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  • Twins Daily 2022 Awards: Most Valuable Player


    Nick Nelson

    Five years ago, Luis Arraez was a little-known prospect at A-ball, lacking in traditional athletic traits but garnering attention as a novelty for his rarified ability to put the bat on the ball.

    This past July, he became a first-time All-Star. Last week, he became a first-time American League batting champ. And today, we name him a first-time pick for Twins Daily MVP.

    Image courtesy of Thiéres Rabelo, Twins Daily

     

     

     

    Luis Arraez is, in so many ways, not the guy you'd expect to finish atop a team's MVP vote – or alongside the absolute legends in Twins history who've preceded him as AL batting champs. 

    You compare him to the other players on that exclusive list – Rod Carew, Joe Mauer, Tony Oliva, Kirby Puckett – and you're talking about thoroughbred Hall of Famers who looked the part. Many would count those four players among the five best in franchise history. 

    Even comparing Arraez to the players who finished second and third behind him in Twins Daily's MVP balloting – Carlos Correa and Byron Buxton, respectively – is an amusing exercise. We're talking about preternatural teen talents who went 1-2 in the draft a decade ago – big-bucks superstars who smash the ball, and derive much of their value from premier defense at premium positions.

    Then, you have Luis Arraez. The Venezuelan was not a highly regarded property when signed by the Twins as an international free agent in 2013 for a measly $40,000 bonus. Just looking at him, you can see why. He is small and stubby – generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 lbs – with neither the speed, nor power, nor defensive skill to impress any onlooker.

    But Arraez brings one truly preternatural tool of his own, and it has become his signature. As Jake Mauer, his manager at Cedar Rapids back in 2016 – and a guy who has his own familial knowledge on the subject – said of a then-unknown Arraez back then: "He's got a knack for finding the barrel."

    Oh yes. And it's carried him from anonymity to All-Star status. 

    It doesn't matter where he's at. It doesn't matter who's pitching to him. It doesn't matter the count. Arraez just hits. He's irrepressible, with contact rates that top the charts. Virtually no one swings and misses less or strikes out less. Yet despite his ability to put the bat on everything, he is disciplined enough to pass on most out-of-zone offerings, and walked more (50) than he struck out (43) this season.

    arraezstatcast.png

    In a lineup that was prone to slumps, and often far too over-reliant on power at the expense of consistent quality ABs and rally-building, Arraez was a breath of fresh air. He was never an easy out, reflexively tapping outside pitches the other way for singles and then inviting pitchers to the inner half, where he could turn on the ball and unlock new levels of power. 

    Arraez's .421 slugging percentage was nothing to write home about but he launched a respectable 40 extra-base hits, and doubled his previous career high for home runs with eight.

    Now, before I go any further, a disclosure: I didn't have Arraez at the top of my team MVP ballot. In fact, I didn't have him among my top three. Because, analytically, it's hard to make that case. 

    Yes, he led the league in average. But that's merely one piece of the value equation. Arraez ranked third on the team in fWAR behind Correa and Buxton, with a 3.2 mark that is one of the lowest for a Twins Daily MVP since we started awarding it. Baseball Reference's WAR formula viewed Arraez more favorably (4.0) but he was still second to Correa.

    Even the seemingly more narrative-based Win Probability Added metric placed Arraez sixth on the team, behind Jhoan Duran, Jorge Polanco, Buxton, Joe Ryan, and Correa. But even WPA doesn't seem to capture the full narrative behind Arraez, and the positive impact that lifted him to the top of our collective balloting. 

    It's true that Correa was difference-maker down the stretch – he had the sixth-highest WPA in the AL after July – and technically that portion of the schedule mattered a lot. It's also true that Arraez's bat went relatively quiet in those final months, as he battled a hamstring strain that limited him mostly to DH duty in September. 

