics and objective thinking - and even they preferred Pudge!

I don't know if Manny's losing a popularity contest, but this is just ridiculous. His production is through the roof and he plays improved defense in left. Is Manny going to win the Triple Crown? Probably not. Is he the AL Midseason MVP? Definitely.






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