However, I think that the most intriguing vote will be for American League MVP. As Twins fans, we should be proud to know that there are three Twins players for whom an MVP case could legitimately be written. Joe Mauer became the first catcher in AL history to win a batting title. He also did a great job behind the plate and with the pitchers. Johan Santana is the best pitcher in baseball and when he pitched, especially at home, the Twins won. Justin Morneau's rise to stardom coincided directly with the Twins winning ways after May. All three had remarkable seasons, and in all likelihood, all three will fall short of the MVP award.
Now, I will not bash Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees. He had a season worthy of an MVP award. When he wins the award, I will not be upset. I think that a Twins player would have a better chance of winning the award if each person knew which of the three worthy candidates to vote for. I am sure that if you asked ten voters which Twins player they would vote highest, you would get three answers. The problem is that Jeter will likely rank in the Top two in most every ballot. Justin Morneau, Johan Santana and Joe Mauer could each get first place votes and seventh place votes and anywhere in between depending on the opinion of the individual voter. That is why Derek Jeter will win.
Today, I will explain why my vote for MVP, or certainly for Twins MVP, would go to Justin Morneau. Here are reasons that I would vote for him over the other deserving candidates:
Why Justin Morneau should get the vote over Johan Santana? This is an easy one for me. I do not believe that a pitcher should win the MVP. The Twins played 162 games during the season. Santana pitched in 34 of them. That's just 21.0% of the Twins games. In other words, in 79% of the Twins games, he made no contribution. Joe Nathan pitched in 39.5% of the games. Joe Mauer played in 120 games, or 74.1% Justin Morneau played in 153 games, or 94.4% of them. The Twins played 1,439 1/3 innings during the 2006 season. Johan Santana pitched 233 2/3 of those innings. That is just 16.2% of the innings. Nathan pitched in 68.1 innings, or 4.7% of the innings. Joe Mauer caught 73.6% of the Twins innings. Justin Morneau played defense in 93.5% of the innings this season. That is just their time on defense and doesn't include the 450-600 innings in which they hit. I realize that the effort and importance of the pitcher when the team is on defense is more important than that of a 1B, but I just can't get over the fact that Santana (the league's best pitcher) still helped his team win in such a small percentage of the team's games.
Why Justin Morneau should get the vote over Joe Mauer? I read so many places that Joe Mauer is the team's MVP because he is a catcher. Now, I understand what a catcher does and how difficult it is on the body. That makes what Mauer did in 2006 even more impressive. He has a VORP (Value Over Replacement Player) of 66.9 which is incredible. Justin Morneau's VORP is 52.0. Mauer's VORP is 22% higher than Morneau's. (Santana's VORP was 79.6, but I've already eliminated him because of his number of games and innings) So, what we find out is that Mauer is better than the average, or replacement level, catcher than Morneau is better than the average, or replacement level 1B. Mauer's nearest competition in VORP at catcher was the Atlanta Braves Brian McCann. Morneau plays the position that has many of the league's top hitters. The only 1B that had a higher VORP than Morneau were Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals, Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies and Lance Berkman of the Houston Astros who all play in the National League. Mauer's VORP is swayed by the likes of Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals, Chad Moeller of the Milwaukee Brewers, Brad Ausmus of the Houston Astros and Danny Ardoin of the Colorado Rockies. Morneau's is swayed by the numbers of Sean Casey of the Detroit Tigers, the San Francisco Giants Lance Niekro and Shea Hillenbrand and the Oakland A's Dan Johnson. The MVP Award is not about Value compared to position. It's about Value as compared to the league.
Final Summary - In the end, Twins fans have to be thrilled that their team is so well represented in the big awards, especially the MVP. I just believe that Justin Morneau deserves it over Johan Santana and Joe Mauer. He deserves it over Santana just because of the number of games that a position player can contribute to compared to a pitcher. Although Joe Mauer led the Major Leagues in batting average with his .347 average, Morneau still hit a very strong .321. Mauer led baseball in on-base percentage, getting on 42.9% of the time which Morneau was on 37.5% of the time. Mauer hit 13 homers. Morneau hit 34. Mauer drove in 84 runs. Morneau had 130 RBI. Mauer's OPS was .936. Morneau's OPS was .934. Mauer had 36 doubles. Morneau had 37. Morneau had nine more hits. Mauer had five more stolen bases. Morneau led the league in two-out RBI if you want to add in a "clutch" factor.
The Twins Baseball Writers acknowledged Morneau as the team's 2006 MVP last week. And both Johan Santana and Joe Mauer have endorsed Morneau's candidacy all year. That tells us that his teammates are behind him. Hopefully the national Baseball Writers of American with an AL MVP vote will give their top Twins player votes to Justin Morneau.