    But by then, it felt like the decimated Twins were engaged in an inevitably losing fight. When the team emerged early on and grasped first place, Arraez was the beating heart of the lineup. In the month of May, where the Twins went 18-12 to reach their greatest heights of the season, Arraez batted .377 with a .480 on-base percentage and 19 runs scored. He then flashed his emergent power in June, notching four doubles, three homers and a triple while driving in 15 runs.

    Compared to the likes of Correa and Buxton, Arraez loses a lot of value from metrics like WAR because of his reduced defensive value. And that's fair: no one would argue that Arraez impacts games with his glove like Buck in center or C4 at short. 

    But the Twins didn't ask him to, or need it. What they needed him to do, after Miguel Sanó and Alex Kirilloff went down, was take over at first base, a position he had essentially never played before. Arraez is not exactly physically suited for the position either. But sure enough, he adapted quickly and proved to be a perfectly solid defender at first.

    Ultimately, I think that's what it came down to, and why the vote swung to Arraez. He simply showed up. He answered the call, time and time again. While the roster succumbed to injuries around him, he kept playing all year long, leading the team in plate appearances and games played (despite – as it's now easy to forget – being a healthy scratch on Opening Day!).

    By season's end, Arraez was the only worthwhile attraction for Twins fans, who could tune in to watch him battle Aaron Judge down to the wire, for a superficial honor, amidst a Triple-A lineup in a lost year. Arraez kept on showing up through the very last day, barely able to run and clearly limping, because he wanted "to win the batting title fighting." 

    He did just that, and it's the fight he demonstrated down to the bitter end that likely helped elevate Arraez as the unlikely Twins Daily 2022 team MVP.

    FINAL BALLOTING POINTS TALLY

    • Arraez: 55
    • Correa: 46
    • Buxton: 33
    • Durán: 27
    • Gray: 13
    • Miranda: 11

     

     

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    I know I am showing how new I am here, but just who is the we in we selected Louis the MVP?  I totally concur, but I am curious as to the group.  Maybe I should know and just missed it somewhere along the line.  I do think whoever the group is, y'all got it right.  

    My only non concurrence would be that if y'all are letting the analytics decide for y'all who the MVP of a team is, I find myself tuning out.  Just the extremely humble opinion of one of the newer ones, even though I know the minority I am in.  :)  

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    I enjoy and appreciate what Arraez does and I am happy with him as MVP - the slump in the second half holds back some of my enthusiasm. 

    During this year my admiration for Miranda increased and my expectations for him are high.  He had a difficult start, but then was the one Twin who knew how to hit with RISP!  268/325/426 are impacted by his start, but one stat 66 RBIs is the key for me.  This rookie led the team in RBIs.   Correa was second.  Nick Gordon would be up on my list too - he did everything we needed - infield and outfield and hit 272 with at 753 OPS.  

    Buxton did not play enough to rank for me.  It seems like every year is a SSS and everyone gets excited.  But my rankings would be:

    1. Arraez
    2. Miranda
    3. Correa
    4. Gordon
    5. Ryan
    6. Duran

    For MVP I prefer position players so Ryan and Duran being last on my list only means they would be first in Pitcher of the year.

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    I love Luis, and I think he has received a raw deal from the twins on personnel decisions. We have two second basemen, and injuries allowed Arraez to get on the field.  It’s obvious his bat should be in the  lineup as every day player but the season didn’t start that way. From a value perspective our management’s plan was to underutilize this asset from the start. He or Polanco should be traded to maximize value and improve the team. 

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    Arraez for Twins MVP is a no brainer.  Great player on a very poor, injury riddled and boring team.  There is no way Buxton would even show up on an MVP list by playing part time.  I would put Miranda, and Gordon ahead of him.  The only thing Buck did that was noteworthy, other than hitting 28 Homer's,, was get management to sign him to a $100 million deal.  Great contract by him for an 8 year part time player.

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    my vote was for Correa, when we needed him he preformed at a very high level and tried to carry the team.  He also played a very critical defensive position.  Arreaz is a very good player and going forward will be very good, but for overall value my vote is Correa. 

