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Is Franklin Barreto the NWL MVP?

With three games left in the Vancouver Canadians season most people’s focus will be on whether the C’s can re-create a bit of 2013’s magic and put a pretty poor second half behind them, stumble into the playoffs, before going on one of their patented rolls.  This should be the focus.  Something else may be decided this weekend though.  Who will claim the NWL MVP award.  My guess it comes from one of the two teams playing at the Nat over the next few days.

Recently, whenever I hear shortstop Franklin Barreto‘s name mentioned, it usually comes with the ‘possible NWL MVP’ qualifier.  Now, I’ve been absolutely thrilled with Barreto’s work this season, the Venezualen has far surpassed my expectations.  But is he the league MVP?  I thought I’d take a closer look at the numbers to find out.

I’m going to make a couple of assumptions for this exercise.  One is that defensive play isn’t really a factor in the decision making.  Reigning NWL MVP and ex-C L.B. Dantzler is a first basemen and an average one at that.  So, despite fact Barreto plays a prime position (sure, you could argue not all that well) I’m not going to take that into account.

Secondly, my final decision is going to be based on more advanced metrics.  I have absolutely no idea what parameters help the league make their choice but if I had to guess I would say they may factor in some old school counting stats.  Such as RBIs.  A category that Barreto leads the league in, but one that I don’t give a fig about.

About those counting stats, as of right now, Barreto leads the Northwest League in RBIs with 61, doubles with 23, runs scored with 63 and hits with 88.  He’s also tied for second with 4 triples, third in stolen bases with 28 (at an excellent 87.5% success rate), and has six home runs, which puts him in the top 10 of that category.

Reading that paragraph it’s hard to imagine how Barreto could not be the MVP.  Looking at the more advanced calculations though, somehow Franklin doesn’t come out on top.  He does lead in Weighted Runs Created (wRC) but that stat is cumulative.  Barreto’s league leading (something that will probably be taken into account as positive when voting takes place) 320 plate appearances puts him over the top.

When looking at Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA) which is an excellent metric for catching total offensive contribution, Barreto comes out seventh.  Somewhat surprising given where he sits in most offensive categories.  If you look at the formula though, it attempts to take into account your offensive production non-cumulatively:

wOBA = (0.690×uBB + 0.722×HBP + 0.888×1B + 1.271×2B + 1.616×3B +2.101×HR) / (AB + BB – IBB + SF + HBP)

Eugene’s first basemen Marcus Davis currently leads the league in wOBA with a .424 mark while Barreto sits at .400.  The formula above is from 2013 so the variables included needed to be tweaked somewhat but after fiddling in excel I think I got it down.  Davis’ .24 point lead is predicated on fact he has two less doubles than Barreto, one more home run and three more walks.  This all despite fact he has come to the plate 79 fewer times.

Now, there is no way that Davis is a better prospect than Barreto.  He’s nearly four years older, it’s his second kick at the Northwest League can, he hit nine home runs in his junior year at Florida State so should hit for a bit of pop.  And, despite some time in left field this year, is primarily a first basemen.

As I mentioned above though, this is not a top prospect competition.  Looking at L.B.’s 2013 and how he ranks I think it was the power numbers that saw him through.  Dantzler led the league in doubles and home runs.  Sexy stats.  He also ranked second in wOBA so was well thought of by the advanced metrics.

As an aside, the leader in wOBA last year was also an Emerald, outfielder Ronnie Richardson.  Looking through the numbers, Richardson was easily the best offensive player in the league but was promoted to high A in August.  You can’t give an MVP award to someone in absentia, I assume, so Dantzler may very well have won by default.

So, taking all the above into account.  Anyone else stand out?  Luke Tendler, the Spokane outfielder lies second in wOBA at .421.  Like Davis, Tendler has fewer plate appearances than Barreto (39) after being drafted out of North Carolina A&T State this year.  The difference between the two rivals is that Tendler is tied for the league lead in home runs with Ryan McBroom.  I think that could go a long way towards making the league’s decision.  Tendler also lies second in OPS, a pseudo advanced stat that looks good to voters.

The unknown here, both in how it should be calculated and how the league will look at it is baserunning.  Barreto is excellent.  Not only stealing bases but how he reads the game while on the basepaths.  I actually mailed fangraphs to see if there was a way to overlay stolen bases into something like wOBA to come up with an offensive WAR for minor league players.  They didn’t get back to me.

So how valuable is Barreto’s running skills?  Not as much as you may think.  Again, looking at fangraphs, Franklin has contributed 3.4 runs according to their Weighted Stolen Bases metric.  That doesn’t separate him that much from the wOBA leaders Davis and Tendler despite their -0.4 and -0.5 marks respectively.

From an advanced perspective then, there really isn’t much in it between Davis and Tendler.  I like Tendler’s league leading slugging percentage so, for me, going into the final three games of the season, he’s your leader in the clubhouse for the Advanced Metrics MVP.

Let’s be honest though, the league’s decision will come down to counting stats, which brings Barreto’s fantastic season back into play.  Given Tendler’s Indians are in town this weekend for three versus the Canadians let’s assume the plate appearances gap will remain the same at about 40 more for Barreto.  If Franklin loses his lead in hits (the gap is two over Seth Spivey) and doubles where he only leads teammate Ryan McBroom by one, having not hit one in his last ten games then I think he could be in trouble.  Especially if Tendler ends up winning the home run title.

I have to admit, I started this exercise assuming a further look into the stats would see Barreto come out on top quite easily.  But looking at what Luke Tendler has done this season he has been the most valuable offensive contributor.  I think the actual award could come down to this final weekend of the season.  A Tendler v Barreto showdown at the Nat.

Add in the fact a Vancouver series win means they get to play at least two more and you have a pretty massive few days.  Should be fun.

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