Sunday, December 18, 2011

Will World Series MVP Freese Stay Hot in 2012?

Recently, MLB Network's analytics-enamored guru, Brian Kenny proclaimed on his "Clubhouse Confidential" program that being named the World Series MVP does not necessarily mean that player will go on to have a stellar follow-up season.  As an example, he cited the 2011 campaign which 2010 World Series MVP, Edgar Renteria suffered through - hitting just .251 in an injury-riddled 96 games.

Ironically, David Freese - 2011's World Series MVP - has yet to play an entire season without getting banged up himself.  Will 2012 be the year Freese stays hot for a full 162 games?  If he can stay healthy, I like his odds, regardless of how other World Series MVPs fared in their follow-up seasons.

Curiosity got the better of me, so I thought I'd dig deeper - all the way back to 1982, when Cardinals catcher Darrell Porter led St Louis to its first World Series title since 1967.  Porter was one of three catchers since his '82 heroics to take home the MVP honors - Rick Dempsey (1983) and Pat Borders (1992) were the other two.  None of the three backstops set the world on fire in their follow-up seasons, although Porter's .262 batting average in '83 was his highest mark in his five seasons with the Redbirds.

Pitching has dominated the MVP selections over the years since '82 - 14 hurlers were chosen - and all but four had stellar performances the following seasons.  The 2001 co-MVPs for the World Series champion Arizona Diamondbacks - Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling - won 24 and 23 games, respectively, in 2002.  They were in good company - Frank Viola, Orel Hershiser, Dave Stewart, Jose Rijo, Jack Morris, Tom Glavine, John Wetteland, and Mariano Rivera - proved their World Series domination was no fluke; all had tremendous seasons the very next year.  Three had "so-so" seasons as a follow-up - Livan Hernandez, Josh Beckett, and Cole Hamels - and just one pitcher had what could be termed "awful" in his next season - Bret Saberhagen, who went 7-12 in 1986 for the World Champion Kansas City Royals.

Third basemen have taken the World Series MVP honors five times since '82 - shortstops four times -  outfielders three times - along with one DH - future Hall of Famer, Paul Molitor.  Strangely enough, there haven't been any first basemen selected, although Joe Carter's 1993 World Series decisive Game Six home run ended things in dramatic fashion, giving Toronto its second straight championship.

Of the position players who were World Series MVPs, four were bitten by the injury bug the next season - Renteria, David Eckstein, Troy Glaus, and Mike Lowell - and four had sensational seasons as an encore - Jermaine Dye (.315-44-120), Manny Ramirez (.292-45-144), Derek Jeter (.311-110 runs scored), and Molitor, who hit .341 in the strike-shortened '94 season.

Getting back to David Freese, who had the greatest overall post season in history - featuring his record-setting 21 RBIs in 18 games - I think it's safe to say he'll prove that performance was no fluke.  It's also safe to say - with Albert Pujols' departure - the Cardinals will be counting on their third baseman to stay healthy and pick up where he left off in October.  If they're planning a return engagement to the Fall Classic, the Redbirds will absolutely need a healthy David Freese to help lead them back to the Promised Land.

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