The race for the American League MVP seems to have more candidates than the race for the Republican presidential nomination. There are players having great years, but whose teams are, as of now, out of the playoffs. The players from the first-place teams don’t quite seem MVP-level.
There are good candidates at starting pitcher. Here’s a snapshot of how the American League MVP race looks, with 16 possible choices, all of whom would either be good picks right now, or wouldn’t need much of a push.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS
Miguel Cabrera (1B, Detroit)
Mike Trout (CF, LA Angeles)
Cabrera’s numbers are dazzling, a .454 on-base percentage/.589 slugging percentage. With a batting average of .350, 15 home runs and 53 RBI, Miggy is again in position to make a run at the Triple Crown. Trout is sitting on numbers of .390/583 and has hit 20 home runs.
These two players have combined to win the last three AL MVPs, but the Tigers But the Tigers are looking up at Kansas City and Minnesota in the AL Central and the Angels continue to lag behind Houston in the AL West. For a lot of voters, this alone will disqualify both.
THE SLUGGING DHs
Prince Fielder (Texas)
Nelson Cruz (Seattle)
Fielder’s stats are .415/.532 and he’s been instrumental in lifting the Rangers back into contention. Cruz is on .368/.552 and has a much less hitter-friendly environment than Fielder. But if you disqualify Trout because his Angels would be out of the playoffs, then two teams that are trailing Los Angeles in the AL West are even worse candidates.
Furthermore, there is a historic bias against voting for a DH—and I think a fair one—given their status as part-time players. If either one of these guys sizzles and carries their team to the postseason though, it could get interesting.
THE IMPROBABLE YANKEE SUCCESS STORIES
Alex Rodriguez (DH)
Mark Teixeira (1B)
I want to be ill in writing both of these names here, but if the Yankees end up winning the AL East, the revival of these two is probably going to be the biggest reason. A-Rod’s profile fits with the DHs noted above, as he’s .389/.520, while Teixeira is at .356/.524, with 18 home runs.
The problem I have with both—beyond their existence as baseball players—is the extreme hitter-friendly nature of Yankee Stadium. But anti-NYY bias didn’t stop me from believing last year that Masahiro Tanaka should have been a strong candidate prior to his getting hurt and the team fading from the race. That’s because I give pitchers more credit for succeeding in the Stadium than I do hitters.
MUSCLE UP THE MIDDLE
Jason Kipnis (2B, Cleveland)
Stephen Vogt (C, Oakland)
Offense up the middle is at a premium, and therefore those who produce big numbers at these spots are, by definition, more valuable. Kipnis is at .424/.510, while Vogt, in the pitcher-oriented Oakland park is on .394/.532 and tied with Cabrera with 53 RBI. And if you’re a sabermetric type who believes in the whole Wins Above Replacement (WAR) stat, Kipnis is the best in the American League.
Of course the problem with both players comes when you look at their teams. Both are struggling badly and dragging their otherwise legitimate MVP candidates down with them.
A ROYAL FLUSH
Mike Moustakas (3B)
Alex Gordon (LF)
If you believe that to the victor goes the spoils, then it has to start in Kansas City. Moustakas is at .369/.463 and Gordon on .390/.443. They’re the best two candidates on what’s been the best team in the American League. Continue reading “The Wide-Open Race For The American League MVP” »