With seven of the eight playoff spots locked up (only the AL West being somewhat up for grabs still), much of the focus of fans for the remaining days of the regular sched will be around who will win the individual awards. Nowhere more than around here, where Jose Bautista’s excellent season puts him dabsmack in the middle of talk about the AL MVP award. Prognosticating about whether he may become only the second Toronto player to win it beats pondering about whether the team will actually make it back to .500 and only lose , say 4 games more than last season despite our being told repeatedly that this is a much better squad than last year’s.
For much of the season, it was assumed that it would end up being a three-man race between Bautista, Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez and the pinstripers Curtis Granderson. Recently, detroit pitcher Justin Verlander’s name has entered the fray, sparking predictable controversy.
Joey Bats himself weighed in on it earlier this week. He told the Toronto Star “they (pitchers) have the Cy Young and it’s kind of the same thing.” Granderson on the other hand says pitchers should be included but “until people start(ed) talking about it, that’s the only time it crosses my mind.”
Well, you know I admire Bautista both on and off the field, but on this one he’s wrong. Pitchers can be the most valuable player. The original rules state so, and add “there is no clear-cut definition of what most valuable is.” Pitchers have won the award often, although not since 1992 in the AL. That said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Verlander should win.
Though many voters tend to interpret the award as one for the best player on a division winner, I look at it differently. To me, “most valuable” means just that. Thus, the way to determine it is to think in negatives– which player’s absence from his team would have most harmed that team’s performance through the year. And thinking along those lines pretty much negates the chances of any Yankee or Red Sox player winning– they have great players, sure, but they have a ton of them! Either team could roll along and make the playoffs even missing any given player. Sure, Granderson has been great , beyond expectations, for New York, but they have two other guys over 100 RBI already. Take him out of the equation and the Yanks would still score runs by the bushel with Teixeira and Cano, not to mention a rejuvenated Derek jeter and under-rated Nick Swisher in their lineup. So too the Red Sox; Gonzo has lived upto their expectations but he’s on such a power-laden lineup that it could be argued his 20-something homers and 103 RBI are a bit of a disappointment. Even Sox nation types are now suggesting Jacoby Ellsbury or even Big Papi, David Ortiz might be the real team MVP. Clearly, take one of those big bats out and you’d still have a playoff bound team.
To me, this leaves the race down to a four-way: Bautista, Verlander, Chicago’s Paul konerko and Texas’ Michael Young.
The case for Verlander is a strong one. Not only dominating the league in pitching stats (here’s a trivia question: who was the last AL pitcher to win more than 22?) , but anchoring a shaky rotation, giving an over-worked bullpen a day off more often than not, and having his team go 23-8 in games he starts, compared to 58-54 at other times. A difference of a tidy .225 points in the winning percentage. Put another way, without Verlander, the 31 games would have likely been started by a much inferior pitcher and all other things being equal, the Tigers would have won 16 of them. Thus they gain 7 wins because of JV, and without that, their lead is no more than two games. The complicated “WAR” number for him concurs: it puts him at 7.6 wins above a replacement. Impressive.
Michael Young will likely end up winning his second batting championship (yes, I know right now Adrian Gonzalez is atop the list, but will he be by sep. 30th? I don’t think so), and has acted with utter professionalism despite being dissed by his team, filling in whatever role they ask of him. However, his OPS is actually a bit below (seemingly disappointing) Josh Hamilton’s and the Rangers have pretty good hitting across the board, what with those two, mike Napoli, Nelson Cruz (when he’s healthy, seemingly in every odd-numbered month), Elvis Andrus and on and on. The Texas squad have a .277 team average and a run differential of nearly +200. The real question is why are they still fighting off the Angels? They should have walked away with it by now. Young has certainly added to his team, but not to the extent of Verlander, or for that matter Konerko, who’s really provided the only sizzle in Guillen-land this year. Take Konerko out of the lineup and the Sox would be fighting to fend off Minny and KC rather than looking like a possible contender until a fortnight ago.
But for importance to his team, it’s hard to argue that anyone has had more than Jose Bautista. Most of the year the Jays have been offensively challenged, Bautista hasn’t had more than maybe one good pitch per game to swing at, yet he still leads the majors in homers, as well as walks and on base percentage. On occasions he’s slumped a bit, the team loses. Add in his outfield assists and generally stellar play out there,as All Star game viewers got to see, and his successful switch to third base for a month (more challenging than Young’s going from being DH back to his normal position when Beltre got injured) and its hard to see how anyone could match his impact. And the statistical gurus agree; his “WAR” is 8.2, highest in the league. In other words, take Joey Bats out of the lineup and put in some Joe Ordinary outfielder (of which Toronto has had a busload this season) and the Jays are at best 63-80, struggling to keep ahead of the other East birds, the Orioles. I’d argue his impact goes beyond that , given his mentoring of younger players like Yunel Escobar.
Bautista deserves the award over Verlander. But not for the reasoning he uses, of Verlander not being eligible for consideration.
As it stands now, my choices for AL MVP would be 1)Jose Bautista, 2) Justin Verlander, 3) paul Konerko, 4)Michael Young, 5) Miguel Cabrera, 6) Adrian Gonzalez.
Lots of congrats to go around Toronto: to ricky Romero for being named AL pitcher of the month for August, to Adam Loewen for finally making it back to the majors and looking OK as an outfielder , seemingly a lifetime removed from his less than stellar career as a pitcher with Baltimore , and to Dustin mcgowan for perserverance. Two Tommy John surgeries, back problems and 3 years later, McGowan returned to the bigs on Tuesday night. Few players would have had the dedication to work through it all; few teams would have had the patience to let him. Good on all of them!
Wonder if pitcher Chad Beck’s favourite player of all time is Pete Rose? If not, he should be. The relatively unknown, low-profile pitcher was called up to Toronto after none other than Charlie Hustle (now a Las Vegas resident) ran into Alex Anthopolous and sang the praises of the youngster. Alex told reporters “Who am I to say no to that?”
Wouldn’t it be an intriguing possibility to see Rose on the jays payroll as a scout or minor league instructor out of Las Vegas? Of course, with Bud Selig at the helm of baseball, that’s not ever going to happen. Too bad. I bet Rose would do a good job.