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2012 midseason awards: AL MVP

Jul 6, 2012, 5:41 PM EDT

Josh Hamilton Getty Images

Josh Hamilton was far and away the AL’s best player for two months, but he’s definitely come back to the pack after hitting just .223 with four homers in June. He struck out 35 times last month, nearly matching his total of 39 times from April and May combined. That said, he still leads the AL in OPS by a significant margin:

1.032 – Josh Hamilton (CF Tex): .316/.386/.646, 26 HR, 74 RBI, 6 SB in 288 AB
.997 – David Ortiz (DH Bos): .302/.391/.607 22 HR, 55 RBI, 0 SB in 295 AB
.871 – Austin Jackson (CF Det): .332/.412/.559, 9 HR, 37 RBI, 7 SB in 238 AB
.960 – Robinson Cano (2B NYY): .316/.375/.585, 20 HR, 50 RBI, 1 SB in 316 AB
.958 – Mike Trout (CF LAA): .348/.403/.555, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 26 SB in 247 AB
.953 – Mark Trumbo (LF LAA): .306/.355/.597,  20 HR, 55 RBI, 4 SB in 278 AB
.949 – Miguel Cabrera (3B Det): .325/.386/.563, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 3 SB in 332 AB
.948 – Paul Konerko (1B CWS): .332/.408/.540, 14 HR, 42 RBI, 0 SB in 274 AB
.943 – Edwin Encarnacion (DH Tor): .295/.379/.564, 22 HR, 56 RBI, 8 SB in 298 AB
.924 – Josh Willingham (LF Min): .269/.380/.545, 18 HR, 59 RBI, 2 SB in 279 AB

That’s everyone in the league above .900. AL home run leader Jose Bautista is 11th at .897.

No catchers made the list, but Joe Mauer (.330/.418/.458 in 74 games) and A.J. Pierzynski (.287/.335/.524 in 70 games) are having outstanding seasons and may deserve down-ballot votes here.

Here’s Baseball-reference WAR’s AL top 10 to date:

5.0 – Brett Lawrie (3B Tor)
4.5 – Trout
4.3 – Chris Sale (LHP CWS)
4.3 – Justin Verlander (RHP Det)
4.0 – Cano
3.8 – Jake Peavy (RHP CWS)
3.5 – Matt Harrison (LHP Tex)
3.5 – Jackson
3.2 – Jason Kipnis (2B Cle)
3.2 – Hamilton

Obviously, rWAR is just crazy about Lawrie’s defense, giving him credit for 3.6 wins. That seems like a totally unrealistic number to me. It says Lawrie, in handling 249 chances at third base this year and making 11 errors, has been as valuable defensively as any American Leaguer has been offensively. The AL’s next most valuable defensive player is Brendan Ryan at 2.6 wins.

Now Fangraphs’ WAR:

4.7 – Trout
4.2 – Cano
4.0 – Jackson
3.8 – Hamilton
3.8 – Verlander
3.5 – Sale
3.2 – Adam Jones (CF Bal)
3.2 – Cabrera
3.1 – Josh Reddick (RF Oak)
3.1 – Alex Gordon (LF KC)

Fangraphs WAR is also fond of Lawrie’s defense, but that still only gets him to 2.8.  Given that he ranks 39th in the AL in OPS, that seems closer to the truth. Fangraphs really loves Gordon’s D, and he is a great left fielder. Still, he’s not much ahead of Lawrie offensively, and I can’t see him in the top 10 on an MVP ballot.

While the two WAR systems have their differences, both agree that Trout, Cano and Jackson have been among the AL’s four most valuable position players, with Hamilton not far behind.

And that sounds about right to me, but I’d still have a tough time giving the award to someone who has played in only three-quarters of his team’s games. Trout and Jackson are both at 61 games played right now. Hamilton has played in 76, while Cano has played in 81. I think that gets Cano the nod here. If it were season’s end and Trout had played in 140 games to Cano’s 160, I’d probably go with him. At this point, though, those 20 extra games have a lot of value.

As for Hamilton, he’s played just as much left field as center field this year, and the numbers say his defense has fallen off. He’s also playing in a friendlier park for hitters than the other candidates, though he’s hitting better on the road than at home. Those two factors put him third on my ballot.

My ballot
1. Cano
2. Trout
3. Hamilton
4. Jackson
5. Verlander
6. Ortiz
7. Mauer
8. Cabrera
9. Pierzynski
10. Jones

I feel pretty good about five through eight. The last two spots are very debatable. Pierzynski might not even be the most valuable White Sox player to date: Sale, Konerko and even Alex Rios all have cases. Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus were right there, too; I like Andrus’ defense more than either WAR does. And then there are all three Blue Jays: Bautista, Encarnacion and Lawrie. I opted for Jones over Beltre in the end, though with his wrist problems, I’m thinking his production will taper off.

