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2021 Most Valuable Player: Nominations and ballot

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The final ballot of the year, on the final day of the year!

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Eduardo Escobar

As Jack said, “He is just behind the leaders on the team in average WAR while playing in just 96 games before being traded and by being traded he also produced value by getting the team two prospects, one of whom is likely to play in MLB in 2022, Cooper Hummel. (Alberto Ciprian is only 19…so a long ways off)” Escobar was Arizona’s All-Star this season, the first time Eduardo received the honor. He hit 22 home-runs in 96 games, before being dealt to the Brewers at the dead-line. Escobar delivered, hitting slightly better overall for them (OPS+ 113 vs. 107 in Arizona), as they pushed successfully into the post-season. Over the full season, he was worth 2.4 bWAR, which would have made him the top position player here.

Merrill Kelly

I’ll just copy-paste from his Pitcher nom. There were concerns coming into the season, after Kelly’s 2020 campaign was ended prematurely by thoracic outlet surgery. But he put any concerns over his health there to rest, leading the team in starts, innings pitched and bWAR. He did miss a month after testing positive for COVID in mid-August, but his ERA was almost 4.44 was almost identical to the one in Kelly last full season (4.42 in 2019). Indeed, his fielding-independent ERA of 4.11 was the best of any regular starter for Arizona, ahead of Gallen (4.25), Luke Weaver (4.42) and Bumgarner (4.63). The argument that Kelly is the best free-agent signing of the Mike Hazen era, only gathered evidence this year.

Ketel Marte

After a disappointing 2020 (OPS+ 97), Ketel did have health issues. He missed 37 games almost at the start of the season, with a right hamstring strain, then another month in July after the other hamstring played up. But when healthy, Marte bounced back almost to his 2019 level at the plate (OPS+ 143 this year, vs. 149). His willingness to “take one for the team”, in playing center field on an everyday basis, was laudable, even if the results may occasionally have left a bit to be desired. Still under team control at a very affordable price for the next three seasons, he’s one of the few players currently on the roster that might be part of the next D-backs’ post-season roster.

Daulton Varsho

Per Xerostomia, “And it is not even close. WPA is the highest on the team at 1.5 (Kelly was -0.9, and Marte was 0.4). If you want consider EE his WPA for Dbacks was -0.2. WAR is just a reflection of number of games played. Varsho, excluding his slow start, was the best player by far for the last 2 months of the season.” His good Win Probability number is a result of Varsho being particularly clutch. In “Late & Close” situations, the D-backs as a whole had an OPS of .664. Varsho was two hundred and fifty points above that, at .914, and well above both Escobar (.787) and Marte (.749) in the same circumstances. Bonus points for his positional flexibility, starting games at catcher as well as all three outfield positions.

No award

In a year where the D-backs only avoided the worst season in franchise history by winning their last two games, there’s a case to be made that nobody deserves anything nice. None of the nominees above played even a hundred times for the Diamondbacks, for one reason or another. You’d be hard pushed to say they moved the needle much when they were present. [Record when Marte played = 22-68; Escobar = 29-69; Varsho = 31-64; Kelly = 10-17] In any normal season, all of them would be lucky even to make the list of nominees, and the honor of the ‘Pitties as a meaningful award [work with me here...] would be tainted by recognizing such underwhelming performances.

The form is below. or linked here if it’s problematic. As ever, SnakePit members only get to vote, and we’ll have the results on Monday.

And that also draws a line under SnakePit activity for 2021. Stay safe out there, and all the best for 2022!