Breaking Down the A.L. MVP Race

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“For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth’ the time of the singing of the birds has come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.” -Ernie Harwell

I know everyone’s making cream in their pants over the prospect of the return of college football this weekend, but let’s slow down for a second. This has been a hell of year for America’s pastime. We’ve seen a new wave of stars, blockbuster trades, and though I hate to admit it, the extra Wild Card has made this year’s pennant chases absolutely insane.

So before everyone races over to call their bookie five minutes after watching Dick’s Picks (watch it on TFM! Watch it on YouTube! Follow him on Twitter! Hey, I’m a company man), let’s have a little fun and break down the MVP race as we come down the stretch, shall we?

5) Josh Hamilton (83/35/111/7/.290; WAR = 4.2)

Let’s take a look at the following stat lines:

Player A:

182 AB’s/39 Runs/21 Home Runs/57 RBI/.368 Batting Average

Player B:

173 AB’s/22 Runs/8 Home Runs/27 RBI/.201 Batting Average

Player C:

100 AB’s/22 Runs/6 Home Runs/27 RBI/.300 Batting Average

Player A is Josh Hamilton in the months of April and May. Coming out of the gate, Hambone pretty much did the anti-Tiger Woods: he was upfront about his personal life after his vices caught up to him, and rather than letting the weight of the world crush his soul, he instead quickly shed off-field concerns as he absolutely took the baseball world by storm coming out of the gates.

Player B is Josh Hamilton in the months of June and July. Yikes. Seriously, what the fuck happened? Everyone expected some regression from his Bonds-esque start. I mean, a .370 BABIP is about as sustainable as my penis’ rigidness after a single margarita. But after starting the year with astronomical numbers, Hamilton didn’t just come back crashing to earth. He left a gigantic fucking crater in it as “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” tearfully played in the background.

Player C is, yep, you guessed it, Josh Hamilton in the month of August. This past month, he had a slash line of .300/.570/.919. Reports coming out of Texas say that he finally broke his slump after getting over giving up snuff. We’ve all been there, fella. Now he’s starting to find that happy-medium between scorching hot and ice cold. And therein lays the true value of Josh Hamilton- a very good but extremely streaky bat. That’s not enough for me. I want some consistency from my junior circuit MVP.

4) Robinson Cano (76/25/68/3/.309; WAR = 5.7)

Robby’s the best middle-infielder in baseball, period. Tulo? Has the benefit of Coors. Kinsler, Reyes and Pedroia? Never live up to preseason hype. No, it has to be Cano. Monster bat, solid glove, a great run producer. But considering all the talent surrounding him, not to mention the pinstripes that he dons each night that he takes the field, I simply refuse to rank him higher, nor devout more than one paragraph to him. This is about principle, dammit. Besides, I feel like the good people of Boston (and Bill Simmons) have gone through enough swift kicks to the balls over the past year.

3) Miguel Cabrera (83/32/106/4/.324; WAR = 5.3)

For those who don’t know by now, I’m a Tigers fan. They’re consistently one of the few bright spots coming out of Detroit (well that, and the fact that there were only 240 homicides within the city limits this August. Progress!!!). If I ever catch Bud Selig getting loaded off his ass on cocaine and making two hookers battle to the death, then cutting this grotesque, pointless exhibition short just as both of the whores are about to go into cardiac arrest, so he calls it a tie instead, my first act of blackmail against the Commish would be to make him force Randall Simon to spend all of eternity going to supermarkets and beat every costumed kielbasa vendor over the head with a baseball bat. My second act would be to squeeze an MVP ballot out of him.

Who’s going on that ballet? Everyone’s favorite designated driver, Miggy.

Now, I try to avoid using traditional stats like RBI when thinking about debates like this. Those stats are too dependent on the rest of the team’s performance.

Instead, let’s look at beneath-the-surface numbers to figure out the difference between Miggy and the next guy on this list. It’s a stat called “Leverage Index”, and basically, it measures a hitter’s performance in clutch time.

Here’re the slash lines of Cabrera vs. Player B in low-leverage (aka low-pressure situations)

Miggy: .332 AVG/.389 OBP/.619 SLG

Player B: .376 AVG/.459 OBP/.700 SLG

Now here’s the breakdown of high-leverage situations.

Miggy: .417 AVG/.500 OBP/.833 SLG

Player B: .276 AVG/.289/.517 SLG

When I think “most valuable player,” a HUGE part is clutch hitting. And with Cabrera and the next player on this list both having monster numbers, that’s what decides it for me. Player B’s like the pre-2006 Colts: Huge numbers early on, but wilts in the clutch.

