Clash of the Titans: Albert Pujols or Joe Mauer as the Overall MVP?
Joe Mauer won his first career American League MVP in an almost unanimous decision today.
Albert Pujols—barring some sort of disgusting error by the BBWAA—will win his second consecutive National League MVP trophy early tomorrow afternoon.
Both players are phenomenal talents that played at the highest level throughout the season and were clearly the most valuable player in their respective league.
Just take a look at the raw numbers for each player:
Pujols: .327/47/135/1.101 OPS
Mauer: .365/28/96/1.014 OPS
Those stat lines are jaw-dropping, and one might glance at the astronomical numbers of Pujols and consider him the easy choice for possessing more value.
However, it's my opinion that Mauer is the most valuable player in Major League Baseball.
When you consider more than just the basic stat lines, Mauer had more overall value and was more impacting on the success of his team than Pujols.
At the plate
A lot of people might dismiss the notion that Mauer could even be compared to Pujols and his astronomical power outputs.
And I know, it's pretty undeniable how imposing Pujols is at the plate.
He led all of baseball with 47 home runs and ranked third with 135 RBI.
Mauer, although he had a career year with 28 home runs, is no where near the power threat of Pujols.
But what Mauer lacks in thump he makes up in thwack.
He ripped through pitchers on the junior circuit and notched a .365 batting average, 38 points higher than Pujols at .327.
To put this in perspective, Mauer had 45 fewer at-bats than Pujols, but still had seven more hits for the season.
Mauer, despite the huge advantage in batting average, only edged Pujols by one point in on base percentage (.444 to .443).
Even so, both tallied more walks than strikeouts for the season, with Pujols at 115 walks and 68 strikeouts and Mauer with 76 walks and 63 strikeouts.
A lot of this differential can also be attributed to the 44 intentional walks issued to Pujols—30 more than the 14 issued to Mauer.
Take note that Mauer (4.18) even sees a noticeably higher amount of pitches per plate appearance than Pujols (3.84).
Another compelling piece of evidence in favor of Mauer's batting prowess was his .400 average with two outs and runners in scoring position, which towered over Pujols' mark of .243 in the same situation.
Mauer was also 28 points higher in late and close situations, hitting .310 as compared to Pujols' .282.
Regardless of these splits, it's impressive how each player was remarkably consistent on a month-to-month basis.
This is echoed by the fact that Mauer's lowest monthly average was .309 and Pujols lowest was .289, both of which were posted in the month of July
In the field
I think one of the big pieces of evidence that swings the nod in Mauer's favor is his position as a catcher.
Catchers are inherently more valuable to their team, and therefore Mauer has a more consistent impact on the overall output of his team.
By this I mean that catchers have more responsibility within the game itself, and his standout performance as the field general puts him a rung above Pujols.
From behind the dish, the catcher must know alignments for all positions, including bunt coverages, double-play coverages, pickoff plays, etc.
He also must be able to command and direct the pitching staff not only throughout a game, but for the entirety of the season.
The catcher must establish a working relationship with the pitchers that forms trust between the two parties.
Trust by the pitcher that their battery-mate is making the correct calls, and trust by the catcher that his pitcher can execute the calls.
Mauer has achieved this relationship with his patchwork staff, and his ability to compile a scouting report on the opposition and call a game that will tailor the game to the pitcher's advantage is a unique skill that he possesses.
An additional piece of added value to a catcher is the pounding one takes (as evidenced by Mauer's mysterious back injury that held him out until May) that makes it so difficult to be successful for the entire season.
Mauer has to be given more consideration for his value while maintaining stability behind the plate.
By no means is this a knock on Pujols, as the Machine plays outstanding defense.
But his impact on the defensive side is much lesser than Mauer's.
In the clubhouse leadership
Neither player is the "rah-rah" type of leader, but rather the leader who demonstrates a level of work ethic that is unparalleled by any of his teammates.
Mauer and Pujols work painstakingly hard to set the bar high for the rest of their team and it results in getting more production out of lesser players.
Mauer has the added pressure of having an entire franchise placed on his back, and without him the Minnesota Twins would just about be left for dead.
An All-American at Cretin-Derham Hall high school in St. Paul, Mauer has excelled at being a hometown hero and was been able to carry the Twinkies into the postseason with a captivating run in September to catch the Detroit Tigers.
Pujols, on the other hand, has the benefits of a more fiscally bold organization.
After getting little help in the first half of the season, Pujols got the luxury of his team acquiring Matt Holliday to provide him with some protection in the order.
Of course, the front office aspect of the game is completely out of the control of each player.
Still, we must factor into the value that Mauer is at a distinct competitive disadvantage and managed to take him team equally as far as Pujols did with Cardinals.
Who gets the edge?
After analyzing the body of work for each player in 2009, I have to give the edge in value to Mauer.
When you look beyond the basic numbers and dissect what builds those statistics, I think that Mauer had more impact on the Twins that Pujols did on the Cardinals.
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