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ORIOLES ANALYSIS

Thoughts on AL MVP voting and Chris Davis' third-place finish

By Eduardo A. Encina

The Baltimore Sun

7:42 AM EST, November 15, 2013

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It looks as though 53 homers and 138 RBIs doesn’t go as far as it used to these days.

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis’ remarkable season earned him recognition in every major offseason postseason award, but Davis netted just one trophy – a Silver Slugger award – for his effort.

And in the race for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, Davis finished third behind back-to-back winner Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers and Angels outfielder Mike Trout. The MVP is one of eight annual postseason award selected by the members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Personally, I was a little surprised that Davis finished third. I had him pegged for a runner-up finish behind Cabrera.

The debate, however, is one of the reasons the postseason awards are great. And this year, you could make legitimate arguments for all three.

In the BBWAA process, two members from each chapter are selected to vote on each of the four awards -- rookie, manager, Cy Young and MVP. Most of the other postseason awards are selected by managers and coaches, even though some – like the Gold Glove and Wilson fielding awards – have included an advanced statistical element to them.

What makes the BBWAA awards unique is that the voting results are posted immediately following the announcement of the awards. Anyone can see the voting points breakdown and who voted for whom. It is right there: voters names, their affiliations and their list of the top players for the award.

And it is that reason why the BBWAA awards are the most credible in the sport. No other awards have the level of disclosure that these do. And while it leaves voters open to added scrutiny, many writers explain their thinking through their own print and online forums.

A bit of disclosure here: I did not have a vote for the AL MVP. The Baltimore Sun does not allow its writers to vote for postseason awards because it sees us as becoming a part of the story if we do. A growing number of publications have the same policy – The Washington Post, the other major newspaper in our BBWAA chapter, is another -- which sometimes makes it difficult for BBWAA chapter chairs to fill voting spots for the awards. This season, for example, chapters in Atlanta and Houston had to fill their spots with voters from outside that chapter for several awards.

As for Davis, if I had a vote, I would have voted for him to place second behind Cabrera but ahead of Trout. And that’s by no means any knock on the season Trout had. He duplicated his remarkable rookie season and did it a little better in a lot of ways.

As the same time, I saw Davis play on a daily basis. I saw him drive in 16 runs in the first four games of the season. I saw that grand slam he hit in the home opener. I saw him home and away as his hit 38 homers in the first half. Just like everyone else, I was awed by how he could routinely take a pitch over the outer half of the plate – and some inches off the plate – and send them into the left-field seats.  

I was there when he hit a mammoth homer in San Diego, maybe the furthest I’ve ever seen a ball fly, and then saw him do it again a few days later in San Francisco. I also saw, on and off the field, how he dealt with the sudden demand in attention as his popularity grew and how he grinded through the final months of the second half but still hit 53 homers.

I remember him talking in Toronto after hitting No. 50 – tying Brady Anderson’s single-season franchise record – about pressing and how it felt like he’d never hit another homer again after he hit his 49th. I saw the relief on his face after he hit No. 51 in Boston.

With those numbers, had the Orioles made the playoffs, Davis would have been my MVP choice running away, but there’s no hiding that the Orioles stumbled in the final two months of the season. And in most seasons, he probably would still have been my top choice had it not been for Cabrera.

Comparatively, I saw Cabrera play in person six times, Trout seven times. I saw the Orioles play both of them on the road. Those are much smaller sample sizes. Even despite Davis’ run production numbers, I likely would have still voted for Cabera because he did lead the AL in average, on-base percentage, slugging and OPS. But I probably wouldn’t have if Cabrera’s team didn’t make the playoffs and Davis’ did.

But voting for Davis over Trout would not be any different than voting for Robinson Cano or Evan Longoria if they put up the same numbers as Davis. As writers who cover the Orioles, we see them more in the division. And we have a better pulse of what they mean to their teams.

And the regionalization of voting trends isn’t a secret and it is not a bad thing. It happens with the Heisman Trophy – another award voted on by the media – every year. SEC players dominate the south, Pac 10 players get votes out west. While working in Pennsylvania, I had a Heisman vote in 2003 and voted for Pittsburgh’s Larry Fitzgerald over the winner, Oklahoma’s Jason White, not because White wasn’t worthy, but because I believed Fitzgerald was the better player based on what I saw. The Mid-Atlantic regional votership agreed with me.

And while the BBWAA system isn’t perfect -- not many will argue that -- it is the best we have among the postseason baseball awards.