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    I have been a pro-Arreaz fan since he made his A ball appearance. He would have had my MVP vote if I had seen the vote being taken. My personal ranking would have been Arreaz, Correa, Miranda. I also think some how he should also be an assistant hitting coach on this team. He could teach a lot to many other team hitters. With a healthy Polanco & Miranda hitting behind him all year he could possible have scored 50 runs more. I would much prefer to see the team full of players that know how to hit instead of just swing hard

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    50 minutes ago, beckmt said:

    my vote was for Correa, when we needed him he preformed at a very high level and tried to carry the team.  He also played a very critical defensive position.  Arreaz is a very good player and going forward will be very good, but for overall value my vote is Correa. 

    Correa was a better hitter than Arraez (RBat 27 to 23) and he plays a much more difficult defensive position. Correa was clearly the MVP this season.

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    Lots of love for Jose Miranda. I guess I'll chalk that up to people paying attention in July but not in August or September when his bat went ice cold. His defense at 3B was pretty bad as well. Urshela contributed more to the team than Miranda. Nick Gordon was arguably more valuable to the Twins than Miranda.

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    This thought that Batting Average is an over-rated stat is only if you are looking outside in. From the outside, there are stats that better express how much a hitter helps his team, and who is a better hitter overall. If you are a player, there is absolute value in Batting Average. Stats don't tell the human story of a baseball game. Intimidation or worry of a pitcher who can see that Luis Arreaz is coming up next and knows he is a tough out. That can make the pitcher press harder to get out of the inning before Arreaz comes up, and he may end up making a mistake. Or in a late game clutch situation, do you want the high OBP guy taking a walk, or do you want Luis Arreaz getting a base hit. Same with bunting and stealing. Math can tell us they aren't always the best ways to score runs, but math doesn't show you the human element. After a successful steal or sacrifice bunt, that pitcher has a lot more stress and potential for a mistake worrying about the runner on 2nd. I love analytics and stats, but stats are only a chapter in baseball's book, but they don't tell you the whole story. 

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    Look forward to watching major leaguer ( arraez  ) play for the twins for many years and win more batting titles and all star appearances   ...

    I agree with some posts that mvp  should  go to a position player and not a pitcher ...

    Luis was a spark plug for the twins and so was Gordon  who  went unmentioned  , Miranda had a good rookie season  and I hope he continues to get better  and better ...

    Heck I hope the whole twins team can get better and better  ...

    That's my plan and I'm sticking to it ...

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    1 hour ago, Linus said:

    I love Arreaz but the MVP has to be Correa and it ain’t even close. Arreaz does one thing really well - Correa does everything really well. 

    This. 

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    2 hours ago, Mark G said:

    I know I am showing how new I am here, but just who is the we in we selected Louis the MVP?  I totally concur, but I am curious as to the group.  Maybe I should know and just missed it somewhere along the line.  I do think whoever the group is, y'all got it right.  

    My only non concurrence would be that if y'all are letting the analytics decide for y'all who the MVP of a team is, I find myself tuning out.  Just the extremely humble opinion of one of the newer ones, even though I know the minority I am in.  :)  

    Analytics are just stats. Why wouldn't we use stats to determine who had the best season?

    I'm sure Seth could sure the breakdown of voting results. This was my ballot, FYI:

    1. Correa
    2. Duran
    3. Buxton
    4. Arraez
    5. Gray

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    9 minutes ago, Nick Nelson said:

    Analytics are just stats. Why wouldn't we use stats to determine who had the best season?

    I'm sure Seth could sure the breakdown of voting results. This was my ballot, FYI:

    1. Correa
    2. Duran
    3. Buxton
    4. Arraez
    5. Gray

    I'd likely put Ryan over Gray, but it would be close. Otherwise, this would be my ballot also.

    Highly conflicted on Buxton..... He was awesome when he did play....

