Should OSWC be Used to Select the Regular Season MVP?


I have already staked a clear position that Offensive Shapley Win Credits (OSWC) should be used when selecting the MVP of a playoff series, but what about the regular season? Can OSWC help in identifying which player most deserves the regular season MVP award?

As a type of win-credit measure, OSWC appears on the surface to be a good statistic to consult when deciding who deserves the regular season MVP award. However, as I will explain here, whether an MVP voter should consider OSWC when evaluating MVP candidates depends on how that voter interprets the V in MVP for the regular season award. OSWC will be more useful to some MVP voters than others.

Dueling Views About the Regular Season MVP

The MVP of a playoff series is typically understood as being awarded to the player whose contributions were most valuable to their team’s series victory, but there has never been such a universal understanding of how the regular season MVP should be selected.

One popular view is that the V in MVP should mean best or most skilled, which makes the regular season MVP award the “best player” or “most skilled player” award. Following this view, the MVP winner should not have to come from one of the winningest teams, but should instead be the player who is best according to whatever is the preferred measure of baseball skill. A voter with this view in the past would focus on identifying the player with the highest batting average, the most runs batted in, the lowest earned-run average, or the best according to some other measure. Today’s voters would consider newer statistics, and the most important of these is wins above replacement (WAR), which is a estimate of how many wins that player would have contributed to on an average team.

A competing view is that, because the V literally means value, the selection of the regular season MVP should in some way be connected with winning in the regular season. For MVP voters with this view in the past, this means giving extra consideration to players on winning teams or to pitchers who were credited with more wins. For voters with this view in the present, this again means paying close attention to a player’s WAR. Some voters might also consider win probability added (WPA) which is a measure of how much a player increased their team’s chances of winning during its games throughout the season.

That WAR is relevant for both views makes it the go-to stat for selecting the regular season MVP among voters today. That means that the an MVP voter with either view can start with WAR, recognize that there is some noise in its calculation, vote for the WAR leader if they have a large lead in WAR over the next player, but consider matters of personal preference to adjudicate when WARs are close.

For example, the voter might prefer home runs and stolen bases over defensive flexibility and vote accordingly — which seems to be part of the reason why Ronald Acuna was voted the NL MVP over Mookie Betts for the 2023 regular season even though their WARs were essentially identical. Or the voter might prefer one version of WAR over another because it uses a preferred pitching (FIP vs. ERA) or defensive statistic, and then use this basis for voting for the player who has the highest of their preferred WAR.

Does OSWC Help?

If your view is that the regular season MVP is really a best player award, then OSWC is not going to be better than existing measures of skill. Over the course of the entire season, the best players on a team will tend to accrue the most OSWC on that team, but players on different teams have different opportunities to accrue OSWC. That means that OSWC is not a precise measure of skill. This is essentially the same reason why runs and runs batted in are not precise measures of batting skill; they depend too much on one’s teammates. So if you want to identify the most skilled player, you should actually avoid looking at OSWC.

However, if your view is that the regular season MVP should reflect value that is more directly related to winning games, then OSWC should be one of the statistics that you consult. I say one of the statistics you consult because it will depend more specifically how you think about winning.

To see how this can work, consider WAR, WPA, and OSWC. On the one hand, if you want to reward a player for overall good performance that should help any team win, then WAR is the win-credit measure that you should give the most weight. On the other hand, if you want to reward a player for giving their team the best chances to win, then you should give WPA the most weight. On yet another hand, if you want to reward the player who best worked in collaboration with their teammates to actually win games, then OSWC is your best measure.

In short, the win-credit statistic to give most weight is the one whose construction best fits the type of contribution to winning that you have in mind.

Table 1 reveals what OSWC would suggest for the 2023 regular season. As seen in the table, Acuna was the season leader in OSWC, so if you think that the MVP award should go to the offensive player who worked best in collaboration with their teammates to win games, then you should be pleased that Acuna was selected as the NL MVP.

Table 1: Top 20 Players by OSWC, 2023 MLB Regular Season

Shohei Ohtani was selected as the AL MVP, but a big part of his case was his pitching contributions, not just his offensive contributions. As a strictly offensive measure, OSWC will not capture Ohtani’s two-way value. With Ohtani missing a substantial part of the season due to injury, the AL player who had made the largest offensive contributions when working collaboratively with teammates to win games was actually Gunnar Henderson. Henderson won the Rookie of the Year Award, so he did receive some recognition for his stellar season.


If you want to identify contributions to actual wins in their collaborative context when identifying the most deserving player for the regular season MVP, then OSWC is the statistic for you. But if your view is that value should be interpreted in other ways, then other statistics will be more helpful to you.

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