One of the annual traditions of the baseball offseason is the ritual looking back on the season that just finished to proclaim who was, indisputably, the best. Coaches and glove company sponsorships give us the Gold Gloves. Mainstream baseball writers, some of whom are connected to the same reality as we are, give us things like the Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards.
Here on Camden Chat, on direction from the SB Nation overlords, the question for today:
Who was the hitter of the year?
I am told that our results for this poll will be factored into network-wide final voting in order to proclaim the people's champion. Do not take this sacred responsibility lightly.
If this were the BBWAA voting for MVP, we would all need to come up with ten players on a ballot, with a point system weighted to determine the ultimate winner and also generating positions from second all the way down to people who scored one measly point from a supposedly-objective writer giving out a homer vote. Here, the most robust option available is a poll where the winner will be whoever has the most votes. So let's roll with that.
On the poll are six names which happen to represent the six position players who had the highest Fangraphs WAR for the 2015 season. WAR is not, and should not be, the ultimate arbiter to determine player performance, but I do think it's safe to say if you weren't in the top six finishers in WAR, you weren't the hitter of the year. I also think it's safe to say the top six finishers in WAR did not have bad seasons.
Why six? That may or may not have anything to do with Manny Machado having the sixth-highest WAR in MLB this season. Don't be a homer and vote for him, though. That will be embarrassing for everyone involved. Your choices:
Longtime Camden Chat readers, and periodic hate readers, will surely be well aware that Harper is not my favorite baseball player. There's simply no denying the brilliance of his 2015 performance, however. A .330/.460/.649 batting line speaks for itself. No player anywhere in MLB has posted an OBP that high in at least a decade. The slugging percentage is the highest since Albert Pujols was lighting the world on fire in St. Louis in 2009.
He destroyed everyone and everything, up to and including the concept of good taste, because seriously, look at this hair.
A common refrain from what Moneyball writer Michael Lewis termed the "dinosaur wing" of baseball writers, who like to dismiss newer-age thinking, is this: "You have to watch the games." And yet, the people whose job it is to watch the games failed to recognize that Trout was the greatest player in the American League in 2012 and 2013. They may fail to recognize him again in spite of his generating a .991 OPS while playing 159 games, all but three of which saw him in center field. He's pretty good at baseball.
One good way to get yourself in this conversation is to be a third baseman who bats .297/.371/.568 over a season, along with being a key pillar of a dominant offensive team that laid waste to everything it touched over the year. He hit 41 home runs, and drove in 123, which matters to people who vote on MVP awards. Donaldson wasn't a slouch in the field, either. You don't end up with 8.7 WAR by accident.
The Diamondbacks are kind of a sad baseball franchise lately, but one player who is exciting for their fans to get to see is Goldschmidt, who was one of three NL players to turn in a .300+/.400+/.500+ batting line this season. Since the advent of steroid testing in baseball, there just hasn't been much of that in a given year. Unlike these guys above him, Goldschmidt stole 21 bases in 26 attempts.
Idiots across the baseball world undervalue Votto because he "walks too much", never mind that he collected a .314 batting average this season on top of an impressive .459 OBP. "Oh, but he only drove in 80 runs," they will probably say. Maybe that's because his teammates collectively couldn't hit their way out of a wet paper bag.
Somehow, members of the Orioles media watched the 2015 season and proclaimed Chris Davis to be the Most Valuable Oriole over Machado. I don't get it. You don't need me to tell you why our Gold Glove-winning third baseman was great, but seriously, don't vote for him in this poll.