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    Not going to actively debate who should be #1 because there's a lot of reasons to pick Miranda or Correa as well. But I do feel Arraez is deserving.

    I understand and appreciate analytics. I understand and appreciate OPS and it's overall impact in ranking a player's value/production. But without legitimate power production, it's going to be hard to have an .800 OPS. Arraez had his highest numbers, mid year, and still finished with outstanding numbers, despite battling a bad hamstring to end things. 

    Where I think analytics sometimes fail is when a player does something different or unique. Arraez's 40 XB was just fine for his role and not only will possibly increase slightly over the next few years, but would have been higher if healthier the last couple of months. (Like about everyone else).

    But he is one of the best pure hitters, contact hitters, and OB% batters in all of baseball. It's a unique and special skill set. And because of it, he fits a special role and place in the Twins lineup. And to me, that increases his value beyond standard analytical data.

    For the 1st half of the season, at least, who else would you rather see up at the plate in a pressure situation? Arraez is there to set the table and set a tone. But he's also got tremendous ability to "continue " and inning and still knock some guys in.

    Debatable choice for sure, but he's worthy of the award.

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    Do you get a most valuable player when you stink?

    If they lose Arraez, they still stink, they still fold like a cheap tent when it matters, they still win nothing.  Result is the same with or without Arraez.  They maybe win 2-3 more games (whatever his WAR is) with him, which may actually net them a lower draft pick.

    Following that logic - Arraez may actually be the least valuable player.  The only value created this season is the future draft pick.  If not for him, it may be a higher, more valuable pick.

    This is obviously tongue-in-cheek.  But, there’s no way the MVP isn’t Carlos Correa.  Awarding to Arraez over Correa is just plain absurd.

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    Looking at the 1st  1/2 of the season Buck would have won MVP, he carried this team to 1st place in the central.  Arraez would have been 2nd.

    Correa won the 2nd 1/2 and Arraez would be well down the list, I don't care if Arraez was playing hurt, he wasn't hitting. His BA nose-dived the 2nd 1/2 and if they hadn't given him a small rest to recuperate he'd have lost the crown (the blame would not be on him but on management).

    If they would have better managed Bucks injury and not played him hurt well under 100% & kept agrivating the injury. He could have came back the 2nd 1/2 and he would have won my MVP vote. If they better managed Polanco injury & not run him to ground, he'd be on my list. 

    But how things sit, my vote has to go to Correa because very few showed up (produced) the 2nd 1/2

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    This team had a losing record in 2022.  Gio Urshela contributed to 72 of the paltry 78 wins during the season.  No one else had even 70 winning games.  All this emphasis on Analytics - runs scored and runs batted in and batting average and some numbers even more arcane - who cares when the team loses?  Gio went 72-72.  Arraez went 68-76.. Correa went 66-70.  Give it to Gio.

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    Quote

    "Luis Arraez is, in so many ways, not the guy you'd expect to finish atop a team's MVP vote"

    ~Author, Nick Nelson

    I beg to differ.

    Prior to signing Correa, Arraez was the top projected player in WAR on the Twins, and the AL batting champ, for the 2022 season by just about every system on the internet.

    Setting aside personal bias and using the models, that are accurate to ridiculous degrees, is usually the safe bet. I'm glad the models were right. His season was probably the most fun to watch on a nightly basis.

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    4 hours ago, DJL44 said:

    Lots of love for Jose Miranda. I guess I'll chalk that up to people paying attention in July but not in August or September when his bat went ice cold. His defense at 3B was pretty bad as well. Urshela contributed more to the team than Miranda. Nick Gordon was arguably more valuable to the Twins than Miranda.

    If two months of batting an OPS+ of 103 is ice cold, we are not nearly high enough on this kid and his upside.

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    1 hour ago, Minny505 said:

    If two months of batting an OPS+ of 103 is ice cold, we are not nearly high enough on this kid and his upside.

    Urshela ended the season at 121 and played a lot better defense.

