MVP Picks – AL

by JohnBowen

Same thing as before. Except now with the American League.

10) Shin-Soo Choo, RF, Cleveland Indians

Shin-Soo Choo is the 2010 winner of the Ben Zobrist Award for Excellence in WAR. This is a made-up award given to a good player who somehow grades out as one of the best in baseball and makes you ask “whaaaaa?” Choo’s WAR did rank second in all of baseball, due in large part to a questionably high +15 fielding runs, but he was undeniably great this past year. Choo hit .300 with a .400 OBP (good for fourth in the AL), and went 20-20 for the second consecutive year. His 148 OPS+ was good for fifth in the American League; and although the unusually high fielding value total for him is a head-scratcher, he did lead the American league in outfield assists with 14.

9) Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox

At the age of 34, longtime White Sox Paul Konerko had his best career season for Ozzie Guillen’s crew in Chicago. His .312/.393/.584 line was good for 8th/6th/4th in the American League and translated to a 158 OPS+, good for fourth in the league. Only Jose Bautista hit more home runs than the White Sox first baseman’s 39. Now the question is whether or not the slugger can swing a big deal this off-season, coming off a career season at his age.

8 ) Adrian Beltre, 3B, Boston Red Sox

With basically the entire Red Sox team missing time due to injury, hired gun Adrian Beltre was the one constant force that kept his team in the hunt long after they had any reasonable expectation to be there. Coming off a less-than-stellar tenure in Seattle, Beltre was brought in to solidify the Red Sox defense. Theo and Terry got a bonus; Beltre led the league in doubles, tacked on 28 dingers and 100 RBI’s while hitting .321/.365/.553 and playing his usual great defense over at the hot corner.

7) Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners

Felix Hernandez was actually left off the all-star team in 2010, possibly due to his W-L record. A middle reliever with 36.2 innings at the ASB made it ahead of him. What a joke. King Felix won out in the end, compiling league-leading totals in ERA and innings pitched while placing second in WHIP. His efforts were rewarded with his first Cy Young Award in a year that has already gone down as Year of the Pitcher II.

6) Evan Longoria, 3B, Tampa Bay Rays

Impressive as Adrian Beltre’s season was, he wasn’t even the best third baseman in his own division. Evan Longoria led the Rays offense all season long clubbing 22 home runs, 46 doubles, and playing gold glove defense at the hot corner. And if you were curious who the won guy to out-WAR Choo was…well, he stars in a stupid baseball cap commercial.

5) Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins

If I was in charge of these things, Joe Mauer would already have three of these things. The reigning MVP ended up third in batting average and on-base percentage while playing the most important position on the diamond. The crazy part? It was somewhat of an off-year for him.

4) Jose Bautista, RF, Toronto Blue Jays

In his first six seasons in the league, Jose Bautista averaged 96 games at a 91 OPS+ and just 17 HR per 162 games. In 2010, he was a regular and proved exceptional to his club, clubbing 54 homeruns to go along with a .617 slugging percentage. Even though he was pitched around to the tune of 100 walks, he still managed to amass more total bases than any other American League player accumulate the third highest RBI total in the game while hitting 16 more home runs than the next highest player.

3) Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees

Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Mark Teixeira made a combined 73 million dollars last year or basically the entire Tampa Bay payroll. But with them under-performing, it was the young Robinson Cano who came through in a big way for the eventual Wild Card Yankees. Cano busted out of the gate, hitting .400 with 8 home runs in the first month. He cooled down somewhat, but still provided his team with a .319/.381/.534 line while playing gold glove defense at second base.

2) Josh Hamilton, LF/CF, Texas Rangers

1) Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers

I’m fairly sure that Hamilton will win the award. And if he does, wonderful – he’s a truly remarkable story, an incredible baseball player, and he had a great season.

I’ve gone back and forth on this one, and I’m settling on Cabrera. But let’s look at both sides.

Hamilton had a much higher batting average at .359 to .328. He also out-slugged the Detroit first baseman .633 to .621. His team actually made the playoffs, which is worth a small leg-up. And he plays a tougher position.

The position thing kind of goes away pretty quickly though. While Hamilton’s 2010 season will be the starting center fielder when I get around to writing my Texas Rangers team, he only played 40 games there, compared to 92 in left and 13 at DH. For Cabrera, it was 148 at 1B and 2 at DH. Let’s be honest – neither guy is winning any awards with his glove and it’s not like there’s a sparsity of offensive talent at either position. Defensively, Hamilton has a small leg-up, but it’s not something that really put him in the running in the first place, unlike Mauer or Cano.

In terms of rate statistics, Cabrera beat Hamilton in OBP, albeit not by much (.420 to  .411). He also had a higher OPS+ than Hamilton at 179 to 175, owing mainly to the fact that anyone can have at least kind of a good season at the Rangers Ballpark  of Ameriquest in Arlington, Texas. Hamilton was very good on the road – .327/.382/.512 but his 1.188 OPS at home is the reason he’s in a close race for AL MVP. Cabrera was easily the more consistent performer, with a OPS’s above 1.000 both home and away.