Meanwhile, Cabrera steps up immensely in winning time. You can’t say that about Player B.

Now having said ALL that, this next guy’s getting all the hype, and deservedly so.

2) Mike Trout (100/24/72/41/.337; WAR = 7.5)

Back in May, everyone was having the debate. Bryce or Trout? Trout or Bryce? The speculation was a toss-up.

Sorry, “bro,” but yeah…Trout won. By a LOT.

Before the phenom got the much-anticipated call-up, the Halos were a mere 6-14. Since then, they’ve gone 60-48. Nothing special, but definitely an improvement.

Now, don’t kid yourself. A big part of not only the Angels’ turn-around, but also Trout’s run totals, can be attributed to Pujols’ inevitable turn-around. And if L.A. misses the playoffs, this might all be moot.

But still, the kid is the definition of 5-tool athlete, and it’s shown. His glove has dominated Web Gems more than Jim Edmonds. His base-running is probably the purest I’ve ever seen. My God, he’s created 101 runs, and it’s not even September. But the number that should make Trout a lock up the AL MVP this year-he has a Wins Above Replacement of 7.5. (7.5!!!!)

Oh, and he’s younger than I am.

But no, my pick for AL MVP isn’t Trout.

It’s this guy. As always.

1) Chipper Jones (47/13/54/1/.305; WAR = 3.2)

Yes, I know, he’s in a different league altogether. Like that matters. The fact that if I did a similar article on the National League and all that would result is me breaking down the merits of four worthless pieces of literal shit (sorry, Bacon, but the Senior Circuit is fucking garbage this year, and you know it) is irrelevant.

Chipper Jones will always be the answer to the debates regarding “Most Valuable Player,” “Greatest Baseball Player Ever,” and “Who Most Deserves to join Jesus Christ, Ronald Reagan, and Ernest Hemingway on Mt. Fratmore.” That’s just the way it is.

Congrats, kid, on one hell of a career. See you at Cooperstown.

P.S. – To the four nice men wearing ski masks, holding guns, and speaking in thick Georgian accents: now that I’ve done what you’ve asked, can you PLEASE let my family go unharmed?

Follow me on Twitter @JParksTFM

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  1. I agreed with you on these choices even though chipper is in the NL. However Derek Jeter has to be in the argument for the MVP. Is he not playing as well as any other player considering his age.

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    • A Rowdy Phi

      ^^ If Jeter keeps up the pace he has been he should be in the top 3 at least in my opinion. You can’t just look at all statistics to choose the MVP. It is about how valuable. He gets on base all the time, is probably the most timely hitter in baseball, the most reliable fielding shortstop, his average is soaring, oh and he is deciding to add some power to his season. Without Jeter getting on base as frequently as he does, the Yankees don’t produce nearly as many runs. On another note get the fuck out of here with Chipper Jones. Yeah it is kind of a big deal that he’s in the NL when talking about AL MVP.

      ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
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    • JParks

      He was definitely right behind these guys (along with Verlander and Weaver), but it was getting lengthy. Plus, every woman in America would happily leave their husband just to get a next-morning gift basket from the Mulatto Marvel. So he has that going for him.

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  2. Plan B is Plan A

    Chipper is a great player and an obvious HOFer but if you think he’s the best of all time you’re a fucking retard who knows nothing about baseball. Also Mike Trout wins the AL MVP this year without question. It’s not even close.

    ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
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    • A Rowdy Phi

      I agree with the first statement but the second is just not true. Trout is starting to cool down a little and by cool down I’m not saying he still isn’t producing amazing numbers, he’s just not as hot as he was earlier. Plus theres still time for more players to pass him in meaningful categories and his team probably not making the playoffs will hurt his chances.

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    • Plan B is Plan A

      There’s only a month left in the season. I seriously doubt Cano or Cabrera is going to get hot enough to leapfrog Trout in the meaningful stats in that amount of time. Even if he coasts for the rest of the season he’s pretty much a lock to finish ahead of them. And Hamilton’s not even in the running right now. He shouldn’t be part of this article in the first place.

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  3. Tits or GTFO

    Greatest player of all time? Easy there chief. Chipper is a hall of famer no doubt, also one of the greatest switch hitters and third basemen ever. But there are a hand full of players currently playing with more impressive resumes.

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  4. FPH

    I like Beltre over Josh, much more consistent. now if josh continues on the tear he’s on right now and has a september like his april then you have a case, but he was so bad in the middle of the season i dont know if it can be over looked.

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  5. GotEm

    Once you go limp from one margarita, all you need to do is look at some pictures of Chipper Jones and you’ll be standing at full attention once more.

    ^ ThisTake a lapReply • 2 years ago
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