Hey! A decision came! It still took way too long.
Last Friday, I picked Pujols to win the MVP and Manny, Braun (added on Saturday after realization of ridiculous brain fart), Wright, and Utley to finish 2nd-5th. I picked Ryan Howard to finish sixth. As everyone knows, Pujols won, and Howard came in second (followed by Braun, then Manny, etc.). I just wanted to give my thoughts, particularly in response to some folks who think Howard should have won.
First of all, I love Ryan Howard. By all accounts, he is one of the nicest guys in baseball. He is always smiling and great for the game. I saw him at Pasta House last offseason with his family, and he is even huger in person. He was like an eclipse -- I didn't want to be rude (or go blind), but I couldn't look away. He commanded attention. I can only assume he ate a gargantuan amount of pasta.
He's also a decent baseball player. I love statistics, so Howard's team page can captivate me for several hours at a time. (That's slight sarcasm, but I'm almost serious.) He's hit 153 home runs in his first three full seasons. There's no way those numbers have ever been matched by another player in his first three full seasons. (I just don't have time to look that up.) And last season, power-wise, was no exception: 47 HR and 146 RBIs easily led the majors. The guy is Paul Bunyan.
But Pujols is pretty good too. And Pujols deserved to be MVP. Here are two arguments for Howard, and my responses:
He outhomered Pujols by 10 and had 30 more RBIs. And? Power numbers do not translate fluidly into value. Just ask Adam Dunn. The fact is, Pujols still had impeccable power numbers (37 and 116), and he hit 106 points better than Howard. 106 points. He also outhit, outslugged and outreached Howard with runners in scoring position (.339, .678, .523 to .320, .589, .439). So there's some value.
But to me, the most compelling statistics in this race were slugging percentage and OBP, overall (and consequently, OPS). Howard slugged .543 and his OBP was .339 (a resultant OPS of .883). Pujols slugged .653 and had an OBP of .462 (for an OPS of 1.115). Those are just enormous discrepancies. Pujols, through these statistics, gives his team more chances than Howard. And that's valuable.
He led his team to the playoffs and Pujols didn't. That is obviously true. But Pujols did lead his team to 10 games over .500 in the best division in the NL. (The division was well over .500 against the East, by the way, so there's really no debate on that, notwithstanding the pathetic playoff results.) Honestly...how would the Cardinals have done without Pujols? He had Ankiel and Ludwick as essentially his entire supporting cast. Howard had Rollins, Utley, Burrel, etc. My argument: The Cardinals wouldn't have finished anywhere near .500 without Pujols. I don't know if the Phils would have made the playoffs without Howard, but their dropoff would not have been as large as the Cardinals would have been. So there's some more value.
Let me reiterate: I love Ryan Howard. If he didn't hit .220 for most of the season (and he did that last year, too), he'd likely have won MVP easily given what he did in September. But Pujols was consistent, hitting over .340 all season, and that is likely what won him the award.