They got it right. Hideki Matsui was unequivocally the right choice for World Series MVP. His raw numbers were incredible. In 15 plate appearances, the Phillies only managed to get Matsui out 5 times. His 8 hits, 2 doubles, and 2 HRs add up to a .761 wOBA.
Of course, context neutral numbers don’t tell the whole story. in the clinching game 6, Matsui’s grand night tallied a .339 WPA, effectively single-handedly winning the game for New York. Matsui also led Yankee hitters in game 2, where Matsui’s go-ahead home run led to a .223 WPA and a 3-1 Yankee victory. Overall, Matsui totalled .639 WPA, good for the best in the series.
As such, he was a no-brainer. The more interesting discussion, in my mind, stems from discussions from Wednesday afternoon, prior to game 6, regarding Chase Utley‘s validity as an MVP candidate. As everybody knows, Utley had an impressive series, tying Reggie Jackson’s record with 5 home runs in a World Series. Thanks to an 0-3 dud in game 6, Utley’s line fell to 6-21 with 3 walks, but all 6 of hits went for extra bases, resulting in a .555 wOBA.
Again, we need to give these numbers context. Utley’s two home run games in games 1 and 5 combined for a .455 WPA and his game 4 (2-4, 2B) was worth another .131. Unfortunately for Utley and the Phillies, that accounts for all of his hits in this World Series. His hitless games in games 2, 3, and 6 (all won by the Yankees) combined for a -.377 WPA, essentially cancelling out games 1 and 4.
Utley’s power performance was impressive. Still, we can’t forget about the bad games. Although Alex Rodriguez and Johnny Damon didn’t have any games, in terms of raw hitting, that compared to Utley. A-Rod, however, put up .269 WPA in game 4 with his game winning double, and Johnny Damon put up .250 in the same game with an RBI single, a hit in the 9th inning, and the legendary double steal that led to the game winning run. Both A-Rod (.330 WPA) and Damon (.421 WPA) had better overall series than Utley, by this measure.
For the Phillies, the best candidate is Cliff Lee. No Phillies hitter consistently put up solid games. Lee more than singlehandedly won game 1 with his memorable complete game (.519 WPA), and pitched well enough in game 5 to lead Philadelphia to their only other series win (.085 WPA). That leaves Lee with .604 WPA for the series, nearly as much as Matsui.
Mariano Rivera, fittingly, finished the game for the Yankees. He did pitch well this series, as he didn’t allow a run, but he only saw one high leverage situation (game 2, +.166 WPA). His contribution was important (total of +.259 WPA), but pales in comparison to Matsui’s and Lee’s, and is still less than Rodriguez and Damon.
The fans got this one right. Hideki Matsui had the game of his MLB career tonight, and he completely deserves this honor.
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