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Ryan Howard

But is he the MOST valuable? It depends on your definition of “value” is. If it calls for ignoring stats like home runs and RBI in favor of batting average, then no, Howard is not the most valuable. However, with the Phillies leading the NL East — for now — and his MLB-leading 45 home runs and 136 RBI contribution to said lead, he certainly deserves some consideration. Yes, Howard’s batting average has been lower than you’d want during the season grind, but in the last week or so, Philadelphia’s hammer is hitting .455 with four dingers and 11 runs knocked in.

Howard’s recent tear has helped push his batting average to the .250 area for the first time this season. On the other hand, Howard is again threatening to exceed 200 strikeouts with only 74 walks. Obviously, you’d like to see his patience at the plate improve — as well as his eye — but consider this: if you knew every time you made contact with the ball, it had a chance to leave the yard, patience and plate discipline may not be your biggest virtues either.

Not everyone can be Albert Pujols, who is again posting some gaudy numbers, but his team is five games back in the wild card chase and it’s doubtful they will make up the necessary ground before the season runs out. Is that the definition of “most” when it comes to the MVP award? Pujols’ brilliance at the plate cannot be denied, but the award does not go to the most brilliant hitter. It goes to the most valuable player. With that in mind, what would you prefer:

A player who is leading the league in round-trippers and RBIs with his team holding a tenuous lead in their division. The knock on this player is his plate discipline. In the other corner, you have a player with tons of ability and better plate discipline, posting similar numbers to player one. The knock on player two is his team, barring a total National League collapse, is not going to the postseason.

Which player, in your opinion, would be more valuable?

Here’s another Pujols caveat — for all his vaunted hitting skills, he’s still 12 home runs and 35 RBI behind Howard when it comes to power numbers. In his defense, he did miss 15 games and has 85 fewer at bats than Howard does; ABs that would most certainly close the gap between the two. But if the ability to stay healthy is a commodity in other sports — no player wants to be labeled injury-prone — how is it not in baseball?

Furthermore, the argument is not whether Pujols is a more disciplined hitter than Howard because he obviously is. No, the argument is who is more valuable to their team. While you can argue Pujols various absences are what kept the Cardinals from further contending, the fact Howard has not missed any games because of injury and his team in a better position to go to the post season speaks volumes, at least to me.

Or is the award supposed to go to the player whose team might have done better if said player was healthy all season?

Perhaps the better argument would be Manny Ramirez. In 43 games with the Dodgers, Ramirez has 14 home runs and 44 RBI. He’s also batting .401 since moving to the West Coast and has single-handedly helped push the Dodgers past the Diamondbacks for the overall lead in the NL West.

As of today, it’s Howard by a hair over Ramirez for me (135 RBI > 112 RBI). Although, if the Mets right their ship and win the NL East, this conversation never happened.