The 2004 MVP & Cy Young Awards:
Let’s get it right this time round

Keith R. Thompson,

September 20, 2004

Once again it’s that time of year again when we pontificate about the wonders of postseason baseball, and debate that most relevant of questions, who should win this year’s MVP. And once again the debate within the National League is just about
the same as it has been for the past three seasons, Barry Bonds or Albert Pujols. I suppose the one thing that makes the 2004 season a little different is the emergence to superstardom of Adrian Beltre, the former Dodger child prodigy.

Adrian Beltre is leading the majors with 45 home runs, and in fact is also in the top five in four other statistical categories, including the top three of batting average, and RBIs. Albert Pujols is once again proving that he is one of the premier hitters on the senior circuit with a top five ranking in four major statistical categories, including runs scored (first), home runs (second), and RBIs (third), all while leading the St Louis Cardinals to the best record in baseball. And how about Barry Bonds. Mmmm, leading the majors in batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage, all while setting a new major league record for walks (again), and almost singlehandedly keeping his team in the wild card race. Enough said.

And before we commence the salivating process let’s not write off Jim Edmonds or Scott Rolen, both in the midst of career seasons who have helped to catapult the Cardinals to the top of baseball nirvana; or Aramis Ramirez, almost singlehandedly keeping the Cubs in the wild card race. Complicating the selection process is the outstanding season for the likes of Lance Berkman of the Astros and JD Drew of the Braves.

And what about the American league?

Surely the Chef (Gary Sheffield) is cooking up a storm over there in the Bronx, and on a team of mega stars his is shining the brightest, leading the defending American League champs to another possible division title. His accomplishments would have
been stellar in any year, but are even more compelling given the separated shoulder he has been plagued with for much of the season. A truly Herculean, if not MVP performance for a team once again atop the entire AL standings, and likely to finish
that way.

Or the indomitable Vladimir Guerrero, currently ranking second in runs scored, fourth in batting average, and fifth in RBIs, all while helping to provide divine guidance to the Angels playoff hopes.

And let’s not forget Manny Ramirez, leading the AL in home runs and slugging, while ranking third in RBIs. He has helped the BoSox to the second best record in the AL, behind of course those damn Yankees again. And if his offensive numbers are not impressive enough who can forget that spectacular catch to rob Miguel Cairo a home run in the first game of that crucial series against their arch rivals. That catch most definitely kept them in the game and provided the impetus for the ninth inning rally against Mariano Rivera, the games best closer. There is no telling how much the team’s championship hopes would have been decimated had they lost that game and then went on to be swept by the Yanks. Surely he deserves some MVP considerations.  

Yes baseball’s postseason is upon us again as we revive the MVP debate. However for all our recent accomplishments, and scientific breakthroughs why do we continue to debate the MVP race in such abstract terms as whose leading in batting average, or RBIs or home runs or runs scored, etc. Shouldn’t we be using more sophisticated tools to better help us in deciding who should wear this coveted crown. Think about it, some statistical categories are more important than others. I mean yes its great that a guy is leading the league in home runs, but shouldn’t the real question be how much he is helping his team to win. And we all know that nothing contributes to winning like scoring or driving in runs. Maybe we should be considering a more comprehensive statistic that incorporates all of the various categories into one easy to understand number. That, I believe would more scientifically help determine who deserves M-V-P consideration and eliminate all the guess-work and bias in the voting process.

For that reason I have developed a new statistical methodology to evaluate baseball’s best performances. I call it PER.

This PER (Player Efficiency Rating) Baseball methodology attempts to measure a Baseball hitter's and pitcher's performance relative to plate appearances and innings pitched respectively. It is a very comprehensive analysis as it assesses a hitter's complete performance at the plate, on the bases, and in the field, and a pitcher's complete performance on the mound.

For Hitters, the concept of a PER Batting Efficiency Rating is developed which comprises a player's Batting Average, Run Contribution Average, and Earned Base Average (a statistic measuring all bases earned, whether by hits or walks, or stolen
bases, per plate appearance and steal attempt). Accordingly, I've developed the following concepts of Run Contribution Average, Total Earned Bases, and Earned Base Average to complement the PER Batting Efficiency Rating.

Batting Average is the standard construct analyzing Hits per At-bats. A higher average (generally over .300) indicates a very efficient hitter.

