Thursday, August 17, 2006

Tale Of The Tape: David “Big Papi” Ortiz Vs. Derek “Jeets” Jeter In The MVP Race

Note: Once again for your off-day pleasure Robin and I have another feature from our friend Mike, the Connecticut Yankees Fan/Stat-head. This time, as a preview of the upcoming Yankees/Red Sox series in Fenway, Mike takes a look at the respective cases for David Ortiz and Derek Jeter as 2006 MVP candidates. Just to fan the flames, you might also want to see this piece on Sportszilla, which makes the case for Travis Hafner as the 2006 MVP. We hope you enjoy and make sure to give us your thoughts on the matter in the comments section.

Why Ortiz Will be the MVP:

David Ortiz is a middle of the order guy and the voters tend to go for that type; only Ichiro and Henderson have won the MVP in the AL as top of the order hitters since 1990. He is the big hitter, always looking for the fight ending haymaker. Currently, he leads the AL in RBI (110) and HR (41) and is third in runs (86), ninth in OBP (.396) and fifth in OPS (1.014). Ortiz ups his game with runners in scoring position (RISP), hitting .297 with an OBP of .430 – both above his seasonal average – and an OPS of .993. With RISP and 2 outs, he hits .283 with an OBP of .433 and an OPS of .980. He also becomes a monster in close and later situations (from the 7th inning on, either ahead by a run, tied, or with the tying run at least on deck), working the following stats: AVG (.303), OBP (.403), HR (11) – no, that isn’t a typo – RBI (25), SLG (.851) and an OPS of 1.254. He has 5 walk off hits this season, including 3 home runs.

The monster RISP numbers are important to the argument, but so is the lower slugging percentage, which is a demonstration of his hitting intellect: Ortiz isn’t trying to drive the ball out of the ballpark, just hit a single to score the run. In other words, he understands the situation and does the thing that’s best to help his team win. Further, when the game is close and late, forget about it – those walk off wins and the reputation that goes with them make him a rightly feared hitter. Ortiz is the MVP because of his presence in the middle of the order, where he hits home runs, racks up RBIs and makes necessary hits with RISP and because of his deadly nature in late situations with the game on the line.

Why Jeter Will be the MVP:

Derek Jeter is having one of his finest seasons at the top of the Yankee order and he is also a fielder, giving him an advantage in the voting over a DH. More of a fighter than a slugger, Jeter works the jab, only occasionally going for the knockout blow. Currently, he is second in the AL in AVG (.344), ninth in runs (80), seventh in steals (26) – caught only 3 times – and fourth in OBP (.421), with 70 RBIs hitting in the 2-hole in the order. Derek also gets locked in with RISP, hitting .377 with an OBP of .485 and an OPS of .994. With RISP and 2 outs these numbers jump even higher, with an AVG of .395, and OBP of .527 – no that isn’t a typo either – and an OPS of 1.085. Jeter is also a very tough out in close and late situations, hitting .303 with an OBP of .446, meaning he is looking to get on base anyway he can and hope the next guy in line can knock him in.

Jeter is on pace for another 200 hit, 120 run, with OBP, SLG, RBI, BB and steals all higher than his career averages. Jeter is the MVP because of what he means to the Yankee lineup, not only setting the table for other guys, but also becoming deadly when he sees baserunners to be knocked in, especially with 2 outs.

My Fight Card So Far:

Heading into the late rounds (second half of August and all of September), I would still give the edge to Ortiz. His power numbers and ability to produce in close and late situations puts him ahead of Jeter in my mind, although it isn’t as knockout like I originally thought. If one of these two carries their team into the playoffs and the other team doesn’t get in, this debate could get as close as it did with Ortiz and Rodriguez last year.