Monday, August 29, 2016

How Can We Determine the Yankees' MVP?

'Tis the season for the MVP arguments to begin. Should a closer really be considered for the MVP? Can someone other than Francisco Lindor be considered the MVP of the Indians? Is Mike Trout really gonna get shafted again, by voters and even his own manager? September always provides plenty of fodder for such discussions.

The smell of the MVP aroma in the late-summer air got me thinking about who has been the most valuable Yankee this season. It's tempting to call Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman the team MVP because of the substantial trade hauls both guys brought back. After all, it was extremely valuable how both players helped situate the team for sustained contention over the next decade. Either of those guys would be a terrific choice if the Yanks had pulled a Flashman and completely surrendered after their busy trade deadline. But the team has gone 15-10 in August and still has an outside shot at playoff contention. So let's give the MVP to someone who's helped keep the squad watchable deep into the season.

So who has been the most valuable Yankee this season? You can look at it from a few different angles:

Winning Hearts and Minds MVP: Gary Sanchez

Holy hell, it's difficult to put into words how awesome Sanchez has been. (Maybe that's why voice-of-the-Yankees John Sterling hasn't done him any justice.) The catcher has set a bunch of arbitrary-endpoint records, but the numbers don't even tell the whole story. I'm most excited that kids in the New York area finally have a position player that will serve as the consensus favorite for the next few seasons. When I went to buy my little cousin a Yankees jersey last Christmas, I was flummoxed about whose to get. I eventually settled on a Jacoby Ellsbury shirt, but I wasn't happy about it. Well, this Christmas will be an easy one for parents in Yankees-supporting households.

Medical Marvel MVP: Masahiro Tanaka
CC Sabathia has a claim to this honor, but Tanaka has been one of the most dependable starters in the league when many of us thought he'd be Tommy-Johning hard by this point in 2016. I probably shouldn't be writing this because Tanaka still has a handful of starts left this season, but he's been incredibly consistent and we should all be thankful to have him.

WAR MVP: Tanaka
According to Fangraphs, Tanaka has contributed more wins above replacement than any other Yankee pitcher or position player, and it hasn't been close. Tanaka's 4.4 WAR places him among the league leaders in the category. Amazingly, Sanchez has already provided 2.4 WAR in just over 20 games, tying him with Didi Gregorius for the team lead among everyday players.

WPA MVP: Dellin Betances
Joseph Heller would love my liberal use of acronyms in these last two sections, but let me quickly explain WPA. According to Fangraphs, Win Probability Added (WPA) is a stat that "credits or debits the player based on how much their action increased their team’s odds of winning." The Yankees' team leader in WPA is Betances, who's performed well in many late-game, high-leverage situations. Miller and Chapman actually both still edge Betances in this category, but the electric right-hander has been the best active Yankee in racking up WPA.

Front Office MVP: Brian Cashman
The general manager finally convinced ownership that it just wasn't that fun to super-glue a team of aging players together each season. Cashman himself has long warned fans that minor leaguers are called "prospects" for a reason, but that's probably just because he never had too many of them. There are no guarantees that all -- or any -- of the team's trade prizes will pan out, but Cashman at least gave the Yankees a great shot to rebuild a contender.

The Sully Sullenberger Keep-the-Team-Afloat MVP: Joe Girardi
In honor of Tom Hanks and the man who crash-landed his plane just a few miles from Yankee Stadium, let's give Girardi credit for keeping yet another over-the-hill squad in the thick of the playoff race. This is the second non-player in consideration for my team MVP, but with players like the ones the Yankees have run out there, that shouldn't be too shocking.


So there you have some of the various ways you could attack the question of the Yankees' team MVP. My (fake, who-cares) vote goes to Sanchez, who's been the most exciting thing to happen at the Ballpark in the Bronx in years. After a bunch of retirement tours and events to honor the past, fans are finally starting to get a glimpse of the future. Sanchez has helped make the Yankees fun again, and that seems pretty damn valuable to me.

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Follow Francis Tolan on Twitter @frantweet

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