Run Contribution Average (RCA ) comprises Total Runs Scored plus Runs Batted In, less total Home Runs, divided by Total Plate Appearances. (i.e. RCA=(Runs Scored + Runs Batted In - Home Runs)/ Total Plate Appearances). Home Runs are subtracted here simply because it is counted twice in both runs scored and in RBIs.

An RCA of .250 or higher indicates a good run producer, while an average of at least .300 indicates a hitter is a very efficient run producer. This is a vitally important statistic since the primary objective of a hitter is to either score a run, or drive in a run if
another player is already on base. The Run Contribution Average also underlines the fact that a run scored is just as important to a team as an rbi. While RBIs illustrate a hitter’s ability to score a runner already on base the Run scored is what actually helps
the team win. This method therefore values both run scored and run batted in as equivalent, hence a player who scored many runs - because of his speed - but drives in only a few is just as important to a team as the player who drives in many runs
because of his power but scores only a relative few. This statistic also does not penalize a great hitter who gets walked a lot and therefore does not get to drive in a lot of runs. If many of his walks end up scoring then his RCA will still be high, and his
contribution to his team will be just as valuable.

Total Earned Bases comprises Total Bases produced by the Hitter, plus total Bases on Balls, and total Stolen Bases. This construct is somewhat more efficient than mere Total Bases since it measures a hitter's total contribution for his team. He may not be a power hitter with a lot of total bases, but if he can take a walk and/or steal a base then he can have just as significant an impact on his team's success as a power hitter. This concept also recognizes the fact that a walk is tactically equivalent to a single
with the bases empty, and a walk (or single) and a stolen base is just as important as a double with the bases empty. Obviously with runners on base a hit (whether it be a single or double) can advance the runner(s) more than one base and may even score
them, but under certain circumstances a walk or a stolen base is as good as a hit.

Accordingly, the
Earned Bases Average (EBA) comprises Total Earned Bases divided by total plate appearances plus total steal attempts. This is the single most important statistic of a hitter since it measures all facets of his performance: hits (measured by
total bases), walks drawn, and stolen bases, and compares it against every time he is at the plate or attempts a steal. His overall baseball skills are therefore assessed, and a true measure of his greatness is established. An EBA of greater than .600 indicates a great batsman and base runner, while a .700 or higher EBA indicates a premier batsman and all-time great Hitter. Babe Ruth’s Career Run Contribution Average and Earned Bases Average is 0.346 & 0.735 respectively. Certainly “larger than life.”

The three concepts of Batting Average, Run Contribution Average, and Earned Bases Average are then combined in a very intuitive formula (and adjusted for a hitter's total plate appearances) to determine his Batting Efficiency Rating. In the case of the Babe
combining his batting average of 0.342 with his aforementioned stats gives him a career PER value of 105.56. Unquestionably Baseball’s best.

This methodology is therefore the single best measure of a baseball hitter's overall performance since it measures his batting average, power, speed and run production, all combined in one statistic. This is a truly efficient measure of the annual MVP Award. A PER value of between 90 and 100 indicates a superior performance while a value of over 100 indicates a truly legendary performance, or player.

Below is an assessment of the 2004 Major League Baseball season as of September 19. It evaluates only the principals for each of the awards, starting with the ten front-runners for the American and National League MVP Awards, and the five (or so) finalists for both leagues Cy Young Awards.

The National League MVP Analysis
                                               Run        Earned    Total
       Batting     Batting    Contribution   Bases     Earned    Total
Rank        Player        PER        Average     Average    Average   Bases     Bases
1        B. Bonds, SF     110.00        0.372        0.311        0.885        501        287
2        A. Pujols, StL    100.22        0.330        0.308        0.696        445        360
3        S. Rolen, StL       96.83        0.320        0.349        0.645        365        293
4        J. Edmonds, StL  95.96        0.315        0.298        0.736        419        317
5        T. Helton, Col      95.04        0.337        0.258        0.689        429        306
6        A. Beltre, LA        94.17        0.339        0.271        0.666        402        352
7        J. Drew, Atl          92.91        0.314        0.283        0.663        407        287
8        B. Abreu, Phi        92.21        0.297        0.283        0.635        440        288
9        L. Berkman, Hou  91.67        0.317        0.264        0.643        413        282
10      S. Casey, Cin       89.16        0.331        0.283        0.587        335        291

