I would have to say that I was a little disappointed last night. Had there been no Wild Card, I would have had the same face that many of those fans at Fenway displayed. But as angry as I became, I made myself take a look at the big picture. And that picture being that the Red Sox have an eight game lead over the Tigers for that final playoff spot.
The Yankees earned every bit of that win though. They beat the two best bullpen arms we had to offer. And beat them quite well. Okajima has not been the same lately. He does not command his pitches anymore it seems, and deception alone is not going to work on its own, the second time around the league.
Papelbon came in when the game was on the line. This is the great sabermetric debate. Sabermetricians want to use there closer when the game is on the line, whether it be the 8th or 9th inning, or even the 7th in some cases. The closer role has been defined improperly. They seem to be saved until the 9th, and some only want them to come in with the lead at hand. I disagree, and lean toward those guys running the Saber-conventions on this particular issue. We also had Manny Delcarmen if we needed him for the ninth inning, and Eric Gagne crossing his fingers out in the bullpen also. Had Papelbon held the lead in the 8th, and either Gagne or Delcarmen had come into blow the game, it still would have been the right move. It was difficult enough, as shown by the game itself, for arguably the best closer in baseball to handle this situation. So why would I want Delcarmen (young/inexperienced) or Gagne (not reliable of late) to come into this. Starting them fresh in the ninth with the lead would have been more logical I would think.
The Yankees are not in Papelbon’s head, I don’t think anyway. They may be in Okajima’s head though. Or it may have been the fact, as mentioned, that he was not locating his pitches, and has not been. Or he could just be [this] pitcher. Teams have seen him more now, and they have grown a little more comfortable, especially Robinson Cano. Cano seems to like to crush balls to straight away center off Okajima in crunch time.
"Heartland" and I were having a friendly little debate as to who the MVP should have been last season. He of course was on Jeter’s side, and I, as I have spoken of in past blogs, was in defense of the great Joe Mauer. It isn’t as if I think Jeter would have been a bad choice, because that is definitely not the case. Morneau was debatable, and it was definitely a close race. But let me state a few reasons why I thought Mauer deserved it.
The catcher is the most important position on the field. Can we all agree on that? Eliminating the current pitcher for this discussion. There is one thing that cannot be measured accurately from a catcher, and that is game calling skills. We can browse various statistics such as "Catcher ERA," etc. But with a pitcher like Johan Santana throwing to you, it may not be all that imperative, as he may command control of his repertoire. But he did work with young pitchers as well, Liriano, and others. But based on reputation, he is a good caller of a game. I do not see him much, so I am going to listen to the experts more so on this one. There are a few things I don’t like to touch on; managers and game calling skills. Without a large sample for either, I don’t feel I have enough information to come up with an accurate conclusion. But let me just say, it matters how much one values the ability to call a game. And it matters how well one thinks Joe Mauer in particular did it.
Statistically, both were great offensive players, especially in respect to their positions. Mauer had an OPS+ of 144, which fell in at 7th in the AL, actually three slots ahead of his MVP teammate Justin Morneau. Jeter was at 138 in this category, right outside the top ten. Mauer only had 8 stolen bases, which is little compared to Jeter’s 34. Jeter stole them at an incredible rate of 87%, Mauer was at 73%. And remember, we statisticians value OBP more than Slugging. Sabermetricians to be more accurate. I enjoy all statisitics, not just the ones that the average person has no idea of (Win Shares). But the OBP battle was very close, with Mauer at .429 and Jeter at .417. RISP went to Jeter as he batted .381 to Mauer’s .360. Jeter was second best in this category in the AL, Mauer was fourth. Michael Young somehow batted .412 in these situations. The one large advantage that Jeter has over Mauer on the offensive side of the ball is in "Runs Created." Jeter "Created" 138, while Mauer "only" created 106.
There are a few other things that I believe in, when discussing the very debatable (in most years anyway) MVP award. One being intangibles. Both seem to display positive intangibles. Jeter’s are definitely magnified as he plays in the city of New York, and rightfully so. His leadership qualities should be praised, but at times he gets a little too much credit as a winner. I don’t know how to put this, but Jeter is a winner. He seems to produce when it matters most, as much as anyone in the game. But he has also had plenty of help, having the most talented team in baseball surrounding him most years. So while he, the veteran who has more experience gets the edge in this category, it isn’t some huge advantage on Jeter’s part. If it was Jeter vs. Milton Bradley or Elijah Dukes, he would blow them away. Barry Bonds might blow Dukes away in this category, and that is sad. But Jeter and Mauer are both good guys who seem like they want to lead. But then again I have seen Jeter a lot more than I have seen Mauer play, and I am not in the dugout, so it isn’t easy to compare these intangibles.
As I mentioned Jeter has had a lot of help in the past and currently. And once again sabermetricians don’t believe in protection much. While I do! And Mauer had one of the best hitters in baseball behind him, but he did not have the same kind of overall protection up and down the lineup that Jeter had, not even close. Any Yankee has an advantage in this category over any other player in baseball. First, I find it hard to believe that sabermetricians could find a study that could accurately give them enough information to see whether protection does exist through statisitics. It is more left up to the naked eye, and even that is tough to see at times. But my logic says that if there is a guy on base and Manny Ramirez is coming up that I am going to try and pound the strike zone a little more than if the bases are empty. And Jeter comes across these situations more so than Joe Mauer, right? Protection is still left up to the imagination a little, as to how valuable it is, but I believe it should be valued more highly than the likes of Rob Neyer and Bill James do. Anyway, Jeter has a rather large advantage in this category, meaning Mauer has a large disadvantage, so Mauer gets the edge, seemingly having slightly less of an opportunity to succeed. Or at least is not put in the same position to succeed as Jeter.
But this award could have gone to a few different participants. While everyone is a participant I guess, but there was more than one worthy of the award. And this isn’t because I dislike the Yankees. As of now, I would give [this] seasons MVP trophy to ARod. I am staying objective, I think anyway. But my defense of Mauer went on a little longer than I had originally planned. So I must conclude, only with the possibilty of starting another blog.