|A pair of catchers, the Giants' Buster Posey and the Cardinals' Yadier Molina were atop my ballot. (US Presswire)|
I know which way I leaned in the American League Most Valuable Player debate, but I can't say for sure how I would vote if I'd had a vote. The reason I say that is because I did have a vote in the National League Most Valuable Player debate, and I didn't put in the work for my hypothetic AL vote that I did for my NL vote.
Here's what was sent to me in late August, when I was told I had been assigned one of the MVP votes from my chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America:
There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.
The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:
1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot.
Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration.
Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.
I keep those guidelines in mind, although they're not very specific.
First, my vote starts with the games that I watch, which is at least two full games nearly every night during the season, plus flipping through and watching parts of others. When I'm not at the ballpark, I have two TVs, my main computer, a laptop and an iPad, and at least two -- and often three or four of these -- have a game on. I try to watch as many different games from around baseball as possible. When I'm at the ballpark, I often have another game going on my iPad. I also enjoy talking about these things to those inside the game, including front-office types, scouts, managers, coaches and players.
And then it comes down to stats. I look at all sorts of stats, including all three different versions of WAR. For hitters, I also look at the regular stats in addition to OPS+, wRC+, wOBA, WPA and others. I have voted for pitchers in the top 10 the other time that I had an MVP vote (2010). But I didn't vote for one this year, even though I looked at many, including R.A. Dickey, Craig Kimbrel and Clayton Kershaw.
Although this seems to be controversial among some, team performance does play a role in my decision. I don't know if it's a decider; it's just part of the stew.
There's also defense and base running. While base running stats have gotten better, defense is still difficult to measure and the best numbers available still have their flaws. There's also the question of measuring catcher defense, to go along with all the other responsibilities of a catcher. That loomed large, because in the very end, my vote came down to two catchers.
In the end, this is what my ballot looked like:
1. Buster Posey
2. Yadier Molina
3. Ryan Braun
4. Andrew McCutchen
5. David Wright
6. Chase Headley
7. Aramis Ramirez
8. Michael Bourn
9. Ian Desmond
10. Joey Votto
I honestly see a good argument for a top vote for any of the top six players that I have on my list. There's also plenty of very good players that I left off, including Jason Heyward, Martin Prado, Matt Holliday and the pitchers mentioned. There are plenty of nits to pick with any ballot, but I can tell you what didn't go into my decision: anything that happened off the field, including Bruan's offseason troubles.
I don't know if my ballot was the best or perfect, but I did put in several hours worth of work and many more hours thinking about it. I don't take voting lightly, and that's why I find it hard to say for sure how I'd vote in another race. I'm sure there will be different opinions than mine but, in part, that's why there are 31 other votes and why it's so fun to debate the MVP. In the end, a very good player got the trophy and several other deserving players did not.