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The Kruks of the Problem
2004-09-25 23:37
by Mike Carminati

When a thing is said to be not worth refuting you may be sure that either it is flagrantly stupid—in which case all comment is superfluous—or it is something formidable, the very crux of the problem.

Miguel de Unamuno

Right, Miggy, and then there's the third category that's both—flagrantly stupid and formidable. Or in other words, the John Kruk Awards or the First-Annual Krukkies. Each one is worse than the next.

Here they are:

Most Valuable Player: Chone Figgins

All right, get back up off the floor and sit back in your chair. OK, stop the laughter before it gets maniacal. Calmate. Take a deep breath.

Not only does Kruk pick a utility player as the MVP of a team or a league, Kruk proclaims that he's "just talking about the most valuable player in the game today."

Close your eyes and think about that.

John Kruk, a man who is a professional baseball analyst on probably the most popular baseball show (Baseball Tonight) on the most popular sports channel (ESPN) in the country, has picked Chone Figgins as the Most Valuable Player in the game today. Maybe Figgins would be in the running for funniest name, but MVP?!?

Let's take at Figgins numbers to see if there's something to this. He has 5 home runs, 57 RBI, and 75 runs in 538 at-bats. Hmm. Maybe the ratios are more impressive: a .288 batting average, a .345 on-base percentage, a .411 slugging percentage, and a .756 OPS.

Let's put that in context. Since his Krukkie Award-winning major-league MVP, let's see where his stats ranks among his peers, all major-league batters. He's 66th in batting average, 99th in OPS, 122nd in slugging percentage, and 119th in OPS. He's tied for 146th in RBI and 88th in runs. He's also 115th in Value Over Replacement Player. He is 10th in stolen bases and second in triples, however. Oh, and Kruk mentions that he is a switch-hitter: His OPS is 19th among 28 qualifying switch-hitters.

But for Kruk, it's not about the numbers:

Think of what the Angels have gone through this year with injuries. At one time or another, they lost Troy Glaus, Garret Anderson and Darin Erstad, had to give Vlad Guerrero some time at DH because of his problems, and now Adam Kennedy is done for the year. Every time an injury happened, Chone stepped in and kept them on track.

Wow, that does sound impressive. If Figgins were the best player on his team and played multiple position, plugging gaps, that would be extremely valuable. But he is fifth on the team in VORP among position players and is fourth in VORP among the sixth Angels with at least 500 at-bats.

And then there's this:

I know about Bonds and Pujols and all those guys. But they show up to the ballpark every day knowing they're going to play and where they're going to hit in the order. Not Chone. He has to take a few grounders all over the field, and then find some time to hit. If you think that doesn't sound like a big deal, imagine going to work every day and not knowing what your boss will have you do that day -- but you have to be prepared for all of it.

Oh, so that's what makes Figgins so special.

There's only one problem with Kruk's argument. The type of player he describes isn't a premier type of player likely to win an MVP. That type of player is called a gofer, a man Friday, a spare part. Do you put your best employee through an uncertain existence or rather use a supernumerary to plug the most pressing hole on a given day?

Yes, it's a very nice story that Figgens has been able to plug the many holes on the club, but if he were truly more valuable than the men he's replacing, they wouldn't have a job when they came back. If I were an Angels fan, I would love Figgens, but then again, I was a big George Vukovich and Joe Lefebrve fan, too.

To think that there is a baseball analyst on the planet who is witnessing what may be the greatest offensive season in baseball history and then picks Figgens for an MVP and not funniest name, is criminal. At least he does mention Barry Bonds "and all those guys" in passing. Disgraceful.

Most Valuable Pitcher: Brad Lidge

He also picked Brad Lidge, he of the 87.1 IP, for Most Valuable Pitcher. Yes, he's been great, but there's no way his 87.1 innings have been as valuable as Clemens' 201 or Oswalt's 223. Their respective VORPs: 34.6, 57.2, 46.4. He may be the third most valuable pitcher on his own team. These two should have been called the Idiosyncratic Awards.

Lidge is 41st in VORP in the majors and is behind Mariano Rivera among closers.

Makes The Most Out Of Nothing Award: David Eckstein

This is too good not to re-print verbatim:

I don't know if you've ever watched Eckstein play, but let me put it this way -- if you lined up every major leaguer from Yogi Berra's era to today and said pick out the guy who doesn't belong -- everyone would pick Eckstein. Come on! The guy looks like he should be in Little League!

His throws look like it takes every ounce of energy to get them to first. His swing is less than impressive. But then you look at the numbers ... .280 with a .342 OBP and only five errors.

Man, I wish I had made the most out of my ability as much as Eckstein has. How the hell does he do it?

People have been saying exactly the same thing about Eckstein since 2002, and it wasn't even fresh by the time the playoffs rolled around that year. I swear if I thought Kruk could read, I would accuse him of plagiary.

Kruk doesn't know if we've ever seen Eckstein play? He's been a starter in the majors for four seasons and has played in the World Series. As far as getting the most out of Eckstein, he has a .674 OPS this year. Last year's .651 OPS was 21% worse than the park-adjusted league average. Eckstein may not be long for the majors with the way he's batting, but he's award-worthy to Kruk.

Kruk should be fired for this insane drivel. This is the kind of pap that your local paper wouldn't dare to print. And yet he's one of a few "personalities" who are available without joining their premium service. I would say that this was a nadir for if I didn't think that they would just continue to get worse.

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