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Pouliot’s midseason award picks: AL MVP

Jul 3, 2013, 6:26 PM EDT

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

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