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MVPs and Cy Youngs: A Twinkie Town Discussion

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We're into the part of the offseason in which awards voting becomes the hot topic. SB Nation does its own ballots for Cy Young and MVP - Jesse and I being the two voters for Twinkie Town - and so normally this leads to both of us posting our ballots for discussion.

This year, I thought I'd do something slightly different. Before I did my voting, Jesse and I decided to have a bit of an email conversation about the awards. After the jump, a transcript - which isn't, I admit, entirely about our MVP and Cy Young votes.

JESSE: Okay Jon, it's that time of year where awards get handed out. Tell me who you're picking for AL MVP and AL Cy Young so I can tell you why you're wrong.

JON: I'll tell you who I'm picking: Derek Jeter! For both awards! He plays the game the right way and he's the consummate professional and he has never once called me "turd face" in the locker room.

No, wait, hang on - I'm *not* Joe Morgan. So I'm going to make an actual pick.

Let's start with the Cy Young. Lots of people have already made the case for Felix Hernandez over Captain Cheeseburger himself, CC Sabathia. I thought it was a two-horse race. But then I start looking at the stats and a lot of other candidates jump out: David Price. Jon Lester. Cliff Lee. Trevor Cahill. I'm stuck now. Not least because Trevor Cahill pitched against the Twins twice this year and I still couldn't have picked him out of a crowd or told you with any certainty which hand he pitches with. I may be an idiot; and knowing that, I'm not so sure my lean towards Felix Hernandez is that good of an idea. Am I a sheep for following the Sabathia Sucks crowd?

JESSE: Well you b-a-a-a-a-a-d boy, Sabathia definitely doesn't suck. Sure, he plays for the Yankees, for which he doth suck ye olde tyme bullocks, but in terms of talent he was one of the best five starters in the AL this year. I'd still lean towards Felix with the Cy (in fact he's who I voted for in the SBNation balloting), just because he was THAT much better than everyone else. But sure--Price, Lester, Lee, Cahill (and, cough cough, Liriano) all deserve some level of consideration. But if we toss that dirty 'win' stat out the window, it has to be Hernandez.

What about relief pitchers? Do you see any relief pitchers you'd even briefly consider for the Cy Young this season?

JON: No, and I don't think I'd consider one for the Cy Young unless he was so much better than every other reliever in the league that it seemed completely obvious. I'm talking Sidd Finch kind of relief pitching here. And here's my reasoning: Let's say for purposes of discussion that the Twins had Joakim Soria instead of Matt Capps/Jon Rauch, Soria being perhaps the best closer in the AL this year. How many more games would the Twins have won? Two or three, at the best? And that's the difference between the best and the most average.

Now imagine that the Twins replaced, say, Scott Baker (pretty average) with Felix Hernandez. The Twins scored a run and a half more per game in Baker's starts than the Mariners did in Hernandez's - it seems to me that they legitimately could have won five or six more games, and Hernandez might have been a twenty-game winner.

Not to get all stat-heady here, but look at the Wins Above Replacement numbers. I'm using Baseball Reference, and Soria - who's got the most of any reliever - is down in seventeenth, right between Shawn Marcum and Brian Duensing. That's not exactly Cy Young material.

Let's move on past the pitchers. Who, sir, is your pick for MVP? (Or are we supposed to be homers and list only Twins on our ballots? I'm never sure how these political things work.)

JESSE: I actually voted Hamilton on my SBN ballot, although I did have reservations about it. Miguel Cabrera had such a great year, as did Evan Longoria and...OMG...Adrian Beltre, he's so hot right now. And no conversation is complete without a mention of Jose Bautista. I went with Josh Hamilton because even though he missed time down the stretch it didn't stop him from having a monster season. He led the AL in WAR, at least according to FanGraphs.

SBN wants to make our ballots public, so MAYBE it's possible that I would have been a bit more of a homer if that wasn't the case. As it was, I think the only two Twins who cracked the top 10 for me were Jim Thome and Joe Mauer.

That's a good question, though. Who are your top 10 most valuable Twins of 2010? My list...

  1. Jim Thome
  2. Joe Mauer
  3. Francisco Liriano
  4. Carl Pavano
  5. Orlando Hudson
  6. Jesse Crain
  7. Danny Valencia
  8. Delmon Young
  9. Brian Duensing
  10. Justin Morneau

JON: This is the point where I interject: I love WAR. I love that there's a number out there - studied and produced and endlessly argued over, that attempts, however imperfectly or perfectly, to tell me exactly what I want to know: Who was worth the most to his team this year?

That said, I'm not about to fill out my ballot based solely on WAR. Evan Longoria's atop the list, which is great, and then comes Shin-Soo Choo. He was apparently worth seven wins to the Indians. I'm sure it's great consolation for Cleveland fans, knowing that they could have watched a 100-loss team, but instead got the joy of seeing only 93 losses. It's a valid question: can a great player on a bad team be the MVP? I'm not one for absolute rules, but unless said player had one of the greatest seasons in the history of baseball, then I'm not sure they deserve as much consideration. If there's two guys who are, in my mind, similarly valuable, I'll vote for the guy who was worth more on a better team.

As for my Twins ballot, I'm going to go heretical. You will yell, but my pick for the most valuable Twin is...

1. Michael Cuddyer

Without Cuddyer moving to first base, and playing virtually every day there, and playing well to boot, the Twins don't make the playoffs. Once the Twins signed Jim Thome, the entire team hinged on Cuddyer's ability to shift around the field. Because of him, the Twins could tolerate absences of Young, Kubel, Thome, or Morneau. Not one other Twin was set to do that. Cuddyer saved the team from Jose Morales or Matt Tolbert or Trevor Plouffe or Drew Butera being in the lineup every day. For me, that makes him the most valuable.

Beyond that, honestly my list looks just like yours, except with Duensing a bit higher.

JESSE: Okay, I sort of get that. Because in addition to him being able to cover for Morneau, his movement allowed us to get all of our best bats in the lineup. That obviously paid dividends with Thome, who had more DH time because Kubel was playing the outfield more often, which also meant that Young was able to play everyday. Sort of a domino-effect.

Or a side effect.

I'd argue that Thome was the team's MVP. While he didn't play the field, his presence in the lineup gave the Twins much-needed power after Justin's injury, and it was Jimmer's tater off Thornton that literally and emotionally put the Twins on top of the division for good. At least in my mind. It was just a perfect moment. While it was Morneau's injury that set off the chain of movements that allowed Thome to get into the lineup (almost) everyday, it was still Thome's performance that lifted this team. And I'm as big of a Cuddy-lover as there is.

Of course, if Cuddles had blasted the ball around the park like he did after Morneau went down in '09, then sure, he'd at least by on my ballot and somewhere towards the top. But not this year.

As far as my league-wide ballot, I didn't base it SOLELY on FanGraph's WAR, but it was pretty close. I think all ten of my guys were in the top 15. I don't blame Choo for playing on a terrible Cleveland team--he had a great year and he deserves some level of recognition for it. I'm pretty sure he landed in one of the bottom spots on my ballot.

So what say you, Twinkie Towners? Jesse and I both picked Hernandez for Cy Young and Hamilton for MVP. We'll publish our full ballots later, perhaps in the comments, but are you on board with our picks? And who wants to be the first to yell at me about the Michael Cuddyer thing?