2010 NL MVP Tale of the Tape: Albert Pujols and Joey Votto

Asher ChanceySenior Analyst IAugust 27, 2010

2010 NL MVP Tale of the Tape: Albert Pujols and Joey Votto

0 of 16

    By now the baseball world is well aware that the National League Most Valuable Player race has essentially come down to two NL Central first basemen currently chasing the Triple Crown.

    Barring a huge slump on either of their parts or a huge surge by another candidate—crazier things have happened, and Adrian Gonzalez looms in the shadows—the NL MVP is going to go to one of these two players.

    So how close is the race between them? Shockingly close.

    They are in a statistical dead heat.

Runs Scored: 90 for Pujols, 90 for Votto

1 of 16

    SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 25:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a single to score Miguel Cairo #43 to go ahead 12-11 in the 12th inning of their game against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on August 25, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (P
    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    There is currently a three-way tie for the NL lead in runs scored between Votto, teammate Brandon Phillips, and Pujols.

    Votto has scored his 90 runs in 118 games, or six fewer than Pujols and Phillips, which means he's scoring at a slightly faster rate, but we don't look at "rate" at the end of the season.

    These guys are dead even.

Hits: 151 for Pujols, 143 for Votto

2 of 16

    WASHINGTON - AUGUST 26:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run in the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. It was the 400th home run of his career. (Photo by Greg Fium
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    There is another three-way for the league lead in hits, but it is between Pujols, Phillips, and the Braves' Martin Prado at 151.

    Votto, again, has played fewer games, and that is reflected in his batting average (which is higher than Pujols, Phillips, and Prado), and he trails those three by eight hits. Votto also trails Carlos Gonzalez (147) and Ryan Braun (144).

    By the way, should we be talking about Phillips as an MVP candidate?

Doubles: 30 for Pujols, 24 for Votto

3 of 16

    NEW YORK - JULY 29:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals flies out in the ninth inning against the New York Mets on July 29, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Cardinals 4-
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Neither Pujols nor Votto is amongst the league leaders in doubles this season; Pujols ranks 16th in the NL with 30 doubles, while Votto is tied for 39th with 24 doubles.

    Of course, no one is hitting home runs the way these two guys are either, so they'll survive.

    Doubles represents perhaps the largest gap between Pujols and Votto in the offensive statistics, which is really incredible.

    Rarely has an MVP race come down to who had more doubles.

Home Runs: 34 for Pujols, 31 for Votto

4 of 16

    ST. LOUIS - AUGUST 1: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a two-run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Busch Stadium on August 1, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Cardinals beat the Pirates 9-1.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Image
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Pujols has three more home runs than Votto in six more games, which is a valid and respectable lead.

    Here's a fun statistic: Each player has come upon his home runs honestly, as Pujols has 17 home runs at home and 17 on the road, while Votto has 15 home runs at home and 16 on the road.

    Pujols' lead, of course, is a recent phenomenon, as he has hit 10 home runs in August to Votto's four.

RBI: 93 for Pujols, 90 for Votto

5 of 16

    HOUSTON - JULY 23:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a homerun to right field in the fifth inning off pitcher Bud Norris of the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on July 23, 2010 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    On the face of it, Pujols has a three-RBI lead, a lead that quite nearly falls within the margin of error. But let's take a closer look:

    Pujols leads the home run race by three, and he leads the RBI race by three. That means, take away the home runs (i.e. the RBI that was each batter driving himself in), and each player has 59 RBI.

    Wow. This is a deadlock.

    (I am not, by the way, giving the RBI category to Votto by using his picture here; I was just tired of using Pujols pictures.)

Stolen Bases: 12-of-15 for Pujols, 11-of-15 for Votto

6 of 16

    ST. LOUIS - MAY 13: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals steals second base on wild pitch against Kazuo Matsui #3 of the Houston Astros at Busch Stadium on May 13, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Astros beat the Cardinals 4-1.  (Photo by Dilip Vi
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    How deadlocked are these guys? They are both power-hitting first basemen, neither known for his speed nor called upon to steal bases.

    Yet they are in a statistical dead heat in stolen bases as well, separated by one caught stealing. Each has attempted 15 steals, and Pujols has been successful one more time.

Bases on Balls: 78 for Pujols, 71 for Votto

7 of 16

    NEW YORK - JULY 07:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds runs against the New York Mets on July 7, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Even though Pujols leads this category by seven bases on balls, I am going to give this one to Votto, and I'll tell you why:

    Of Pujols' 78 bases on balls, 31 of them have been intentional. Yes, the intimidation and fear that opposing pitchers have when they face you is part of your value as a player, but it is also a reflection of how much intimidation and fear opposing pitchers do not have of the hitters around you.

    Votto has been intentionally walked only four times this season, which means that when each player is taking a base on balls on merit, i.e. by virtue of being selective at the plate, Votto leads Pujols 67 to 47.

    Don't worry; no MVP race has come down to whether we should include intentional walks in our math.

Strikeouts: 99 for Votto, 57 for Pujols

8 of 16

    ST. LOUIS - JULY 15: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals collects a hit against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Busch Stadium on July 15, 2010 in St. Louis, Missouri.  The Cardinals beat the Dodgers 7-1.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
    Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    It is part of what makes Albert so great: You're not going to strike him out consistently.

