Get ready for the most hotly contested November election that will not involve a political office – and if you are a fan of Ryan Braun, you will likely not be happy with the final tabulations for National League Most Valuable Player.
In fact Braun will have a hard time ever winning a MVP award for the rest of his career no matter what he does in a single season.
While watching Milwaukee Brewers telecasts on a nightly basis, I have heard announcer Brian Anderson refer to Braun in recent weeks jumping to the front of MVP consideration with a sensational second half and strong season overall.
Statistically, it is a convincing argument. On Friday night Braun completed a 40 HR/30 SB season, and his total numbers (.319/104 runs/41 HR/112 RBI/30 SB/.602 slug) is every bit as impressive as 2011.
Obviously Brian Anderson makes no mention on telecasts why Braun is still a longshot to repeat as MVP.
That is because BA knows he is speaking mostly to the Brewers fan base, who knows all too well the storyline that has existed since last December. The story about Braun’s leaked positive test, the circumstances regarding the alleged result, and Braun’s ultimate acquittal by an arbitrary panel are well documented and do not need additional mention on air.
In the final days of the season the NL MVP battle has slowly become a two-horse race between Braun and San Francisco catcher Buster Posey. The offensive numbers on Posey (.334/76 runs/23 HR/100 RBI/.544 slug) are not as strong as Braun, but Buster gets points for playing a defensive position in addition to being on a team that won its division title.
If I had a vote, I would select Braun by a slight margin considering the above-mentioned facts and also considering the candidacy of Yadier Molina and the fading Andrew McCutchen.
If the task of the Baseball Writers Association of America was to vote for one player only for MVP, similar to how voting is done in the political arena, Braun’s chances would be solid.
But MVP voting is far more involved than that, as voters actually select 10 players, ranking them first through tenth.
Tabulations are done under a points system very similar to what you might see in NASCAR. First-place votes are worth 14 points, second-place votes 9, third-place 8, then down to one point for tenth place. It is a system the BBWAA has had in place since 1938.
It is that 14-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 format that is going to doom Braun, thanks to the stand you will see from writers who will leave Braun COMPLETELY OFF THE BALLOT.
Here is my hypothetical example on how voting for Posey v. Braun will turn out:
- Posey – 8 first-place votes, 10 second-place, 8 third-place, 3 fourth-place, 2 fifth-place, 1 sixth-place = 304 total points
- Braun – 12 first-place votes, 4 second-place, 2 third-place, left off other completely on other 14 ballots = 244 points
In my NASCAR analogy, if I considered each of the 32 NL BBWAA writers as a single NASCAR race, Posey would be the driver who may not win the most but would almost always finish in the top five.
Braun meanwhile would be the driver who might win half of his races but in the others either crash on the first lap or not even be allowed on the race track. In Braun’s case there will be no middle ground with voters – he is either MVP or not under consideration at all.
Even if the BBWAA did a Heisman Trophy-like format of selecting just three players on a 5-3-1 system, Braun might stand a somewhat better chance.
So should Ryan Braun’s reported positive test from last December haunt him in MVP voting this year (and in future years)?
The arguments run both ways.
Here is a recent MLB.com article from Michael Bauman defending Braun, and noting that it would be unfair to hold his situation from last year against him. It is a strong argument – but I should also note that Bauman has been a writer based out of Milwaukee most of his career.
Then there is Jayson Stark’s ESPN piece, penned September 14, where he weighs the chances of Posey, McCutchen, and Braun. In the article Stark puts Braun’s chances of winning at 50-1, mentioning the ballots he is likely to be left off of. Stark closes his article noting a scout he tracked down and asked who thought should be MVP – the scout’s answer was reportedly “anyone but Braun.”
And you know there will be too many of these types among the 32 voters.
Here is the take you would no doubt hear from the Mike Lupica’s and Jeff Passan’s of the world:
How do we know for 100 percent certain Braun wasn’t taking anything THIS YEAR???
What if we vote Braun in and an announced positive test comes down this off-season???
What if Braun tests positive next season?? Or three years from now?? Or any time the rest of his career??
That is the situation that became Braun’s new normal last December – it is a hustle that is never going to end. Never mind that we can safely assume that Braun was tested just like anyone else (and perhaps more for possible previous cause) during the 2012 season.
The saying, “Fool me one shame on you, fool me twice shame on me,” will be applying here.
Or just call it the Lance Armstrong Syndrome – guilty until proven innocent – then probably still guilty.
We will get a better idea on how the exit polling is going to go amongst the 32 writers before the results are announced. Will it be a quarter of the writers who take a stand against Braun? Or a third? 50 percent?
Braun’s best chance of squeezing out a contested MVP award, according to my math, would be to left off of no more than 30% of the ballots, while Posey, Molina and others split the rest of the top votes down the middle. That will be asking a lot.
The final voting results may just be such that the BBWAA may be forced to re-think its version of the electoral college that they have had in place for 75 years. But then again voters, in the past haven’t had to deal with players past PED allegations.
Unfortunately it will likely be sportswiters with opinions and agendas who will decide the 2012 National League Most Valuable Player. Look for Braun to finish somewhere around fourth or fifth.