FanPost

If Morneau Stayed Healthy he Might have been MVP

Yesterday morning I woke up refreshed and reinvigorated. I felt like it was time for an entire new outlook on life. Thing might finally be going right, but then I found out that wasn't the case. You see the day before I had answered an ad for a freelance sports writing job, and the guys was interested in hiring me. It would pay a decent amount per article and I would be getting paid for something I do anyone. Suffice it to say it didn't work out too well. I had taken sports writing to mean any sports. That I would have some freedom to decide what I would write about. After I wrote back an e-mail telling the guy I was willing I told him my idea for my first column. It was to this that he responded that they don't cover pro-sports and wanted me to cover high school basketball. Nothing against high school basketball, but honestly that would be a huge donation of my free time for pay that suddenly didn't look that great. But a part of me said my great idea shouldn't just die on the vine, and writing for Federal Baseball every day is the highlight of my morning. I figured I would let this idea see the light of day and put it in its proper place.

I would also like to point out one that for some reason I feel a connection to the city of Minneapolis despite only a brief weekend trip in 2009. Every year my friend and I try to make a baseball trip, and at the end of 2009 we went to the second to last game of the last official series at the Metrodome. It is still one of the best trips I have ever had. From Al's Breakfast to the Vikings cheerleaders at Mall of America every bit of that trip was amazing. I look forward to the day I return to see Target Field.   

The star of Josh Hamilton wasn't born when he was drafted first overall by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, it wasn't born when after years of off the field struggles with drugs he was making a comeback and taken by the Cubs in the rule 5 draft, it wasn't when the Cubs immediately traded him to the Reds, or when one year later the Reds traded him to the Texas Rangers for Edinson Volquez. No, Josh Hamilton's star was born on a night in Yankees Stadium, The House that Ruth Built. A short right field porch specifically designed to help the lefty slugger hit more homeruns. It was during the Homerun Derby of the 2008 All-star Week that Josh Hamilton became a star. It was then that people looked back and saw that just a couple years earlier he had all but given up on baseball and was living in the back of a tattoo parlor. Josh Hamilton's performance is what people remember from that Homerun Derby, but he didn't win it. Justin Morneau did.

Morneau was drafted in the third round of the 1999 amateur draft, the same draft that Josh Hamilton headlined by being the first pick overall. Morneau made his major league debut in 2003 and won the MVP award in 2006, one year before Hamilton's big comeback. The point of this is that if Justin Morneau didn't go down with a concussion he might be the AL MVP instead of Josh Hamilton. Through 81 games in 2010 Morneau put up a slash line of .345/.437/.618 compared to Hamilton's line of .359/.411/.633. Morneau had a higher OBP but was marginally lower in both average and slugging. It should also be noted that Hamilton wasn't fully healthy himself in 2010 as he managed to play in just 133 games. I believe that defense should matter when it comes to MVP voting and Hamilton played 40 games at CF with a UZR/150 of 4.5. Morneau is no slouch defensively and had a UZR/150 of 18.0 (ignoring the issues with UZR for a first baseman), but first base is not nearly as defensively important as center field, and while it is just 40 games it is above average defense from an amazing hitter at a premier defensive position. Of course talking about stuff like UZR/150 might elicit mostly blank stares from some MVP voters.

Seeing as Morneau played in exactly half the number of games in a baseball season I will just double his homers and RBI and say that he was on pace for 36 homers and 112 RBI which is not significantly more than the 32 homers and 100 RBI that Hamilton put up, and of course that assumes that Morneau played in 162 games. Take away thirty of those games and their counting stats might have ended up identical. This of course is all an exercise in futility as Hamilton stayed healthier than Morneau. But it is always fun to think about what might have been.

 Everyone now wishes for the health of Morneau and for him to come back from his concussion and pick right up where he left off. As far as MVPs go there is always 2011. One more thing to think about if Morneau had stayed on his blistering pace he could have finished the year with a 10.6 WAR while Hamilton ended up with an 8.0 WAR. It could have been that once again Hamilton gets the spotlight in the World Series while Morneau is the one that shines with the MVP Award (of course the Twins fate could have been different if Morneau was in the line-up against the Yankees, but probably not as the Twins were outscored in the series by a 17-7 margin), just like during the 2008 Homerun Derby. As it is Morneau is still hoping to be healthy and Josh Hamilton has cemented his comeback and now not only is a star born but justified.

When I was falling asleep the other night looking forward to the morning and accepting a freelance writing job that would pay me to write about something I love it was these thoughts that raced through my head. Minus the numbers of course, I had to look up the numbers. It was also funny because as I was falling asleep I kept telling my wife, "You have to finish for it to count." She had no idea what I was talking about and asked me what I wanted her to finish and why since it was clearly time to sleep. Maybe I am not going to make a dime by letting this idea free, but at least I let it free. An idea no matter how good, bad, or meaningless should always be set free.         

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