(Scott Cunningham / Getty Images)
by Duncan Wallis
This is the fourth installment of a multi-article series about the true value of the best MLB players.
For a brief introduction or a quick refresher on the basis of this discussion, check out the intro from our first Club-Friendly Contracts article.
Today, we’re looking at the National League East. Welcome to part four:
National League East
Sean Doolittle, $2.1M, 1.7 WAR, 1.235 M/WAR
Matt Adams, $4M, 1.6 WAR, 2.5 M/WAR
Gio Gonzalez, $9.357, 3.3 WAR, 2.835 M/WAR
Nationals 2017 MVP: Sean Doolittle, 1.235 M/WAR
Sean Doolittle, acquired at the Trade Deadline in 2017, was the Nationals 2017 MVP. He pitched to the tune of a 2.81 ERA, an even better 2.59 FIP, a high K/9 ratio of 10.89, a fantastic HR/9 rate of 0.88, and a solid 1.75 BB/9. With a change of scenery midseason, Doolittle flourished. Finishing the year with 24 saves in 53 appearances and 51.1 IP, he had a great season. It is also worth noting that this is the first MVP we’ve had so far that is a reliever besides Nate Jones of the White Sox, who had a poor M/WAR of over 13. This is partly because the Nationals have so many marquee players on relatively large contracts.
Christian Yelich, $7.081M, 4.5 WAR, 1.574 M/WAR
Starlin Castro, $7.571M, 1.9 WAR, 3.985 M/WAR
Wei-Yin Chen, $16M, 0.5 WAR, 32.000 M/WAR
Marlins 2017 MVP: Christian Yelich, 1.574 M/WAR
The Marlins 2017 MVP is the clear true MVP of the Marlins. Recently acquired Starlin Castro also makes the list, and technically so does Wei-Yin Chen, but don’t be surprised if Castro is not on the roster to start the season, and Chen is just another bad investment by previous management. Yelich slashed .282/.369/.439, great numbers for the struggling Marlins. However, he had an extremely high BABIP of .336. BABIP stands for Batting Average on Balls in Play. When a player’s BABIP is much higher than their average, this means that they got relatively lucky when they put the ball in play. That would make Yelich a candidate for regression in 2018 which may be why teams haven’t given the Marlins the ransom of prospects they want for his services. However, with Yelich’s speed and hitting style for less power than OBP, we can see that Yelich’s BABIP may not be all luck. Comparing his 2017 BABIP to other BABIP rates in his career, it is actually lower than normal. This would suggest that his production may go up slightly or stay the same in 2018. This could be a reason that teams would be willing to give up the prospects the Marlins want in return for Yelich. Will he return to the Marlins in 2018? Only time will tell.
Chase Whitley, $0.8M, 0.7 WAR, 1.143 M/WAR
Kurt Suzuki, $2.5M, 2.7 WAR, 0.926 M/WAR
Tyler Flowers, $3M, 2.5 WAR, 1.200 M/WAR
Braves 2017 MVP: Kurt Suzuki, 0.926 M/WAR
Who would’ve guessed that Kurt Suzuki was still productive in his age-34 season, much less one of the most productive catchers in the league (and the Braves MVP)? Suzuki hit .283/.351/.536 in the 2017 season. In contrast to Yelich, his BABIP was .268 which is relatively close to his average, meaning he had about average luck and should be consistent with that next year barring injury or regression due to age. Suzuki played as an above average option for the Braves in just 81 games. If he keeps this production up in 2018, look for him to be the Braves MVP in 2018, as well.
New York Mets
Juan Lagares, $4.606M, 1.5 WAR, 3.071 M/WAR
Anthony Swarzak, $7M, 2.2 WAR, 3.182 M/WAR
Asdrubal Cabrera, $8.333, 1.3 WAR, 6.410 M/WAR
Mets 2017 MVP: Juan Lagares, 3.071 M/WAR
The Mets 2017 MVP is Juan Lagares. If Jacob DeGrom, Thor, or any of their other injury-riddled starters were on a contract and could complete a full season, they would be of much better value than Lagares. Despite hitting .250/.296/.365, he had a high strikeout rate of 20.6% and a high BABIP of .309. Unfortunately for the Mets, that makes him a candidate for a pretty big regression in 2018, bouncing back to more normal numbers for his career. However, they did just pick up Jay Bruce in the outfield. Maybe with a full, dominant pitching staff, some extra pop in the outfield, and a new manager, the Mets can find success.
Odubel Herrera, $6.1M, 2.8 WAR, 2.179 M/WAR
Pat Neshek, $8.125M, 2.5 WAR, 3.25 M/WAR
Carlos Santana, $20M, 3.0 WAR, 6.667 M/WAR
Phillies 2017 MVP: Odubel Herrera, 2.179 M/WAR
The last-place Phillies 2017 MVP was Odubel Herrera. The left-handed-hitting, right-handed-throwing outfielder is on an extremely club-friendly contract of just $30.5M over five years plus two options. Even in a year where he produced 2.8 WAR, instead of the last two where he produced almost 4, Herrera stands out as a piece to build around on this Phillies roster. With the free-agent signings of Carlos Santana and Pat Neshek, along with a pitching staff led by the young, but talented, Aaron Nola, this Phillies roster has plenty to look forward to in the near future. Herrera, however, stands out above all of these players on a normal contract.
Your 2017 National League West MVP is Kurt Suzuki. At 34 years old, playing in only 81 games, Suzuki produced 2.7 WAR on a contract that averages $2.5M. The Atlanta Braves have found a bargain in Suzuki.
I got into his BABIP quite in-depth earlier so I won’t do that again. However, he struggled in 2015 and 2016 with the Twins and had a total bounce back in 2017. With nearly identical BABIPs, this suggests he was sincerely struggling. We’d have to get deeper into his sabermetrics to look at why he has been successful this season. Sure enough, there is an extremely noticeable difference in Suzuki’s Slugging Percentage resulting in a much greater OPS+ than his career average of 89 and his second-highest over his entire career with a 130 OPS+.
Maybe the Braves saw something the rest of the MLB didn’t. Maybe their hitting coach, Kevin Seitzer, overhauled Suzuki’s swing. Whatever the case, they’ve struck quite a deal in Suzuki during their rebuilding period. Look for them to be more competitive in the near future, especially if Suzuki keeps up this unlikely production.