Handicapping the Awards – AL MVP Version

The first half of the 2010 season has come and gone, and the American League MVP race is starting to heat up. So far there are only a handful of contenders, but the race is WIDE OPEN. The battle for AL MVP might just be as hotly contested as the NL Cy Young race. Among WAR leaders for positional players, the top four all hail from the AL- and are separated by just six runs. The second half should be exciting as the contenders scrap it out down the stretch for new hardware on their trophy shelves.

The Comeback Kid aka The Favorite

Josh Hamilton – OF – Texas Rangers (4.4 WAR)

Leading the pack is Josh Hamilton, everyone’s favorite comeback player. If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know his past, so I’ll spare you the details. But it would be quite the story if he could cement his legacy with a MVP award. Hamilton was always a greater hitter with tremendous power, but this year he has taken things to a whole new level. Check out his stat line- .346/.390/.625/.435/172. Amazing. He is first in BA, second in SLG, and third in wOBA. His 4.4 WAR is also tied for the third best mark in the league. So why is he the favorite despite not topping the WAR leader board? He has a 4.29 WPA which is second best in all of baseball. The next closest to him in the AL is Shin-soo Choo and it’s not even close. His 0.81 clutch score is in the top ten for the AL and he hits even better in medium and high leverage situations than he does in low leverage spots (203 wRC+ in 197 medium and high leverage PA or 54% of his total PA). Hamilton has been a top three hitter the league, arguably the most “clutch player”, and has provided solid defense in left field and center field. With Texas atop the AL West standings, Hamilton truly has been the most valuable player in the American League.

FG rest of season projection: 233 PA, .308/.363/.533/.390

FG updated final season numbers: 599 PA, .332/.379/.589/.419

The second tier

Justin Morneau – 1b – Minnesota Twins (5.0 WAR)

In 2006 Justin Morneau was the recipient of a very undeserving AL MVP award. In 2010 Justin Morneau is a legitimate contender for the AL MVP award. Back in 2006 he won the hardware with a 4.3 WAR for the season- not exactly up to MVP standards. In 2010 he has a 5.0 WAR at the All-Star break, which is already a career high for the Twins first baseman. Morneau is hitting .345/.437/.618/.447/184. Dayumn. If you thought Hamilton was killing the ball, just take a look at Morneau. He is having the best season of his career by far- defensively as well. Through the SSS of a half season, Morneau’s UZR is one of the best marks of his career. Justin has a 2.69 WPA which is amongst the AL leaders, but he has hit better in low leverage situations than high leverage situations (194 wRC+ compared to 144 wRC+). Yes, the sample size of the high leverage situation PA pool is small, but it’s something to look at when choosing between candidates for the MVP award. Moreover, Morneau has an extremely high .385 BABIP compared to his career average of .295. Granted, his LD% and FB% are well above his career norms, which can explain his high average and power. But it should come down somewhat in the second half. For those last couple reasons, I have Josh Hamilton edging him out for the MVP.

FG rest of season projection: 294 PA, .304/.389/.541/.403

FG updated final season numbers: 640 PA, .325/.415/.582/.429

Carl Crawford – LF – Tampa Bay Rays (4.8 WAR)

Free agent to be Carl Crawford just seems to keep getting better and better. Last season he compiled a 5.5 WAR season, which was the best WAR of his career. He could top that by August. Crawford is a perfect blend of offense, defense, and base running which will earn him a ton of cheddar in the upcoming off-season. Arguably the game’s most complete package, Crawford has a line of .321/.380/.521/.399/151. Some fantastic numbers, but compared to the first two guys talked about, you might be asking yourselves how is in contention with them. The answer- defense. Always one of the games best outfielders, Crawford has been his usual self in 2010. In 686 innings his UZR is 15.2, which is right in line with his three year average. The same can be said of his DRS, which is currently +13. The dood can flat out field. He can also flat out fly. He has 31 stolen bases- second best in the AL- at a 78% success rate. He is in the top ten for WPA at 2.19, so he been valuable in that regard as well. His LD% isn’t spectacular, so his BABIP might drop somewhat, so expect some second half regression, but his BABIP isn’t too far above his career average so he shouldn’t suffer that much. As long as he doesn’t forget to field, he will remain a contender in the race all the way to the end of the season.