There’s also the matter of games played. Hamilton missed virtually all of September with bruised ribs; Cabrera was shut down in the last week or so of the year, but ended up playing 17 more games than Hamilton. Not a huge margin, but if you have two players who grade out roughly even, the fact that one player performed at that rate for 13% more of his team’s games should definitely translate into a small edge.

Finally, I looked at who these two gentlemen have hitting around them. Hamilton was usually backed up by the likes of Vladimir Guerrero (silver slugger at DH) and Nelson Cruz (OPS+ of 150). The generally reliable Michael Young hit right in front of him most of the time. Cabrera didn’t move from the clean-up spot all year, but the positions around him changed out people all year long. I mean, Brennan Boesch – the man who usually hit fifth – had an alright rookie year, but he’s not as intimidating as his 6′4 frame would suggest. Brandon Inge continued to start games for Leyland in the middle of the order too, despite the fact that he had a .397 slugging percentage last year. Magglio Ordonez was having an alright year, but was injured for half of it. Cabrera had little support from his comrades (resulting in a league-leading 32 intentional walks) but still managed to lead all of Major League Baseball in RBI’s. That’s incredibly impressive and, in the end, was the tipping point in my ruling in Cabrera’s favor.

…but I’ll probably just change my mind tomorrow.

Honorable Mentions: Crawford, Lester, Buchholz, V. Martinez, Weaver, Sabathia, Swisher, Price,

36 Responses to “MVP Picks – AL”

  1. Bob Says:

    John good list. But like you I think Hamilton will win it. My pick for 2011 is Longoria.

  2. Raul Says:

    I agree with your Top 3, except that Hamilton will win, Cabrera will finish 2nd, and Cano 3rd.

    My vote would go to Cabrera.
    The rest?

    4th – Evan Longoria
    5th – Joe Mauer
    6th – Felix Hernandez
    7th – Adrian Beltre
    8th – Paul Konerko
    9th – Shin-Soo Choo
    10th – Jose Bautista

    Also, I feel a little bad for Jon Lester and Adam Wainwright. I don’t think they’ll ever win a Cy Young Award during their careers, but they’ll be perennial contenders. Maybe it’s bad timing.

  3. Bob Says:

    The fact that Lester is a cancer survivor may give him a sentimental edge in the eyes of the voters. Not saying it should, bit it might. Although, barring an injury, Felix could win the next 5.

  4. Bob Says:

    Jim Leyritz was acquited of DUI manslaughter. However he was convicted of a DUI. That is just a misdemeanor. Not sure I understand how you can be convicted of one without the other. But then again, I am not a lawyer.

  5. Hartvig Says:

    Bob- I don’t know if it’s a factor but I seem to recall the other driver was intoxicated as well. But yeah, our legal system is screwed up in a lot of ways. I don’t think he deserved 20 years hard time but certainly some time in prison would seem to be in order since alcohol was involved.

  6. Hartvig Says:

    And John, I’ve no major quibbles with you list. In fact, I’m happy to see Cabrera at the top, even if he won’t really end up winning it in all probability.

    And it just stuck me that the 3 best 3rd basemen in the AL East and, if Chipper Jones had been healthy the 3 best in the NL could be argued to be in the NL East, although Rolen was better this year and Ramirez is a better hitter than he showed this year normally.

  7. Chuck Says:

    Hamilton

    Cabrera

    Cano

    Longoria

    Konerko

  8. brautigan Says:

    The Oregon law is clear that you can be convicted of DUI with a blood alcohol content under .08 if in the opinion of the citing officer a person operated the vehicle in an impaired manner (ie., weaving, going to slow, speeding). You can be given a DUI if you have a .04 and you get rear ended (this happened to a client). So what I am thinking, Leyritz was impaired (hence the citation), but judged not to the point his behavior was considered felony reckless endangerment. That’s my best guess.

  9. Chuck Says:

    Braut…Dustin Ackley was named AFL MVP.

  10. Raul Says:

    I don’t think Seattle will have him start next year but he probably could.

  11. Bob Says:

    From what I gather half of our posters could start for Seattle.

  12. Raul Says:

    lol, maybe, Bob.

  13. Chuck Says:

    Shaun could be the bat boy.

  14. Cameron Says:

    How bad’s the pitching look? I’m like a shorter, fatter, younger Jamie Moyer. <<

  15. Hartvig Says:

    Not me. I blew a rotator cuff 30 odd years ago playing rugby and never had it fixed. Any repetitive motion with my right arm and I can’t use it for about 3 or 4 days.

  16. Bob Says:

    From Bill Chuck. After turning 37, the current age of Derek Jeter, Pete Rose played 1216 more games.

  17. Hartvig Says:

    Unfortunately for about 400 of those games he hit like a middle infielder glove man… while playing first base. I don’t think Yankee fans would be happy putting a mediocre team on the field to get Jeter more at bats.