    Of 77 players in the National League who currently qualify for the batting title, only 10 have fewer strikeouts than Pujols. Of those players, only Placido Polanco and Jeff Keppinger are hitting over .270.

    Votto's 99 strikeouts are perfectly respectable and only rank 26th in the NL, but Pujols is the strikeout master.

    (We'll leave the "are strikeouts actually that bad from a value perspective" conversation for another time.)

Batting Average: .326 for Votto, .321 for Pujols

9 of 16

    NEW YORK - JULY 05:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds grounds out in the third inning against the New York Mets on July 5, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Votto is currently your league leader, Pujols is currently second, and Carlos Gonzalez is third with a .320 average.

    Whichever player leads the NL in average this season will win what we call a "Batting Title," and possibly a Triple Crown, while the player that finishes second wins nothing.

    I only make this point because I want to point out the fact that while leading the league in batting average is a big deal for the history books, really the difference between .326 and .321 is, at this point, within the margin of error.

    For example, if Votto goes 0-for-4 in his next game and Pujols goes 3-for-5, they'll both be hitting .324.

    Maybe this is a good rule of thumb: If you have two guys whose batting averages could be even after a five at-bat game, they are within the margin of error.

OPS: 1.026 for Votto, 1.020 for Pujols

10 of 16

    PHOENIX - AUGUST 18:  (L-R) Jonny Gomes #31, Joey Votto #19 and Scott Rolen #27 of the Cincinnati Reds congratulate teammate Jim Edmonds #15 after he scored a run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of the Major League Baseball game a
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Okay, these two numbers really are the same. I mean, six points of OPS is absolutely meaningless, as demonstrated by the fact that Pujols and Votto are currently tied in OPS+ at 171.

    As for the components of OPS, Votto leads Pujols in OBP .423 to .415, while Pujols leads Votto in slugging, .605 to .603; those numbers just don't get closer.

Total Bases: 285 for Pujols, 264 for Votto

11 of 16

    WASHINGTON - AUGUST 26:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals is congratulated by teammates after hitting a home run in the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. It was the 400th home
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Pujols and Votto are one-two in this category as well, and only Carlos Gonzalez (261) also has more than 250.

    Twenty-one total bases over a season is nothing to sneeze your nose at, but given that Pujols has played six more games than Votto, we are once again in the margin of error.

GIDP: 19 for Pujols, 8 for Votto

12 of 16

    NEW YORK - JULY 05:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds runs out a ninth inning double against the New York Mets on July 5, 2010 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    The "grounded into double plays" statistic is probably the counterpart to the strikeouts statistic; Pujols leads Votto by a healthy margin–and Votto's total is actually very good for a power-hitting first baseman–but the value, or lack thereof, of the double play is difficult to determine without reference to the players around Pujols or Votto.

    Who knows? Maybe if Pujols struck out more, he'd hit into fewer double plays.

    Vice versa for Votto.

WAR: 5.6 for Pujols, 4.9 for Votto

13 of 16

    PITTSBURGH - AUGUST 25:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals talks inbetween innings during the game against  the Pittsburgh Pirates on August 25, 2010 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    This is a not-insubstantial difference.

    For WAR purposes, 5.6 and 4.9 are very different numbers.

    It appears as though a slight gap opens up between these players once defense is brought into the fold.

Runs Created: 116 for Votto, 115 for Pujols

14 of 16

    SEATTLE - JUNE 20:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds bats against the Seattle Mariners on June 20, 2010 at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Runs created is an outmoded statistic, but I wanted to make reference to it to demonstrate, once again, just how similarly these two guys are playing.

    Of course, when you look to RC per game–10.0 vs. 8.9 in favor of Votto–the difference isn't as slight.

    Worth noting, though, that no other player has topped 100 yet this season in the NL.

Batting Runs: 49.9 for Pujols, 46.2 for Votto

15 of 16

    WASHINGTON - AUGUST 26:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run in the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. It was the 400th home run of his career.  (Photo by Greg Fiu
    Greg Fiume/Getty Images

    Three batting runs (3.7 to be precise) appears at first to be a significant difference.

    Nevertheless, consider the following:

    Pujols and Votto are once again one-two in these categories. Of all the other National League hitters, only Adrian Gonzalez has topped 40 this season, and after him only Prince Fielder has topped 30.

    Considering the company that is around them, or rather not around them, 3.7 batting runs becomes a pretty small difference.

Team Record: 73-54 for Votto, 68-57 for Pujols

16 of 16

    PHOENIX - AUGUST 18:  (L-R) Jonny Gomes #31, Joey Votto #19 and Scott Rolen #27 of the Cincinnati Reds congratulate teammate Jim Edmonds #15 after he scored a run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the ninth inning of the Major League Baseball game a
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    This is looking like an awfully close race, and frankly, with these players locked in a veritable tie based upon their overall statistics, team record may prove to be the most important statistic of all.

    The voters may well decide that, as between these incredibly similarly matched first basemen, perhaps the team that eventually wins the NL Central will have had the more valuable player.

    But until that time, this race remains—much like the 2000 Presidential Election—too close to call.