Thursday, October 4, 2012

SF Giants win NL West, Buster should be NL MVP

Since the inception of the NL West division in 1969, the Giants have now won it 8 times in 43 years.  (They've finished in 2nd place 9 times, 3rd place 10 times, 4th place 9 times, 5th place 5 times and 6th place just 2 times.)  Also notable, before there were divisions within the NL, SF also finished first overall in the NL in 1962 with a 103-62 record.  This year, they finished with 94 wins, which was the 6th best record any SF team has ever had (including both 1965 and 2002 in which they finished with 95 wins but didn't win the division).

So remembering the fact that Brian Wilson was lost early on, their best BA bat was suspended for the season midway through and Lincecum was out of form all year, this was no small accomplishment.  The Giants were 0.5 games back of the Dodgers before that 3 critical game sweep in latter August.  By Sept 22nd, with still 10 games to play, they had already wrapped up the division.  They finished with the 4th best record in baseball, having whooped the Dodgers by 8 games.  These are the seasons where the Giants earned the division crown and how far they went in the playoffs:

1962   103-62  Lost World Series (Won NL to earn WS berth. NL West didn't exist.)

1971   90-72    Lost 1st round
1987   90-72    Lost 1st round
1989   92-70    Lost World Series
1997   90-72    Lost 1st round
2000   97-65    Lost 1st round
2003   100-61  Lost 1st round
2010   92-70    World Series Champs!
2012   94-68

The Giants also lost the 2002 World Series, but they got there as the wildcard (the only wildcard SF has ever earned).  You can see how precious that 2010 World Series was to SF.  After losing all 3 of its previous World Series appearances and getting dumped out in the first round the other 5 times it made the postseason, the 2010 title was a long time coming.

One of the misconceptions of our team this season was that we lost our best hitter in Melky Cabrera.  The fact of the matter is that Buster Posey is not only the best hitter and non-pitcher on the Giants, he should be the NL MVP.  Let's look at the stats:

- If we go only by batting average, Posey leads not just the NL, but all MLB with .336.  (Triple crown winner Miguel Cabrera won the AL at .330).  More impressively, he hit .385 after the All-Star break!

- In On Base Percentage (OBP), which helps us understand that walks are earned by hitters and not merely mistakes by pitchers, Buster finished 2nd in the NL with .408.  (It bears mentioning that the leader, Votto, had 156 less at bats than Buster).

- For Slugging Percentage (SLG), which weighs extra base hits, Buster finished in 4th with .549.

- But its worth noting that in OPS (OBP + SLG), which is a metric that many experts use to determine a player's actual hitting ability, he finished 2nd in the NL with .957.

- Other traditional stats of Posey this season, many of which are popular but may not be as accurate of a measure of a player's value, include:
     - 103 RBIs - He was 6th in the NL but had 74 less at bats than the RBI leader (115 RBIs).
     - 24 HRs - NL leader at 41.
     - 178 hits - Finished 8th, but had between 63-116 LESS at bats than everyone above (leader: 194 hits).

- And in perhaps the best metric about one's measurable value to one's team, WAR - wins above replacement, Posey led the NL at 7.2.

- The two other players in the NL who deserve a look are Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen, but they both trail Posey in batting average, on base percentage and most importantly, wins above replacement.  We also can't forget that Braun and McCutchen's teams finished 14 and 18 games, respectively, out of their divisional leader.  Posey led an average group of hitters to 1st.

- Lastly, I forgot to mention that HE'S A CATCHER who deals with the wear and tear of a season in a crouch.  It is obviously the most physically demanding position in the sport.  The value he provides as perhaps the game's best hitter is enough to win alone, before you even account for his value as the team's everyday catcher.  Also, don't forget that this is just his first season back from the devastating leg injury last year.  There is no reason why Buster Posey shouldn't be awarded the NL MVP.

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