I’m sure you have figured out that it has been Atlanta Braves week here at Wayniac Nation. In honor of the Braves moving out of Atlanta we have turned our attention to the oldest franchise in the game, who is once again on the move. Monday we took a look at my final memories from Turner Field and yesterday, we looked at why Brian Snitker should get to keep his job and be the 2017 skipper of the Atlanta Braves.
Today, we look at Freddie Freeman.
The concept of a last place team having the Most Valuable Player in baseball is a silly concept to me. I should say was. I didn’t understand how Andre Dawson took home the award in 1987 for a team that finished in sixth place. Was he the best player in the National League that year? I think so, but just how valuable was he for a last place team?
Enter 2016 and the Year of the Freddie Freeman. I now believe in the last place MVP.
I’m not here to tell you that Freeman WILL win the MVP Award, I am simply here to tell you that he has made a compelling case in the Atlanta Braves second half surge. Obviously there are a few components to why Freeman should win. So what do you say we take a look?
The Derek Jeter Syndrome
Here’s the bottom line. Derek Jeter went to the World Series in four of his first five seasons. That’s pretty darn amazing, don’t you think? You would think that the most recognizable player — and future Hall of Famer at that — on a team that went to the playoffs in each of his first 11 seasons would walk away with just one MVP Award, right? Wrong. You know why? Because his team was stacked.
Jeter was the young fire starter of that team, but if he wasn’t there, they still had enough talent and firepower to still be pretty good. Would they have won all those World Series and see a run like that? Perhaps not, but they wouldn’t have been a terrible team neither.
That’s what Kris Bryant has to deal with. I am a huge Bryant fan. To be perfectly honest, I like the Cubs offense and think they have a very likable squad. But when you look at Anthony Rizzo, they have identical numbers. I mean it’s eerily frightening how similar they are (I know, I know, Kris Bryant leads the league in WAR. As regular followers of this blog already know, I hold other stats more valuable, especially over a stat that two of the biggest statistical websites can’t seem to come to terms on how it is calculated). What makes one more valuable than the other? Why is Kris Bryant going to likely walk away with the MVP this year when Anthony Rizzo was the same player?
There are the arguments that one is better because of the other, they see better pitches because of the lineup, and I get that. But if the most common answer I’ve been hearing is “If Bryant doesn’t get it, Rizzo will” well then that to me means you aren’t the MOST Valuable Player, are you? And that has nothing to do with how amazing Bryant is, as I think he is a top ten player in baseball.
Hey, that’s a good starting point for topic two.
The MVP isn’t the best player in baseball.
In all honesty, the MVP Award shouldn’t solely be about numbers. That’s why Ozzie Smith merited MVP votes every year the Cardinals were good. That’s half the reason he’s a Hall of Famer, the intangibles he brought to the team. Do you have to have solid numbers? Of course, but it shouldn’t be the determining factor.
If the MVP Award was all about numbers and talent, Mike Trout and Nolan Arenado would win every year. It’s that simple. There simply haven’t been two more consistently dominant players in EVERY aspect of the game the past three seasons than those two. Maybe Miguel Cabrera. But guys like Bryce Harper need to show a lot more consistency before they are a “perennial MVP threat.”
For the stat geeks, I like wRC+, not WAR
As I already said, I am not so much into WAR as I am wRC+. In layman’s terms, it is a measurement of the runs created. That seems pretty valuable, right? I mean, follow my logic. You win baseball games by scoring runs. Thus the best player in the statistical category that determines who is best at creating said runs would be pretty darn valuable, no?
Let’s take a look at the names that are flying around as MVP candidates, shall we (keep in mind the league average wRC+ is 100 and Mike Trout is the highest with 171, well, because he’s insane. Almost as insane as the people that propose the Angels should trade him, but I digress)?
Freddie Freeman — 152 wRC+
Not too shabby. By the way, just to appease to the masses, Freddie’s 6.1 WAR is 10th best in ALL of baseball, and better than 60 percent of the above list.
He saved the day in Atlanta.
Heading into this season, Saucy T and I had a long discussion if Freeman was who he was at this point. You may remember, I have been very high on Freeman for a good many years, predicting him to be the NL MVP in 2014. That being said, I felt that Freeman had indeed peaked, and we had seen the best from him, which was good, just not as great as I had hoped.
Well, as I was in 2014, I was wrong on Freeman again. And you know why? He had some legitimate protection in his lineup, and a manager who didn’t have his head up his ass ( #VOTESNITKER!).
Freeman had a nice first half. He had a huuuuge second half. The Braves were a real team in the second half, competitive. Heck, coming down the home stretch, the took two of three from the Nats, swept the Mets and knocked Detroit out of the playoffs taking the final series at The TED. They won 20 of their last 30 games and who was the National League Player of the Month for September?
I get the counter argument, and I can’t say that I don’t agree with it. But Freeman was the heart of a lineup that had a monumental turnaround. This team was a train wreck and heading towards a colossally horrendous season. How this team didn’t lose 100 games is simply remarkable and the prime reason behind that is Freeman.
Is he going to win the MVP Award? Nah, I know that. Am I going to be upset when Kris Bryant wins MVP? Nope, not one bit. He is deserving and a great player and this will fuel the start of his foretold historic career.
But I have changed my opinion on the last place MVP. And it is 100 percent behind the play of Freeman.