  1. proudlycanadian - Jul 6, 2012 at 5:58 PM

    It looks like WAR is at war with itself. In any statistical compendium such as WAR, the weightings used to aggregate the data are crucial. In the end, Matthew made a subjective decision about which WAR was probably most accurate. I suspect that MPV voters do not place a high emphasis on WAR, instead relying on their own subjective decision when they make their year end MVP votes.

    As far as Lawrie is concerned, he sure covers a lot of ground. His range and quickness are phenomenal.

  2. butchhuskey - Jul 6, 2012 at 6:00 PM

    Surprised Bautista isn’t up there in WAR

    • proudlycanadian - Jul 6, 2012 at 6:17 PM

      He does lead baseball in outfield assists. I wonder if the shift that the Jays use against left handed power hitters hurts his “stats” as Lawrie plays in short right field against those hitters.

  3. Ben - Jul 6, 2012 at 6:05 PM

    I’d just average bWAR and fWAR and declare Trout the winner. But that’s just me.

  4. paperlions - Jul 6, 2012 at 6:10 PM

    Cano is already getting credit for that “value” of having played an extra 20 games, WAR isn’t a rate stat. In other words, Trout has provided MORE value than Cano while playing only 75% of the games and Trout would have a WAR of 6.3 if he had played the same number of games.

    Trout has been more valuable than any other AL player this year….even though he missed 20 games because the Angels had their heads up their asses.

    • mrfloydpink - Jul 6, 2012 at 8:21 PM

      I applaud this comment (plus your excellent comments on the Luke Scott article), except for one thing. Trout was sick during spring training–had the flu lost 15 pounds, etc. So the fact that Trout was not on the opening day roster was not really a product of the Angels having their heads up their asses, and choosing to start Vernon “sunk cost” Wells. It was because they wanted to get him some extra spring training to regain his strength.

      • paperlions - Jul 6, 2012 at 8:29 PM

        My bad, must have had my head up my ass.

      • Matthew Pouliot - Jul 6, 2012 at 8:47 PM

        All indications going into spring training was that Trout was Triple-A bound. Maybe he could have changed their minds if he hadn’t been sick, but the plan was for a Wells-Bourjos-Hunter outfield.

      • mrfloydpink - Jul 6, 2012 at 10:58 PM

        Actually, all indications were that the Angels were trying to keep up appearances so as to avoid bruising egos and so as to maximize whatever trade value an Abreu or a Trumbo might have had. If Trout didn’t get sick, the general understanding here in SoCal was that they weren’t actually going to send him to AAA. At very least, he was in AAA longer than he would have been because of his illness.

  5. kwf1224 - Jul 6, 2012 at 6:35 PM

    I totally agree.

  6. proudlycanadian - Jul 6, 2012 at 6:48 PM

    There is still half a season to go. A lot will change in the second half.

  7. Kevin Gillman - Jul 6, 2012 at 6:55 PM

    I don’t care what WAR says, or BIT, or EIG, right now, and this is what we are talking about here, Jason Kipnis should be in top 10 of voting for MVP. Where would the Indians be at without him? Not contending for a playoff spot, that’s for damn sure. That right there is the stat that should measure how to vote for MVP.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Jul 6, 2012 at 7:01 PM

      His OPS certainly undersells Kipnis, given that he’s been outstanding with RISP and he’s contributing on the basepaths as well. That said, I still gave more thought to putting Asdrubal on the ballot.

      • Kevin Gillman - Jul 6, 2012 at 7:23 PM

        You can’t go wrong with either player, but what puts Jason on top of Asdrubal IMO is defense. Don’t get me wrong, Cabrera has been great there too, but Jason just has 3 errors, his fielding percentage is in the top 3 in AL, and he is hitting 3rd in the order. And Jason is only going to get better. Where will either player be at by the end of the season? they are both fun to watch.

  8. SteelyMcBeam6 - Jul 6, 2012 at 7:00 PM

    I’d have to go with trout. .348/.403/.555, 10 HR, 38 RBI, 26 SB…..getting on base 40% of the time is absolutely insane. I have long since thought that OBP is the most important offensive stat. A guy can bat .300/.315 but the guy that bats .270 but has a .375 OBP is more valuable because he gets on base more prolonging innings and improving scoring chances. Especially a guy like trout who can walk and turn that into a double by stealing second.

    • georgia - Jul 6, 2012 at 8:26 PM

      Or a triple by stealing third right afterward.

  9. craggt - Jul 7, 2012 at 8:09 AM

    He’s not the first half MVP but Austin Jackson’s all star snub is looking more and more ridiculous. Last night he extended his hitting streak to 13 games. If he continues to hit like this he might actually win a gold glove!

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