Aug 25, 2010, 12:00 PM EDT
Arguably more than any other year since they started contending again in the NL East, it's been a season of ups and downs for the Phillies. Injuries, offensive slumps, bullpen meltdowns, all sharing airtime with walk-off wins, stunning comebacks and incredible single-game performances. It's been a year of such inconsistency that it can't help but beg the question: What one player has been the most consistently valuable to the Phillies throughout this rollercoaster of a season?
Unlike previous years, where certain Fightins have clearly stood out from the rest of the team (and in some cases the entire league) as being worthiest of MVP honors, there's no super-clearcut choice for the distinction for 2010. So let's examine the most viable options (in alphabetical order), and you can cast your vote at the bottom.
Case For: The biggest off-season acquisition in all of baseball last spring, Roy Halladay has not missed a beat in slotting into his position as the ace of the Phillies staff, and a likely contender for NL Cy Young honors. Doc won't win 30 games as some predicted, but he's on pace for a career year nonetheless, poised to set personal bets in Ks, complete games and innings pitched–all of which he leads the entire league in as well, incidentally. The 16-8 record and 2.16 ERA ain't so shabby either–if the latter held, it would be lower than any ERA ever posted by Curt Schilling or Robin Roberts in the Red and White, and beaten only by Steve Carlton in his legendary 1972 campaign. Also leads the team in perfect games thrown, with one.
Case Against: Really, the only argument against Roy Halladay is the argument that starting pitchers always have to face when competing for MVP honors–that no matter how great they are, they still only affect the outcome of one out of every five of their team's games. Besides that, there was his shaky start against the Cubs on Sunday Night Baseball, but you'd have to be pretty f'ing picky to hold that too much against Doc.
Case For: Before taking that awkward slide into second base, Ryan Howard was on his way to another potentially MVP-caliber campaign, hitting near .300 with 23 homers and a league-leading 81 RBIs. The Big Piece has been a little slow returning to form from his injuries, but even with his time missed, he still leads the club in homers and RBIs, and ranks third in hits. Plus, there's no over-valuing the cockiness and general peace of mind you have with RyHo once again coming up in that cleanup slot, and not Mike Sweeney or Ross Gload.
Case Against: Well, it's hard to deny that the Phils continued with their best stretch of the season thusfar even after Ryan temporarily excused himself from the lineup at the beginning of August, though it seems somewhat unlikely that the two are directly related. Besides that, Ryan's spike in batting average has come at the expense of his walk rate, and his streak of 40-homer seasons looks to be coming to an end with the lowest slugging percentage of his career. On the defensive side, he's also committed a team-high 11 errors.
Case For: The less-heralded of the Phils' two major off-season pickups, Placido Polanco has nonetheless proven himself an integral part of the Phillies' lineup this season. Taking over from Pedro Feliz–whose offense was rapidly dropping towards the execrable by the end of his stay in Philly–Placido has provided an invaluable upgrade at the hot corner, leading the team in batting average with his .317 rate (5th in the NL as of yesterday) while providing glovework almost as steady as Pete Happy's. His hits have come at some unbelievably key moments for the Fightins as well, namely his game-winning homer in extras against the Cardinals in late July, starting the team on an eight-game winning streak–my vote for the biggest hit of the Phils' season.
Case Against: As fine as his batting average has been, Polly's other offensive numbers are significantly more modest–only six home runs, three steals, and 19 walks, the last number the lowest among the Phillies' regular starters. Also, like just about everyone on the team, he's missed a significant amount of time to injury, namely a three-week stretch from late June to early July that forced us to lean even more heavily on scrub subs Wilson Valdez, Greg Dobbs and Cody Rnasom.
Case For: Carlos Ruiz's numbers aren't going to blow anyone away, and he doesn't lead the team in any one significant statistical category (though as of yesterday, he was second in OBP with an impressive .389). But if you were take a poll of Phillies fans in 2010 about who they'd want at the plate with the game on the line, I'd peg the pudgy Panamanian as the likely winner. Chooch has won himself a hard-earned reputation over the past few seasons (and post-seasons) as one of the team's clutchest hitters, and it's a rep he's contiued to lived up to this year, hitting game-winning homers against the Marlins and Cardinals, and a comeback-capping walk-off double against the Dodgers a few weeks ago. Not to mention that credit for at least some of the pitching staff's success must go to Ruiz as well, including Doc's immaculately-called perfecto.
Case Against: If you were arguing Chooch's case to a non-Phillies fan, he'd probably think you were crazy. Ruiz has a mere six homers and 35 RBIs, and his 31 runs rank the lowest among team regulars. Most hurting our catcher's case, however, is the fact that he's missed more games than any starter besides Jimmy or Chase, forcing career backups Brian Schneider and Dane Sardinha into uncomfortable amounts of PT in his stead. Baserunners have also taken a good deal of advantage of Ruiz, stealing successfully against him in 47 out of 62 attempts.
Case For: Statistically, Werth is having the best season of his career, putting together the exact kind of line you'd expect from our five-tool outfielder in his walk year. His steals have dipped some, but so have everyone's on the team, and he's probably not gonna 36 homers again, but his drop in longballs is more than compensated for by his league-leading 42 doubles, pumping his slugging percentage to a team-high .522. Other categories Werth leads the team in include OBP, runs scored, and perhaps most importantly, games played–along with Raul Ibanez, Raw Power is the only Phil not to miss at least two weeks' worth of service time, playing in 122 of a possible 125 games.
Case Against: In many ways, Jayson is the anti-Chooch in this respect. Show a non-Phillies fan the team's Baseball Reference page and he'd think you're crazy for picking anyone but Werth as the MVP (among hitters, anyway.) But four letters that have often haunted the Phils over the last few season have absolutely plagued poor JDubs this season–RISP. Whereas all Carlos Ruiz seems to do is get big hits, Jayson has come up time and time again in big spots and almost always seems to come up empty, posting a BA under the Mendoza line with runners in scoring position. And let's not forget that Werth's struggles got so bad mid-season that had the team not gotten hot towards the end of July (and had the team not made an independent deal for Roy Oswalt), Werth might be wearing a Yankees uniform right now.
So, who you got? Cast your vote below, and be sure to give your reasoning in the comments section.
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