FG rest of season projection: 283 PA, .303/.354/.467/.368

FG updated final season numbers: 646 PA, .313/.369/.497/.386

Robinson Cano – 2b- New York Yankees (4.4 WAR)

While Robinson Cano has been one of the best second baseman in all of baseball since his debut in 2005, he hasn’t received national recognition until his hot start this season, which is unusual considering he plays for the most recognized team in baseball. But I guess people will start to take notice when you hit .336/.389/.556/.401/152 and lead a team full of superstars to the best record in baseball. With a new approach at the plate, “RC’ has raised his BB% to 7.1%, which is above his career average, in an attempt to recognize and drive better pitches. The result has been an increase in stats across the board as he is getting on base more and slugging more as he is driving the ball with authority, rather than chasing pitches and simply taking a base hit to left field. Many members of the media are also praising his defense, which was once his biggest flaw. Although he may not quite be the Gold Glove defender many broadcasters believe he is, Cano has worked hard to become a solid defender. Through 759 innings, he has a 5.6 UZR and +16 DRS. When it comes to “clutch” value, RC has the best WPA of his career at 2.01, a positive clutch score, and has hit well in all leverage situations. RC is considered a second half hitter, but struggled coming into the All-Star break, due to a tender back and what appeared to be a general fatigue from playing in all but one game in the first half. RC should be good to go, but if fatigue creeps up on him, he could fade out of contention.

FG rest of season projection: 302 PA, .309/.352/.496/.366

FG updated final season numbers: 676 PA, .324/.372/.529/.389

Hitting his way to the MVP

Miguel Cabrera – 1b- Detroit Tigers (3.7 WAR)

Who am I to leave out a potential Triple Crown winner? Miguel Cabrera has been the best hitter in the league and could end up hitting himself into the award. He is hitting .346/.423/.651/.448/183. Miggy has been one of the best hitters in baseball for a while now, but this is an unusually great season even with his standards. But what makes him a candidate is his “clutch” value this season. Not only has he been the best hitter, period, but he’s raised his game in the most pressure filled situations more than anyone else. His 5.00 WPA leads all of baseball by a fair margin. His clutch score is also in top the three, at 1.30 and is well above the clutch score of any contenders for the MVP award. His WPA is already better than the league leader’s in 2009 and 2007, and it could be the best mark in the AL since David Ortiz and his 8.21 WPA in 2005. If he keeps hitting and hitting in the game’s biggest moments, he may just be your American League MVP.

FG rest of season projection: 319 PA, .318/.393/.572/416

FG updated final season numbers: 675 PA, .333/.409/.613/.436


Personally, I see RC and Justin Morneau fading. Crawford will stay in the race, but only because of his defense. That leaves the trophy race between Josh Hamilton and Miguel Cabrera. While traditional voters may see Miguel Cabrera as a potential Triple Crown winner, I don’t think he gets it. If he doesn’t, Hamilton will win. His traditional numbers stack up well, and SABR-heads love him just as much. The fact Texas will win the division helps his case as well. For me, Hamilton is the MVP. He can hit, hit in big situations, and play a little defense.

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3 Comments on “Handicapping the Awards – AL MVP Version”

  1. H-Man Says:

    Where the hell is Jose Bautista? Are you guys anti- Canadian or just ignorant of north of the boarder?
    If you weren’t blind, then you’d know that Blue Jay’s 29 year old outfielder is the Major league leader. Here are a complete list of his stats as of August 12, 2010:
    Ranks 1st in AL in HR (36) • Ranks 3rd in AL in RBI (88)
    • Ranks 5th in AL in R (77) • Ranks 2nd in AL in BB (68)
    • Ranks 3rd in AL in SLG (.600) • Ranks 4th in AL in OPS (.971)
    On another note, he leads the AL in outfield assits with 10.

    • Disco Says:

      No, not blind. Just blindly follow the stats.

      First off, this was post was made a month ago. Second, he still isn’t top 5 in the AL in WAR, among other things.

      I don’t look at RBI, R, OPS, assists personally because I don’t give them any merit.

    • Disco Says:

      And anti-Canadian doesn’t fit either since I Joey Votto was my NL MVP favorite.

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