The Miami Marlins won one game in the first week of the 2016 baseball season. Almost certainly, the Marlins would not have won that game without a certain pitcher coming up huge for the team. That just about describes a Most Valuable Player, doesn’t it? The guy without whom the team is unable to reach its goal. Of course, it would have been ideal to win all four games they played, but they only achieved that goal once, and they only achieved it because of long reliever David Phelps.
On Thursday, April 7, the Marlins and Washington Nationals both put up three runs in the first inning until an 85-minute rain delay knocked Marlins starter Adam Conley out of the game. Nationals manager Dusty Baker stuck with his starter, Tanner Roark, but that’s Dusty Baker, so the rain delay could have been 85 years and he may have stuck with Roark anyway. Don Mattingly chose to hand the ball to Phelps, who worked as a swingman for the Fish last season. Phelps responded to the call by throwing four scoreless innings, giving up just two hits and two walks, notching three strikeouts along the way. With how poorly the rest of the Marlins bullpen has been doing this season, Phelps’ four innings were even bigger. He gave the team a chance to pick up three more runs and ultimately win the game, 6-4.
Given the 2016 Marlins bullpen, we can assume that had Phelps only gone one inning, the Marlins would have lost 30-6 or something similar. For a team that seems to be doing okay on offense so far and will undoubtedly have better performances out of their starters going forward, the bullpen has already reared its ugly head, costing the Marlins either the lead or the chance to come back in each of the team’s three losses. The Marlins are 1-3. That’s not good, but it’s early enough that they can come back from it. The Marlins would almost certainly be 0-4 without Phelps on the roster. That’s not significantly worse than 1-3, statistically, but it sure seems a lot more hopeless.
Here’s a grand sentiment for you: David Phelps is the team’s MVP for week one because he gives the team hope. Isn’t that what an MVP should do?