Friday, June 12, 2009

Ibañez Stacks Up Well with Past NL MVPs

The Phillies won the rubber match versus the hated New York Mets last night thanks to a Raul Ibañez 3-run home run in the top of the 11th inning. The win pushed the Phillies to a 35-23 record, two wins better than their '08 pace, and a four game lead over the Mets in the N.L. East. The game winning home run was Ibañez's 21st of the season, second among N.L. players (Adrian Gonzalez, 22). RAAAAUUUUUUULLL now leads the league in RBIs, too. With his amazing start in Philadelphia, and since we're more than 1/3 of the way through the 2009 season, rumblings of a potential MVP are in the air for the newest Phillie. Through 58 games, how does Ibañez stack up to past award winners this far into the season?

Click to enlarge statistics.

There are 19 statistics I looked at in my analysis. While a person's all around game is important to the team, when it comes to MVP voting it seems that two things standout as the "main criteria" for the award: leadership and offensive production. Now I'm a defensive man myself but, honestly, defensive metrics are used merely as a tie breaker when it comes to MVPs. It's clearly about the offense; remember, chicks dig the long ball. So all of the statistics listed above, save one, fall in the offensive category. The only outlier is team success.

Looking at the averages for the 19 major categories, Ibañez (or the Phillies) are better than the average 11 out of 19 times. Of the eight statistics Ibañez isn't better than your average N.L. MVP, two he's at the average. Of the remaining seven, walks, intentional walks and grounded into double plays are not "make or break" variables.

Through 58 games, Ibañez has 75 hits. Of the previous 10 N.L. MVPs, only Jeff Kent (2000 Giants) had more hits during the first 58 games of the season. The average is 64. Ibañez is also above average in the doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, batting average and slugging categories. Only 2001 Barry Bonds had more RBIs through 58 games.

Ibañez biggest "drawbacks" are walks, strikeouts and on-base percentage. He currently has 40 Ks, seven more than your average N.L. MVP. He also has drawn only 20 free passes, much less than average which in turn has affected his OBP. Despite his power surge and ability to hit for contact, Ibañez is not drawing walks. If he becomes more patient and opposing managers and pitchers become more leery of him, these categories won't be a concern. In reality, Ks and BBs are hardly big negatives for MVP candidates. Ryan Howard struck out a lot in 2006 (59 in first 58 games, 181 during overall) and still won the MVP award.

Basically, Ibañez has a nice lead in categories that are more important. In ones that carry less weight his a tad below average. So history says that, yes, at this juncture Raul Ibañez very much could be the 2009 N.L. MVP.

T-shirt available through Birdland & The Fightins store.

Of course one of the few drawbacks of analysis like this is that we're examining players through just over a third of the seasons. How you end the season is more fresh in the voters eyes and you also have a full 162 game slate to work with. Plus, this doesn't take in how others around the league are doing. Albert Pujols is right in the conversation as well. There are a handful of guys who have been as important as Raul has thus far. It's early, but it is encouraging to see that, statistically speaking, at this point Ibañez could become Philadelphia's third MVP in the last four years.

If he keeps up the pace he should give Pujols et al. a run for their money.

No comments: