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Pouliot’s midseason award picks: AL MVP

Jul 3, 2013, 6:26 PM EST

Miguel Cabrera Getty Images

The reigning MVP has some heavy-hitting competition this year. Let’s see if he can hold them off.

AL OPS leaders:

1.136 – Miguel Cabrera: .368/.458/.678, 26 HR, 85 RBI, 2 SB in 323 AB
1.126 – Chris Davis: .329/.405/.721, 31 HR, 80 RBI, 0 SB in 301 AB
1.102 – David Ortiz: .320/.406/.607, 16 HR, 57 RBI, 2 SB in 244 AB
.927 – Mike Trout: .311/.388/.539, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 20 SB in 334 AB
.920 – Evan Longoria: .301/.371/.549, 17 HR, 47 RBI, 0 SB in 306 AB
.920 – Josh Donaldson: .318/.386/.534, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 2 SB in 305 AB
.913 – Jason Kipnis: .299/.385/.529, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 19 SB in 278 AB
.908 – Robinson Cano: .295/.372/.537, 20 HR, 54 RBI, 5 SB in 315 AB
.887 – Edwin Encarnacion: .270/.350/.537, 23 HR, 66 RBI, 3 SB in 315 AB
.878 – Joe Mauer: .318/.402/.475, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 0 SB in 305 AB

Other notables:

.846 – Dustin Pedroia: .321/.404/.441, 5 HR, 47 RBI, 12 SB in 324 AB
.841 – Howie Kendrick: .323/.367/.475, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 6 SB in 316 AB
.839 – Manny Machado: .321/.352/.488, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 6 SB in 361 AB

Here are the WAR top 10s:

Baseball-reference

5.2 – Manny Machado
4.9 – Miguel Cabrera
4.3 – Chris Sale
4.1 – Chris Davis
4.1 – Dustin Pedroia
4.0 – Clay Buchholz
3.8 – Robinson Cano
3.8 – Josh Donaldson
3.7 – Hisashi Iwakuma
3.7 – Jason Kipnis

Fangraphs

5.4 – Miguel Cabrera
4.6 – Mike Trout
4.6 – Chris Davis
4.5 – Evan Longoria
4.2 – Manny Machado
3.9 – Josh Donaldson
3.5 – Jose Bautista
3.5 – Joe Mauer
3.4 – Derek Holland
3.4 – Max Scherzer
3.4 – Felix Hernandez

Now, I’m all for considering pitchers for MVP awards, but three months into this year, I don’t think any pitcher besides maybe Scherzer is in the mix for even a down ballot vote. B-ref WAR may disagree, but I don’t believe any AL starters have been as valuable as Adam Wainwright and Matt Harvey in the NL.

If the BBWAA held the vote today, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Cabrera would win in a landslide, with Davis finishing second. And that’s justifiable. Cabrera ranks first in the AL in average, second in homers and first in RBI. Davis is second in average, first in homers and second in RBI. They’re one-two in OPS as well, and it’s close there. However, Cabrera’s extra 53 points of OBP are worth a lot more than Davis’s 48 points of slugging.

Defense brings the two only a bit closer together; I think Davis has a bit more value as a decent first baseman than Cabrera does as a poor third baseman. But it’s not a big margin. Cabrera’s ballpark is also a bit tougher than Davis’s, so I think it’s pretty clear that Cabrera comes out ahead of Davis.

That leaves Trout and Machado as the competition. There are two big differences in the Trout vs. Cabrera battle this year. First, the offensive gap is much larger. Last year, Cabrera edged Trout by a mere 36 points of OPS (.999 to .963). This year, it’s a 200-point margin. The other difference is that Trout’s defensive numbers are way down this year. B-ref rates him as below average, while Fangraphs has him right around average. My eyes tell me that Trout truly did struggle defensively in April, but that he’s been much better of late. Regardless, his defense and baserunning aren’t close to making up the offensive gap this year.

That leaves Machado, whose case is built on his remarkable defensive numbers. Fangraphs says he’s been worth a win and a half, making him baseball’s most valuable defensive player so far. B-ref has him at 2 1/2 wins, more than a win ahead of anyone else in the AL.