The American League MVP Analysis
                                               Run        Earned    Total
       Batting     Batting    Contribution   Bases     Earned    Total
Rank        Player        PER        Average     Average    Average   Bases     Bases
1        V. Guerrero, Ana  94.24        0.328        0.305        0.600        382        321
2        M. Ramirez, Bos   93.20        0.307        0.292        0.659        404        324
3        M. Mora, Bal         92.59        0.341        0.302        0.606        349        280
4        T. Hafner, Cle       91.87        0.315        0.316        0.629        349        279
5        G. Sheffield, NYY   91.30        0.297        0.300        0.602        386        295
6        M. Tejada, Bal       91.23       0.307        0.307        0.555        360        311
7        D. Ortiz, Bos         90.67        0.298        0.285        0.644        389        324
8        C. Guillen, Det       89.33       0.318        0.295        0.588        347        283
9        A. Rodriguez, NYY  86.81       0.295        0.256        0.592        399        297
10      J. Damon, Bos        86.36       0.309        0.264        0.539        361        272

In the National League Barry Bonds is undisputedly ‘the man’. Despite the phenomenal performance of the St Louis Cardinals triumvirate, or Adrian Beltre breakout year the performance of Bonds once again qualifies him for his seventh unprecedented MVP award.

In the American League despite Melvin Mora’s phenomenal year or Manny Ramirez continued superior performance Vladimir Guerrero clearly deserves the AL M-V-P Award. So say the PER Sports methodology, a more scientific analysis of sports.

The Cy Young Award

Like the MVP debate the decision over who should wear the Cy Young crown as the most outstanding pitcher in each league should come down to a scientific exercise. Pitchers compete on wins, earned run average, strikeouts and saves to determine
who is the most successful in any given year. And while it is true that wins is ultimately what matters one must be very careful when looking at a pitchers wins without also looking at his true contribution within those wins. Wins are very much a function of run support as they are of good pitching and low ERAs. It is because of that a more scientific process, again we will turn to the PER Analysis _ this time for pitchers – to help answer the question of this years  Cy Young award winners.

For Pitchers, the concept of a Pitching Efficiency Rating is developed, distinctly for starters and relief pitchers. It comprises his Earned Run Average (ERA), Walks to Strike outs Average, Opposition On Base Average and a statistic measuring success,
depending on the role of the pitcher. For starting pitchers it adds his Winning percentage, while for closers it includes his Save percentage, and considers Holds percentage for middle relievers.

This is a very important statistic in determining the best pitcher in baseball since it realistically allows us to compare starters with middle relievers with closers.

ERA is the standard construct, comprising earned runs yielded by a pitcher every nine innings. Opposition On Base Average is a very important statistic (almost as important as the ERA) since it indicates the number of hits, walks and hit-batters a pitcher allows on base per inning pitched. Starting Pitchers are assessed by the criteria outlined above, but in addition by their winning percentage. Closers are assessed by the criteria outlined above, but in addition by their winning percentage and save percentage. Middle relievers are assessed by the criteria outlined above, but in addition by their winning percentage and hold percentage.

It is important to note that although winning percentage reflects a lot about a starting pitcher it is not an accurate show of his capabilities or accomplishments. This is because winning percentage depends a lot on the amount of run support he receives (which is itself a function of his opposing pitcher on the mound). In contrast, criteria such as ERA and Opposition On Base Percentages depends primarily on the pitching ability of the pitcher, and his ability to get hitters out. The Pitching PER therefore more heavily relies on these two criteria than on winning percentage, though it does allow some weight to it in the analysis. In addition, in order to minimize the bias that generally occurs with pitching too few innings, the statistic is slightly adjusted upwards for pitchers with more Innings Pitched. Since the more innings are pitched the greater the reflection of the pitcher's performance then this statistic is an efficient method for determining the annual Cy Young Award Winner.

