Thursday, June 02, 2005

Lee for MVP

Wrigley's got a new hero
Time to fire up the propoganda machine. Based on the fact that Steve Nash won the NBA MVP on the strength of November press, there is no reason to delay getting Derrek Lee's name on the minds of the voters. And why not? He has been absolutely incredible through the season's first two months.

To read more, click on the "Lee for MVP" link on the right side of the page.


Adam Hoff said...

Here are the obvious reasons for Derrek Lee's claim to the title of "Most Valuable":

-Leads the majors in hitting at .380.
-Leads the majors in home runs (tied with A-Rod) with 17.
-Leads the majors in RBI with 50.

In case you don't follow baseball much, that means if the season ended today, he would not only win the National League's Triple Crown, but that he would win the Major League's Triple Crown. Bear in mind, nobody has won a league Triple Crown since 1968, so that is no small matter.

Again, those are just the obvious stats. Here are a few more:

-Leads the majors in OPS at 1.194
-Leads the majors in OBP at .467
-Leads the majors in total bases with 136
-Leads the NL in runs scored with 42
-Second in the majors in extra base hits with 31
-Sixth in the NL in steals with 9 (leads all MLB corner infielders)

I mean, this is unbelievable. Stats aren't everything, but they do count for a lot and the numbers Lee is throwing up are just fantastic. He could go .250/13/50 over the season's final four months (numbers that project out to a typical Tony Clark season) and still finish .300/30/100. Obviously he won't finish at the .380/56/157 pace he's on now, but you have to figure he will land somewhere in between.

So, the question becomes: if Lee finishes right in the middle, which would give him .340/43/129, can he snag himself an MVP award? Those numbers bode well, but for a definitive answer, we need to look at the following factors:

1. How will his team fare? Right now he is single-handedly carrying the Cubs. They have lost Wood, Prior, and Nomar. Walker was down for a month. The closer situation has been a mess. Zambrano is one email away from the DL. Despite all that, the Cubs are three games over .500 and only one game back of the wild card (based on the loss column). They won't catch the Cardinals, but if they are even in contention for the WC when September rolls around, Lee will be a viable candidate.

2. His competition. Pujols is lurking (.327/12/42). He is playing for the best team in the NL and voters are itching to give him the award now that Bonds is out of the way. Miguel Cabrera (.355/10/34) would be a strong candidate should the Marlins reach the playoffs. And Bobby Abreu (.339/12/37 with 14 SB and a .464 OBP) has been on fire and leading the Phillies back into the fray. A guy like Beltran or Delgado could get hot for a long stretch, but right now it appears that it is a four-horse race. Pujols presents the biggest obstacle.

3. Disparity on his own team. The best thing Nash had going for him was the "they were 0-3 on that road trip when he was hurt" line that everyone kept trotting out. Writers love to hang their hat on something that shows that the team can't survive without their MVP candidate. Lee hasn't missed any games, so the "Cubs can't win without him" argument is not available. But how about the "Cubs can't SCORE" argument? Take out Lee and the Cubs are hitting .255. He's hit 26% of their home runs, stolen 29% of their bases, and accounted for 23% of their RBI. He's the only regular in the lineup with an OPS over .839. This offense is terrible without Derrek Lee. Just the kind of thing voters are looking for.

4. Signature games. Again, voters want something specific they can latch onto. They love the flair for the dramatic. I would say this is probably Lee's strongest suit thus far. Look at some of these games:

-Opening day goes 4-for-6 with 5 RBI and 10 total bases
-Prevents a sweep at the hands of the Padres with 5 RBI
-Goes 4-for-4 with 2 HR and 6 RBI, including a game-tying three-run blast in the bottom of the eighth as the Cubs come from behind to beat the Reds
-Hits a walk off home run into the wind in the bottom of the 10th to beat the Mets 4-3
-Drives in all four Cubs runs going 4-for-4 with 2 HR, including a game-winner against the Pirates
-Goes 3-for-3 with 2 HR and 3 RBI ... in back-to-back wins over the Rockies
-And of course, there was the 5-for-5 with 4 RBI he threw up on the Dodgers last night.

Suffice to say, if it is individual gems voters are looking for, Lee has plenty of them.

5. Something extra. Most MVP's have a little something extra that gets them over the top. Tejada's fiery leadership, Bonds' fear factor, Ichiro's blazing speed, and so on. For Lee, it is his defense. Jason Giambi (the MVP version, not the current mess) he is not. This guy is almost better defensively than he is offensively. Nothing gets by him. He has unlimited range. He makes infielders better by creating such a big and reliable target. His Gold Glove play at first base may be the aspect of his game that helps him nail down some hardware.

All in all, it looks like it is shaping up to be an MVP year for Derrek Lee. Spread the word.

Chris K. said...

Consider me sold. I knew Lee was playing well, but he is blowing every other NL player away. But that's the easy race to call right now. Who do you have as the frontrunner for the AL MVP? A-Rod has the best numbers, but Tejada and Roberts have the Orioles in first place. And you gave Soriano the May MVP award in your column, so maybe you have to throw him in the mix.

Anonymous said...

For that matter, how about the Cy Young frontrunners? ROY? Manager? You should write a column for Whatif on this. Better than wasting valuable space on someone like Larry Brown.

Anonymous said...

What do you think about all that Face of Baseball stuff on ESPN? Jeter? A-Rod? What a bunch of nonsense. Who is your pick? I'd like to see the contributors of this blog weigh in.

Adam Hoff said...

Has ESPN reached such a lofty stature that we are compelled to debate not only the news they report but that which they create? Okay, yes, probably. Perhaps "the face of baseball" is worthy of its own post. I will consider the request and respond by nightfall. (Did that sound dramatic enough?)

As for the other award races, I'm trying to stay away from too many columns about individual awards since I usually average about 6.5 per baseball season. However, a "first third" report on the frontrunners sounds intriguing. We'll bat it around here in the blog and I'll see what we have to work with. Before running the numbers my instincts point toward: Tejada (AL MVP), Santana (AL Cy Young), and Peavy (NL Cy Young).

Adam Hoff said...

The Face of Baseball debate is now open for business - see the front page.

By the way, Derrek Lee reached base all five times tonight, going 3-for-3 with two free passes and raising his average to .389. Wow.

Anonymous said...

Add one more name to the NL MVP chace: Carlos Lee. The Brewers slugger got off to a slow start but is on fire now. He's got 14 homers and is tied for the lead in RBI with Lee at 52. He went 5-for-5 today with a couple of ribbies. Don't count him out.