Maybe Zack Greinke Is the Real AL MVP

Dear AL MVP voters: ↵

↵Consider this acknowledged fact: Joe Mauer should and likely will win the AL MVP. He's putting up an absurd .374/.441/.610 slash line, is fourth in the majors in Wins Above Replacement, a counting stat, despite not joining the Twins until May 1, and is generally having one of the best seasons a catcher has ever had. (Ever.) ↵

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↵But if you discard the preconceptions about the MVP being an award for batters, add a consideration of relative value to a team, and look a little further south in Mauer's own division, you might conclude that Zack Greinke has indeed been more valuable. ↵

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↵Greinke has his own outrageous set of statistical bona fides. He leads all pitchers (and, indeed, all players) in Wins Over Replacement. He leads the majors with a 2.14 ERA and three shutouts; is second in the majors to the superb Tim Lincecum in Fielding Independent Pitching and to the stellar Roy Halladay in complete games at seven; is third in the AL in K/9, second in K/BB, and first in HR/9 and WHIP; and had one of the more amazing months in baseball history in April. FanGraphs rates his value this season at $38.5 million, which is about what he's scheduled to make over the next four years thanks to a contract extension signed in January. ↵

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↵But he's 14-8, has run support that is even worse than the Royals' baseline level of putrescence, and plays for a team that will probably lose just shy of 100 games. Greinke is not a "winner" in the traditional baseball sense, as you well know. ↵

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↵And he won't be, because the Royals aren't going to challenge for a playoff spot in the near future unless the entire team finds an overturned tanker of undetectable PEDs and plays above its head for a full season. Unlike aces like Lincecum and Felix Hernandez, Greinke is going to spend a long stretch of his career toiling in obscurity without an assemblage of talent that could be considered more than mediocre. ↵

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↵Greinke's value, then, isn't about wins and losses. It's rooted in hope. ↵

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↵Royals fans and those who cover the team are a savvy bunch: They know they're rooting for a bad team, and they know that general manager Dayton Moore's head-scratcher of an extension means they will be rooting for a bad time for some time to come. Greinke flies in the face of all of that. ↵

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↵For Royals fans, a Greinke start is a chance for their team to be competitive with all comers, a brief respite from a ceaseless cascade of uninspiring failure that isn't even bad enough to be ironically good. Turn VORP on its side (consult the included explanation of VORP if necessary) and imagine how woeful the Royals would be with a AAA-level replacement for Greinke, and you get an idea of how brightly he shines against a bleak background. ↵

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↵This effect might be measured in increased ticket sales on days Greinke starts, or bigger ratings on local TV, but let's divorce logic and emotion. (It works when crowning Derek Jeter King of All Baseball Forever and Ever, after all.) ↵

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↵Greinke plays his position better than any other pitcher in baseball, and is the best player by far on one of the majors' most hopeless outfits. If you conclude there is not more value -- emotional, psychological, intangible -- in his ability to convince Royals fans to continue having faith in a moribund team that deserves more scorn than support than there is in Mauer's powers to persuade Twins fans that the playoffs are in their near future, then, by all means, make Mauer the MVP. ↵

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↵But if you can see just how much one player's transcendent abilities do for a fan base's collective passion, give it to Zack Greinke. ↵

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↵Respectfully, ↵

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↵The Greinke Group ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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