The talk around Major League Baseball over the last few days has centered around the National League MVP discussion, with Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers and Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs at the forefront of the discussion. The aforementioned players should be considered the favorites to take home the award, no matter what Odds Shark criminally says. And that’s what this article is about, yet for those who read this site regularly (thank you so much), this will be a little different than usual. While there will still be some analytics dripped in, this post will mostly consist of a rant that Ryen Russillo would be proud of, because frankly, I’m a little annoyed about this MVP discussion, and I think I deserve to speak my mind. So I’m just going to start typing and see where the keyboard leads me.
***Side note: Before Cardinals’ fans get all up on their perch and start tweeting me that Matt Carpenter should be involved in this discussion, let me just say that I wholeheartedly agree. He’s been more valuable than Baez, in my opinion.
But back to the Yelich vs. Baez debate. My frustration started with Dan Patrick.
On Tuesday, Dan Patrick of The Dan Patrick Show aired his usual “Play of the Day” segment, and for the first time in probably the show’s history, a Milwaukee Brewers’ play was featured. The play just so happened to be Yelich hitting for his second cycle of the season. That’s great! Finally, a small-market team getting some love and publicity on a national radio show. Ahhh, life is good. But then Patrick starts talking about Yelich and pronounces Yelich’s last name as “Yelick”. He does this not once, but twice. Now, I know Patrick isn’t that in-tune with baseball, because he still thinks pitcher wins and RBIs matter and are a good judge of skill, but he’s still a relatively smart guy when it comes to sports. He should, at the very least, know an MVP candidate’s name, even if the candidate plays a sport The Dan Patrick Show never touches on. But because Yelich plays for the Brewers and not the Cubs, Yankees or Red Sox, Patrick butchers the name because, in all honestly, he probably couldn’t pick Yelich out of a lineup. It’s sad, but true, kind of like my love life.
So that happened. And then this was tweeted:
Christian Yelich: Hits for another cycle, is great on offense.
Javy Baez: Hits as well a Yelich, plays incredible defense at multiple infield positions, runs the bases as well as anyone in baseball, is made of magic.
This is not a difficult MVP decision.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) September 18, 2018
Bleacher Nation is a popular Chicago Cubs blog that tweets to nearly 80,000 followers (follow him here, he needs more followers). The First Out At Third — you know, the thing you’re currently reading — is a Milwaukee Brewers blog that tweets to 560 followers. And yet, in this case, the popular guy is dead wrong. Raise your hand if you’re shocked. Let’s dissect Bleacher Nation’s tweet starting with the fact he (Bleacher Nation) thinks that Baez is an equal hitter to Yelich. *Insert laughing crying emoji*
Here’s a table that shows that is unequivocally untrue.
You see those numbers up there that are in bold? Those are the categories in which Yelich leads Baez, and it’s really not all that close either. Try again, Nation. Besides, do we really want to give the MVP to someone who has a .329 on-base percentage? Hell, I have a higher OBP than that.
Bleacher Nation also states that Baez plays incredible defense at multiple infield positions. It’s true that Baez plays solid defense at more than one position, but to color it incredible? I don’t think so. Baez has posted 5 defensive runs saved at shortstop, 2 DRS at second base and 2 DRS at shortstop this season. League average is zero for those new to the Defensive Run Statistic. Baez has good range and a strong arm, but the word “incredible” should be saved for those who deserve it, like Andrelton Simmons. Yelich, on the other hand, has won a Gold Glove in the past as an outfielder and is capable of manning multiple outfield positions. While his DRS numbers (3 DRS in right field) are down a smidge in 2018, he’s still considered a top-notch defender, and definitely not an inferior glovesman to Baez. Next argument, Nation.
Baez runs the bases as well as anyone in baseball, or so Bleacher Nation would have you believe. Let’s take a gander down the road of baserunning statistics! Buckle up, Cubs’ fans, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
If you go to FanGraphs and click on its baserunning statistic, you’ll see both Yelich and Baez on the first page of the leaderboard. But like the United States Olympic Men’s Hockey team in 1980, Yelich is the winner over Baez. (Yes, I did in fact compare Yelich to the gold-medal winning 1980 Olympic hockey team). Yelich has been worth 5.3 BsR — the 11th-highest total in MLB. Baez sits all the way down at 26th with a 3.8 BsR. To sum up like Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, Baez is truthfully — I know it’s sometimes hard for Cubs’ fans to tell the truth — not one of the best baserunners in all of baseball. But Yelich sure is.
Now, I honestly didn’t mean to call out Bleacher Nation as much as I did, but I like dealing with facts when it comes to baseball talk. The facts speak for themselves, even though I just wrote them down for you all in case you didn’t hear them the first time.
You can probably tell by now that I’m a Brewers’ fan, and that of course I’m going to side with Yelich over Baez. While the former is true, readers of this site should know I’m not a biased fan. Go through my archives. Look at my most recent article in which I called out Brewers general manager David Stearns. While I’m not biased, that doesn’t mean I don’t get to side with the Brewers from time to time, which is why I have no qualms saying Yelich should be the National League MVP, and there’s one more argument I have to bolster my case.
According to FanGraphs’ WAR, Yelich has been the most valuable player in the National League this season with 6.1 WAR. Lorenzo Cain — Yelich’s teammate — is second on the leaderboard, with Baez tied with Anthony Rendon at 5.3 WAR for third place. WAR isn’t the end-all and be-all statistic, but it’s pretty damn telling, and it’s telling us that Yelich deserves the MVP.
And here’s the final killshot: Without Javier Baez, the Chicago Cubs would still be a playoff team. Without Christian Yelich, the Brewers wouldn’t even be sniffing a Wild Card berth.
You’re right, Bleacher Nation, this isn’t a difficult MVP decision.