The        2004        Cy        Young        PER        Analysis
National League                        
 Winning            On Base    Unearn     BB to K
Rank   Pitcher/Team       Role        PER      %        ERA      Ave      Run Ave     Ratio
1        A. Benitez, Fla      Closer     80.02   80.14      1.10      0.206      0.14        0.328
2        E. Gagne, LA        Closer     79.10   82.73      2.00      0.218      0.47        0.156
3        R. Clemens, Hou  Starter    78.85    81.82      3.00      0.280      0.22        0.379
4        B. Wagner, Phi     Closer     78.70   92.86      2.61      0.205      0.44        0.111
5        A. Otsuka, SD      Mid Relief 77.48    80.92     1.88      0.261      0.00        0.313
6        J. Schmidt, SF       Starter    76.67    69.57     3.24      0.265      0.18        0.306
7        C. Carpenter, StL  Starter   76.57    75.00     3.46      0.275      0.25        0.250
8        C. Pavano, Fla       Starter   76.55    70.83     3.11      0.287      0.26        0.371
9        R. Johnson, Ari      Starter    76.48    51.85     2.74     0.225       0.40       0.153
10      G. Mota, LA/Fla    Mid Relief  76.36    76.55     2.06     0.265       0.00       0.415

American League                        
   Winning            On Base   Unearn     BB to K
Rank   Pitcher/Team       Role        PER       %       ERA      Ave       Run Ave     Ratio
1        J. Santana, Min       Starter     80.97     76.00     2.65     0.235      0.17      0.193
2        C. Schilling, Bos       Starter     78.92     76.92    3.40     0.268      0.09      0.164
3        F. Rodriguez, Ana   Mid Relief  77.27     76.39    1.84     0.252      0.46      0.254
4        M. Rivera, NYY         Closer       77.03    79.63    2.05      0.266     0.00      0.281
5        T. Gordon, NYY        Mid Relief  75.96    70.50     2.26     0.225      0.11      0.231
7        P. Martinez, Bos      Starter     75.71     69.57    3.69      0.274      0.18     0.267
8        K. Foulke, Bos         Closer      75.64     70.24     2.20     0.243      0.23      0.208
9        F. Cordero, Tex        Closer     75.36     76.00     1.80     0.293      0.28      0.431
10      J. Nathan, Min          Closer     74.94     63.41     1.61     0.256      0.13      0.284

Although many people considered the 2004 Cy Young Award Roger Clemens grand Hall of Fame coronation because he has been the best starting pitcher in the National League it appears that relief pitchers have been more dominant this season. Armando Benitez of the Marlins and Eric Gagne of the Dodgers have both produced superior pitching performances and as such should be strongly considered for the Cy Young Award. Benitez has saved 43 games through September 19th or put another way has contributed to 55% of his teams total wins, by far the best such percentage in all of baseball. He should be the NL Cy Young Award winner according to the PER.

In the American League, Johan Santana has announced his entry into the premier status of starting pitchers. He has the top ranking among starting pitchers, and in fact his rating scores higher than any pitcher whether starter or otherwise. Barring a
significant fall-off towards the end of the season, or a remarkable performance from Curt Schilling to close the fall campaign he should be the AL Cy Young award winner.

The PER Rating Points should be interpreted as follows:
FOR HITTERS, a rating of
-At Least 100 indicates an Excellent Player/Performance
Between 90 and 100 indicates a Superior Performance
Between 80 and 90 indicates an Above Average Performance
Between 70 and 80 indicates an Average Player/Performance
Between 60 and 70 indicates a Below Average Performance
Below 60 indicates a Poor Performance

FOR PITCHERS -Since a value of 100 represents the ceiling on their rating (and that for a truly perfect pitcher, i.e. the score for a perfectly pitched game) then the following rating guide applies:
Between 90 and 100 indicates a truly Legendary Pitcher/Performance
Between 85 and 90 indicates an Excellent Pitcher
Between 75 and 85 indicates a Superior Pitcher
Between 65 and 75 indicates an Average Pitching Performance
Between 60 and 65 indicates a Below Average Performance
Below 60 indicates a Poor Pitching Performance

2004 PER Sports, Inc.

Have a comment on this article. Send an email to us via
Articles by Keith Thompson

Does the NFL's first-round playoff bye benefit the top teams?

The Limitations of the current  Quarterback rating System

What’s wrong with the OPS analysis in baseball

A Critique of the Amateur Player Draft in Professional Sports

Critiquing the Playoff Selection and seeding process in pro sports

Time for a new ‘Super’ League in European Soccer

Europe's best football teams

Which Soccer League is tops in the World

A Big East - Big Ten College Football Realignment Proposal

Time to Fix College Football's Flawed Championship Structure (Again)

The 2004 Baseball MVP Race

Baseball's Greatest Hitters of the 1990s

The 1998 Baseball MVP Race

Democracy for the Famous: Critiquing Baseball's '98 All-Star selection process

Will Wilt Chamberlain Be Denied Number 3, Again?