  18. brautigan Says:

    There is no reason Ackley should start the season in Tacoma. Move Figgins back to 3rd and give the job at second to Ackley. He’s ready, so Seattle might as well give him some on the job training.

  19. Chuck Says:

    Didn’t the Mariners non-tender Jose Lopez?

    I agree, with their offense being what it is, Ackley’s .280 in Seattle will be more meaningful than his .310 in Tacoma.

    The jury is still out on whether he’ll stay at second or move back to the OF, but he’s not as bad at second as has been portrayed. I mean, look at the improvement made by Robinson Cano, sometimes it takes guys awhile to “get it”, and as long as Seattle is patient with him, there’s no reason to believe he won’t eventually.

    And if he ends up being the next Alfonso Soriano, then LF it is.

  20. brautigan Says:

    Chuck: I looked up his numbers at 2B and I was surprised they weren’t all that bad. He already is better than Skip Schumaker with his transition from the OF to second.

    And yes, Jose Lopez was non-tendered and is a free agent.

  21. Chuck Says:

    I got something today which I think is really cool.

    Going thru her parents’ stuff, my wife came across a yellowed clipping from the San Juan newspaper dated January 4th, 1973.

    Five days after Roberto Clemente’s plane went down.

    There were two articles, (I don’t read Spanish, my wife translated), one saying they were still hopeful of a rescue but while at the same time planning an island wide memorial, and the other from the Governor of Puerto Rico asking President Nixon (?) for help from the US Navy in finding Clemente’s plane.

  22. Raul Says:

    I wish I was alive to see Roberto Clemente play.

  23. Cameron Says:

    Flipping through mlbtraderumors.com…

    “Mets hire Terry Collins as manager”

    …Okay.

    “Athletics Break Off Talks with Iwakuma”

    …Uh… Really?

    “Five Teams Interested in Willy Mo Pena.”

    *spits out soda* What the hell!? FIVE!? I can’t believe five people remember he exists.

  24. Raul Says:

    Pena’s always had power and the tools to be a major leaguer. I just don’t think he has the discipline to work at everything else. I look at him and see Nelson Cruz.

    And Cruz could one day flame out but I see similarities there.

  25. Chuck Says:

    Wily Mo Pena? Who’s next, Elijah Dukes?

    You forgot one, Cam,

    “Diamondbacks interested in JJ Putz”

    That should read;

    “Diamondbacks interested in a Putz.”

  26. Raul Says:

    Michael Vick still has a job in the NFL.
    Do you know how much of a character problem you must be for a professional sports team to stay away from you? Elijah Dukes might be clinically insane.

  27. Chuck Says:

    A buddy of mine worked for the Rays’ when Dukes’ was there and would always defend him.

    He had a weed problem.

    He was from the same neighborhood as Gooden and Sheffield.

    He has a bunch of kids with a bunch of women.

    His ex-wife is a psycho, she actually attacked and stabbed him.

    He admitted to statutory rape with a 15 year old relative.

    I agree 100%.

    He has so much talent, yet no one with touch him.

    Looney Tunes…

  28. Lefty33 Says:

    My apologies if this has been mentioned, but I remember that a few on this site this year thought that Jonathan Albaladejo was the Yankees middle/late inning relief answer.

    Well in case you missed it the Yankees released him so that he could play for the Yomiuri Giants.

    Another example of how people get brainwashed into thinking that “greatness” at the AAA level will translate into something at the next level.

  29. Chuck Says:

    Bryce Harper, clean-up on aisle four

  30. Cameron Says:

    Chuck, he needs to be great at the minors to apply, from what I’ve seen, he’s just good.

  31. Raul Says:

    Speaking of Clemente above,

    On this date in 1954, the Pirates drafted Clemente, taking him out of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ organization. The Dodgers were apparently trying to hide him down in AAA.

    The Pirates’ General Manager that year? Branch Rickey.

  32. Raul Says:

    Happy Birthday Greg Luzinski.

    From 1975-1978, Luzinski hit .295/.386/.525 and finished in the Top 10 in MVP voting all 4 years; twice finishing 2nd.

    According to his Wikipedia page, he opened up a restaurant (Bull’s Barbecue) in the Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park and was elected to the National Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame…which leads me to believe you can make a Hall of Fame for just about anything.

  33. Raul Says:

    My favorite thing about the Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame?
    They elected Mike Ditka in 2001.

    2001? Seriously?
    Ron Jaworski and Frank Tanana get in before Mike Ditka?

    At least Mark Fidrych got in last year. They didn’t hold him up to the 40-year waiting period like Johnny Podres.

  34. Bob Says:

    My favorite thing about the Polish-American Sports Hall of Fame? I did not know there was until your post.

  35. Raul Says:

    LOL, me neither Bob…until just now.

  36. Bob Says:

    Learn something new every day. And tomorrow is the deadline for arbitration.

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