Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stark picks Pujols for MVP

Some highlights from Jayson Stark's column:
Is it too soon to mail Albert Pujols his National League MVP trophy right now?

Seriously. With all due respect to the fabulous work of Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval, Troy Tulowitzki, Chase Utley and many other upstanding NL citizens, what would have to happen in September for Pujols not to win another MVP award? Would he have to go 0-for-112? Hit into a double play every time up? Defect to Kyrgyzstan?

OK, maybe all of the above. And he'd still probably win this thing. So that concludes our discussion of the one major awards race with a clear-cut favorite as September looms. As for those other races?

Hoo boy. We'd have a better shot at predicting Michelle Wie's score in the Canadian Women's Open.[...]

If the season ended right now …: We'd still vote for Tim Lincecum. Barely. But boy is this tough, because Chris Carpenter now has more wins (14 to 12) and a lower ERA (2.16 to 2.43). On the other hand, Lincecum has the best opponent OPS in baseball (.559, to Carpenter's .582), more double-figure strikeout games (6-2), more quality starts (21-17) and 40 more innings pitched. He also has had more "dominating starts" -- six starts of seven innings or more with no runs allowed (to Carpenter's three) and nine starts with a game score of 75 or more (to Carpenter's three). "Lincecum has been ridiculous," one NL scout said. "He just keeps them in game after game where the score's 1-0 or 2-0. As great as Carpenter has been, Lincecum's stuff is like Wiffleball-in-the-back-yard filthy." So that's our vote. This week.

But …: Carpenter has nine wins in his past 10 starts (with a blown save in the 10th), so there's no indication he's planning to ever lose again. And not only could he win this thing with a ferocious September, this could turn into about a six-man scrum if Lincecum and Carpenter come back to the pack at all. Cliff Lee won't get enough NL starts to make it into the argument. But Dan Haren, Matt Cain, Adam Wainwright and Josh Johnson have all had Cy Young-ish years. Now it's up to September to determine whether that wins them any Cy Young trophies.[...]

Get away for the Hollidays: Much as he clearly loves St. Louis, Matt Holliday continues to give the Cardinals no indication he's amenable to signing any discounted deals to stick around beyond this year. And if the Cardinals have to pay him free-agent-market dollars to hang onto him, let's sound the alarm right here: They might be putting the franchise in economic peril.

"The worst thing they could do is re-sign him," one American League exec said. "If you start thinking about their long-term payroll, what's the biggest payroll a city like St. Louis could absorb? Let's say it's $100 million. Now you have to give Holliday $15-16 million a year. Then you have to give Albert [Pujols] $25-30 million, and probably $30 million. So now you're paying two guys $45-50 million? That's a lot of money in that market.

"In 2010, it might not matter. In 2011, it might not matter. But when you get to 2014 and you've got half your payroll wrapped up in two 34-year-old guys, that's not a good place to be. … Those are the kinds of contracts you can't get out of."

Tying up Holliday at market dollars, and then re-signing Pujols, would almost assure the Cardinals of not being able to keep Chris Carpenter and/or Adam Wainwright when their next big paydays roll around. While it seemed so logical, at the time they traded for Holliday, to forecast that they'd swoop in and sign him, it's not so logical when you start punching in all those dollar signs.

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