Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mike Wise, more playoff run-up reflections

Before my belated random boobery for today, check out Mike Wise's column from yesterday's Washington Post. He summed up basically everything I would have to say about both weekend games in that article. My job here is done.

(little side note: don't sleep on Mike Wise. He's been writing some good columns for the Post lately.)

Anyway, back to more important matters, more of my retrospective on the Caps' legendary (yes, I know exactly what I'm writing) playoff run. More precisely, the MVP debate and my favorite goals from the run (at least those that I saw. Remember, I didn't have Versus until a week ago). First off, the MVP debate. During The Run (yup, it's officially capitalized now), the home fans all cast their vocal ballots for Hart Trophy. However, this revived the age-old MVP debates, as the Caps had not made the playoffs. What exactly constitutes value, in terms of an MVP award? I usually think of two general arguments when discussing MVP credentials, and they are usually at odds.

One theory is what I call "The Playoff Contender Argument", which states that a player can only be most valuable if his team makes the playoffs. In other words, without that player, the team would not have made the playoffs. I agree with this theory often, because at its root, every sport is about winning, and the right mixture of players, coaches, and fans that enables winning. If a team doesn't win, then the best player on that team is really the best of the worst, and his contributions are seemingly nil. With him, the team lost; it's not a logical stretch to assume the team would lose just as well without him. This argument uses the player's team's playoff contention as the primary subjective tie-breaker when comparing objective stats. I don't like it because it values team success over individual success, which is the purpose of determining an MVP.

The second argument is "The Relative Position Argument", which compares a player among his peers at his given position. Another way of looking at it is this: if you were to pick a full fantasy team, who would you pick first? Bill James, the ultimate baseball stat geek, even came up with a way to measure players this way: Value Over Replacement Player, where a replacement player is one who contributes the league average at that position. I like this standpoint because it takes all players into account, and has the potential, albeit a slim one, to be entirely based on stats.

Fortunately, these two schools of thought are not mutually exclusive this year, as Alex Ovechkin is clearly the best player on a playoff contender; and if I was starting a team, in my completely unbiased opinion, I would probably pick Ovie first. How do others pick an MVP, even if it's only for their own arguments' sake?

No comments: