Friday, July 8, 2011

Hanrahan for MVP????

In this past week's article, I had The Knurve to Say Brian McCann has been the best catcher in the majors the past few years and it wasn't even close. But we also got a little feedback when I said, "IF the Pirates make the playoffs then Joel Hanrahan could be the NL MVP."

I said it was bold. I said the masses would revolt. And they did: Dropped Strike Three is making me explain.

I don't want to be a little wienie right away, but I want to make a distinction. I said NL MVP, not Fantasy MVP. So as good as he's been fantasy-wise, the people who are expecting a regression are correct in their inquiries.

The guy has been fantastic and I don't see anything in his peripherals which suggests a regression beyond any performance we've seen out of him so far this season. The first statistic many fantasy analysts look at to determine luck is BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play). The mean for this is around .300. Hanrahan's career BABIP is .320 and this season he sits at a pretty .262. His Strand Rate is around 84%, so we should expect to see a regression to the average of 72%. His HR/FB also sits at a somewhat low 3.4%, and you'd expect that to regress upwards.

But I'd argue there are a two caveats to these rates that statistics like xFIP don't take into account. The two caveats are Groundball Percentage and Walks per 9. If you think about it logically, a lower BABIP is sustainable if hitters can't lift the ball above the first line of defense, the infield. A higher strand rate is sustainable if the ball stays on the ground because extra bases are hard to come by if you don't push the ball into the gaps. And if those ground balls do get past the infield, it won't be as damaging if the pitcher has allowed fewer guys on base with fewer pitches.

That being said, Hanrahan is posting spectacular career bests in both GB% and BB/9 and is among the league leaders in both categories among relievers. I'm not saying those numbers can't regress at all, but I am saying that he might not be too far off from his 1.37 ERA and 0.94 WHIP.

I think Hanrahan's fantasy performance is sustainable because of his control and ability to force ground balls. No, he probably won't finish the season perfect in save chances but if the Pirates do manage to snag a winnable NL Central with a run differential of 0, where it sits now, then there's only one person they will have to thank....Mr. Joel Hanrahan.

Remember this: MVP voting is up to the writers.

I'd love some more feedback. Please use the comments section or hit me up on Twitter!

1 comment:

  1. I feel like you did a better job arguing against yourself than for. I'm still leaning towards a regression to the mean in both BB/9 and SLG against. I'll consent "Team MVP," but League MVP votes are going to be a whole lot harder to come by. Only 4 closers received MVP votes last year and those votes seemed to be for the guys with the gaudy save totals. Wilson, Bell, Soriano, and Soria were tops in the league. If Hanrahan slips up a bit in the 2nd half or the Pirates falter a bit, I'm just not sure the save totals will be there.

    But great work and definitely something to revisit in the fall! I'll gladly concede defeat if I'm wrong!