I’m pretty skeptical of B-ref’s accounting there. Machado is an excellent third baseman. Actually, he’s an excellent shortstop playing a position for which he’s overqualified. But 2 1/2 wins seems excessive. I have a hard time believing that a player who gets three balls hit his way per game can be worth 25 extra runs in half of a season. Fangraphs’ math makes him the AL’s fifth most valuable player, which sounds about right to me. For all of those wonderful doubles, he ranks only 16th in the AL in OPS and 26th in OBP. He’s third in outs made.

After those four, it’s mostly more third basemen and second basemen vying for spots. It shows how down of a year it’s been for AL outfielders; Trout is the only one in the top 10 in OPS.

AL MVP picks

1. Cabrera
2. Davis
3. Trout
4. Machado
5. Pedroia
6. Longoria
7. Donaldson
8. Kipnis
9. Cano
10. Ortiz

  1. mvpolamalu - Jul 3, 2013 at 6:58 PM

    I’m confused, why does Sale keep popping up at the top of all these things? I mean he’s good, but what puts him above Harvey, Wainwright, and Scherzer in these categories

  2. uyf1950 - Jul 3, 2013 at 7:00 PM

    Sorry and this isn’t because I’m a Yankee fan but I can’t see David Ortiz being in the conversation for MVP. I realize the DH is part of the American League but I can’t see a one dimensional player being in the same conversation with guys that play and contribute both on offense and defense. That’s just my opinion.

    • nbjays - Jul 4, 2013 at 8:25 AM

      I hear you, Uyf. It must be because Boston is in first and many people think only those on ‘winning” teams should have a shot at MVP… or some such bullshit.

      A DH shouldn’t be in the conversation unless he is single-handedly carrying his team to the playoffs, and Ortiz is not.

  3. Stiller43 - Jul 3, 2013 at 7:14 PM

    Mcpolamalu,

    Well for one thing, Wainright and Harvey are in the NL…So they probably wont factor much into the AL discussions.

  4. philliesblow - Jul 3, 2013 at 7:46 PM

    If the Orioles make the play offs that would help Davis tremendously. I was a staunch Cabrera supporter last year partly based on his performance down the stretch while Trout faded a bit, along with the Tigers making the play offs while the Angels didn’t. As big a Tiger fan as I am, I will admit that the Orioles play in a much tougher division so if Davis can lead them to a play off birth, I’d have to be consistent and lean toward him.

    • deweyks - Jul 3, 2013 at 8:28 PM

      I agree, phil…I’m a Tigers fan but as things stand today, I vote for Davis, too.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jul 3, 2013 at 8:53 PM

      Trout hit .289/.400/.500 in Sept/Oct of last year. That’s 51% better than the league average (sOPS of 151). Don’t believe the hype that he “faded” last year. Look up the numbers yourself.

      • aidanscawley - Jul 3, 2013 at 10:07 PM

        If you look up the numbers yourself, you’ll see it’s a regression. I agree there may have been media overreaction to it, but Cabrera found a way to create even more runs down the stretch.

    • theinconvienenttruth - Jul 3, 2013 at 9:00 PM

      I’m an O’s fan and I disagree. I think it should be Cabrera. Just think if Cabrera wasn’t walked as much, his numbers would be ridiculous. Davis doesn’t get walked not nearly as much. But then again, I could see Davis winning it because his defense has improved and probably a gold glove candidate, unlike Cabrera.

    • polonelmeagrejr - Jul 4, 2013 at 7:29 AM

      berth? Bertha? DOn’t you come around here. ANymore.

  5. sportsnut101 - Jul 4, 2013 at 12:12 AM

    Davis by a hair No1 knew who he was last yr now he’s leading with 31hr Can u say test the man every week

    But if Cabrera gets triple crown again. Easily him

  6. taosravenfan - Jul 4, 2013 at 12:32 AM

    That manny machado is even in the discussion in his first full season is amazing. He should be runaway rookie of the year but got called up in July last year making pig him in ineligible which I think is a damned shame amped unfair.

    People compared him to arid coming out of his and I thought it was foolish. After watching this kid play, perhaps I was the fool. He is going to beep very good for a very long time barring injury or something stupid

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