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    1 hour ago, DJL44 said:

    Urshela ended the season at 121 and played a lot better defense.

    Yes, Urshela had a better offensive season (not going to get into the defensive performance here).

    But that's not my point at all. My point is that, if we are going to describe a 23 year old's last two months of his rookie season, during which said months he hit an OPS+ of 103, as "ice cold", then we have a potential hall of famer here and we are not nearly high enough on him.

    Because a 103 is the kind of OPS+ only hall of fame players put up in their rookie season when they are "ice cold". That is my point.

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    16 hours ago, Nick Nelson said:

    Analytics are just stats. Why wouldn't we use stats to determine who had the best season?

    I'm sure Seth could sure the breakdown of voting results. This was my ballot, FYI:

    1. Correa
    2. Duran
    3. Buxton
    4. Arraez
    5. Gray

    Feel free to correct me if you think I am off base, but I would submit that analytics are far more than just stats, or we would use just stats.  Analytics are a way of assigning weight to stats that give some more importance than others when evaluating players.  Buxton has a BA 90 points lower than Arraez, for example, and his OBP is 70 points lower.  His SLG is 100+ higher, which makes his OPS and OPS+ higher overall, thereby raising his "value".  As an aside, how you had Buxton 3rd on your ballot is something I am unable to understand, but I digress.  And, as has been said elsewhere, value is in the eye of the beholder (which, I guess, is why we had to bring analytics to the game to eliminate subjectivity).  Correa, for example, made a huge difference in the life and play of Miranda by bringing him under his wing, so to speak.  He is even planning on bringing him to his home over the winter and spending a week with him working on all sorts of things to make him a better player.  What is the value in that?  Arraez is a spark plug, and from what I can tell, a pretty popular guy in the dugout.  Is there a value in that?  Now I like Buxton as much as the next guy - well, maybe not the next guy, but a lot of guys - but someone who played the field 58 games out of 162 isn't my most valuable no matter how high his SLG is in his limited PA's, especially with a low BA and OBP, as well as a 33% strike out rate.  Most valuable player is still somewhat subjective, because there has been a debate for a century or more over what player even means.  The reason pitchers have their own awards is they don't play the field more than the innings they are on the mound, and they no longer hit (with one notable exception today).  Yet you have two pitchers on your ballot.  Not that I think that is wrong, as I consider a player a member of your roster, not just a person in the batting order, so I would consider pitchers as well; others may not.  Anyway, the long winded point of this extremely humble observer is that out of all the considerations that one would take into account, analytics should be low on the list, and they are more than just stats.  Thanks for the give and take, I appreciate your info.  

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    An inspired choice, that somehow meets the eye test, despite having an everyday shortstop providing very good defense and offense. Maybe that's because base hits are like catching the ball at first base: hard to argue that making it happen is a rare skill, but it does have to happen. And this season, Luis did so, while two thirds of the lineup couldn't.

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    15 hours ago, Minny505 said:

    Yes, Urshela had a better offensive season (not going to get into the defensive performance here).

    But that's not my point at all. My point is that, if we are going to describe a 23 year old's last two months of his rookie season, during which said months he hit an OPS+ of 103, as "ice cold", then we have a potential hall of famer here and we are not nearly high enough on him.

    Because a 103 is the kind of OPS+ only hall of fame players put up in their rookie season when they are "ice cold". That is my point.

    That's fine. Give Miranda a vote for Twins ROY. If your team MVP is only a league average hitter then you have a very bad baseball team.

    Jose Miranda had a really hot July that is distorting what people think he did this year. He was an average big leaguer - which is good for a rookie - but he wasn't a star. He wasn't even a starter; he backed up Arraez at 1B and Urshela at 3B and rotated through DH.

    Correa had a cold July but was better than Miranda every other month of the season. It makes me think that the people commenting here that Miranda should be the MVP instead of Correa only started paying attention in July and tuned out in August when Vikings training camp started.

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