Good afternoon, bloggers and bloggettes! Now that the Storm of the Century has done its damage, hopefully we can all settle back into our routines and focus on sports again! Today, I chose to write about the American League MVP race- and how it has one clear cut favorite. If you couldn’t tell by the title, it is Adrian Gonzalez from the Boston Red Sox.
This is a response to my friend and fellow blogger, Max Mason, who disagrees with my stance on the MVP award. According to Max, Gonzalez isn’t even the most valuable player on his own team! Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury both sport higher WARs (Wins-Above-Replacement player). His 2011 MVP is Toronto’s Jose Bautista. If you want to read his work, click on the following link: http://tossintherossin.blogspot.com/2011/08/al-mvp-ballot.html
Before we begin, let us meet our candidates, so as not to bias anybody in my favor prior to reading. Below I am going to include six candidates and their respective projected end of season statistics. This way we can compare them to past seasons. For instance, Justin Verlander only has 20 wins so far, but he still has a few scheduled starts remaining. ESPN.com provides us with player projections on what their stat line will likely look like at the end of the season, based on past performance.
Adrian Gonzalez (BOS)- 160 games, 110 runs, 224 hits, 29 homers, 48 doubles, 125 RBI, .345 BA, .406 OBP
Dustin Pedroia (BOS)- 158 games, 192 hits, 102 runs, 21 homers, 39 doubles, 86 RBI, .308 BA, .398 OBP
Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS)- 157 games, 202 hits, 116 runs, 28 homers, 41 doubles, 100 RBI, .312 BA, .367 OBP (also 44 steals)
Curtis Granderson (NYY)-160 games, 166 hits, 150 runs, 47 homers, 25 doubles, 131 RBI, .274 BA, .375 OBP (aslo 29 steals and 12 triples)
Jose Bautista (TOR)- 146 games, 158 hits, 114 runs, 46 homers, 27 doubles, 103 RBI, .312 BA, .452 OBP
Justin Verlander (DET)- 35 starts, 24 wins, 6 losses, 5 complete games, 260 innings, 264 strikeouts, 0.90 WHIP, .190 Opponents BA
So whose stat line is most deserving of the prestigious award? Hard telling right now. Statistics paint a big picture, but should never be the end-all reasoning for a voter. Gonzalez boasts the greatest batting average of the group and is easily tops in hits and doubles. But do you prefer Granderson’s ridiculous power numbers, or gawk at the times he crossed the plate? Or Jose Bautista’s incredible on base percentage? How about Verlander, who put up some very gaudy numbers on the mound?
Even sabermetrics don’t tell the whole story. Baustista tops the Majors in WAR with an 8.0, while Gonzalez has a 6.0 and Granderson has a 5.4. Does that mean Granderson, who is putting up stud production numbers is by far the worst candidate? Can Pedroia, Ellbsury, and Gonzalez all cannibalize themselves because they each have similar WAR’s? That doesn’t make sense. Also, Pedroia may have a higher WAR because he plays a position- second base- that is very thin. That doesn’t make him any more valuable than Gonzo; it just makes him more valuable than a AAA second base prospect.
Gonzalez had a slow beginning to April, but in his past seven games he is batting .400 with half of his hits being homers. Let’s say that Gonzalez plays well for the next 25 games or so, and ends up with the following stat line.
.350 BA, 230 hits,115 runs, 30 homers, 50 doubles, 130 RBI, .410 OBP
Not unrealistic, right? Obviously Gonzalez would have to have to perform at AL Player of the Month level for September, but he could definitely do it. If he does this, it puts him in some elite company. Check out the four best seasons from Red Sox players EVER (not named Ted Williams):
’38 Jimmie Foxx: 149 games, .349 BA, 50 HR, 175 RBI, 30 doubles, 197 hits, .462 OBP
’67 Carl Yastremski: 161 games, .326 BA, 44 HR, 121 RBI, 31 doubles, 189 hits, .418 OBP
’78 Jim Rice: 163 games, .315 BA, 46 HR, 129 RBI, 25 doubles, 213 hits, .370 OBP
’88 Wade Boggs: 155 games, .366 BA, 58 RBI, 5 HR, 45 doubles, 214 hits, .476 OBP
’03 Manny Ramirez: 154 games, .325 BA, 37 HR, 104 RBI, 36 doubles, 185 hits, .427 OBP
’05 David Ortiz: 159 games, .300 BA, 47 HR, 148 RBI, 40 doubles, 180 hits, .397 OBP
Gonzalez currently stacks up favorably with all of these Hall of Fame years. In fact, his batting average, RBI total, doubles and hits both out-do Carl Yastremski’s Triple Crown winning ’67 season! It is worth mentioning that of Gonzalez’ current 103 RBI, he has only knocked himself in 23 times. Of Bautista’s 83 RBI, 37 have been himself!
We haven’t even accounted for half of baseball- defense. It’s fair to say that Bautista is an average fielder, whereas Gonzalez is a two time Gold Glove winner, and could possibly earn a third in ’11. Gonzo has an incredible .997 fielding percentage.
Lest us not forget the intangibles. Gonzalez rotted away in the notorious hitter’s graveyard, fondly known as Petco Park, until experiencing a career altering trade into a hitter’s sanctuary and instantly clicking with his fan base. He outplayed his co-signee, Carl Crawford. He was voted one of the most likable guys to talk to on the base paths by his peers. His coaches do nothing but rave about his work ethic, which as far as I can tell is contagious. We have seen Terry Francona shuffle players around in the lineup, but the stable is clearly Gonzalez, who comfortably rests at the #3 spot. Continuity and chemistry cannot be ignored in the case for Gonzalez as MVP.
Let’s take a step back from the silly numbers and saber metric tools. In a game of sandlot baseball, who do the team captains pick first? The guys with the highest WAR? Or do they pick up the guy who gets the most hits. It is important to remember baseball’s foundation as a sport.The pitcher tries to throw the ball in a manner in which the batter will not be able to hit. The hitter then tries to hit the ball. Nobody hits the ball better than Adrian Gonzalez.
If I had an MVP ballot, and I had to award my top five, here would be my selections and brief description of why.
5: Dustin Pedroia: The statistics point towards an MVP quality year, but Pedroia lacks the MVP hype and credentials to seriously be in consideration for the award.
4: Jose Bautista: Look, I am not hating on Joey Bats, but how valuable can you be to a team that lost more games than they won? The Blue Jays suck with him and, quite frankly, would suck without him.
3: Justin Verlander: Tiger fans are constantly on no-hit alert when Verlander takes the mound. He has had clearly the best stuff in the majors this year and is as close to a shoe in for the Cy Young as we have seen in years.
2: Curtis Granderson: The Yankees are contenders again, due in large part to Granderson and his eye opening numbers. His .274 batting average is a concern, but his combination of raw power and blazing speed (29 steals and 12 triples) make him the 2011 MVP runner up.
1: Adrian Gonzalez: If I haven’t convinced you yet, I never will. Gonzo is your 2011 AL MVP.