AL Most Valuable Player
With Albert Pujols taking home the Stanley Gibson NL MVP Award, itís time to check out who could and who should take home the American League version. Unlike last year, when Alex Rodriguez was the clear choice, we have many candidates to choose from.
Alex Rodriguez. Weíll start with the defending champ and while his numbers are good enough to warrant consideration, the Yankees missing the playoffs softens talk of him winning his fourth MVP award. He hit .302 with 35 homers and 103 RBI which is way down from the .314-54-156 line that won him the award last year. He was just two off the lead in homers and ranked 5th in on-base percentage (.392) and 1st in slugging (.573), good enough for 3rd in OPS. Again, the numbers are there in his stat line, but there werenít enough Wís in that all-important column for the Yanks.
Kevin Youkilis. Youkilis is a quiet contender for the award but after looking at the numbers, he should be considered a favorite especially considering he carried this Red Sox offense down the stretch. He finished with 29 and take a gander at some other key numbers and ranks: .312 average (6th), .569 slugging (3rd), 76 extra-base hits (4th), 115 RBI (4th), .390 on-base percentage (6th) and 43 doubles (t-7th). He hit .327 (99-for-303) in his final 83 contests and drove in 76 runs during that stretch in September. During one span from July to September he reached base in 44 straight games. The kicker is his defense. He proved so valuable to the team by playing first base in 110 games and third base 31 times (19 games he played both). His error on June 7th was his first at first base since July 4, 2006 which was a span 238 games and 2,002 chances. He fielded at a .996 clip at first base and overall between first and third made just 5 errors in 1,107 chances.
Milton Bradley. Where did he come from? After playing in just 42 games last year with the Padres and just 19 the year before in Oakland, Bradley ended up leading the AL in OPS (.999) and hit 22 homers with 77 RBI in just 414 at-bats. He led the AL with a .436 on-base percentage, 3rd in the AL with a .321 batting average and 4th in slugging (.563). Quick trivia question: Can you name the last player to win the triple crown of percentages (average, on-base and slugging)? Answer at the end. If he gets 600 at-bats, he is on pace for 32 jacks and 112 RBI. His MVP chances are slim-to-none with the Rangers falling out and staying out early, but his individual performances this season warrant a mention.
Dustin Pedroia. Can the reigning AL Rookie of the Year take home the highest honors in his sophomore season, a year in which he is supposed to slump? Well, he lead the entire MLB in doubles with 54 and tied Ichiro for the most hits with 213. He finished first in the AL in runs (118) and multi-hit games (61). He also stole 20 bases and only was caught once, a 95.2% success rate. Still not impressed? How about the fact that he is only the fourth American Leaguer to with 200 hits, 50 doubles and 20 steals in a season, joining Alfonso Soriano in 2002 and greats Tris Speaker in 1912 and Nap Lajoie in 1910.
He made just six miscues at second base this season in 727 chances, a .992 fielding percentage, ranked 2nd in the A.L. The knock on him is the power numbers which writers fall in love with, just 17 homers and an OPS that ranked 17th in the American League. However, think of what this guy did for his team all season long.
Carlos Quentin. Itís a shame this guy got hurt because he wouldíve been a front-runner as well. His numbers were still impressive, hitting .288 with 36 homers and 100 RBI. He was injured on 9/1. That is a whole month left. He was on pace for 43 homers and the White Sox likely donít relinquish their lead to the Twins if he is around during the stretch run. Again, his name is worth mentioning, but the injury will likely keep him out of the running.
Justin Morneau. Did you know this guy hit clean-up in every game this season for the Twins and helped carry them to a tie for the AL Central crown? He hit .300 (16th) with 23 HR (t-18th), 129 RBI (2nd), .374 on-base % (t-15th), .499 slugging % (15th). Those ranks just donít jump off the page at anybody. He is a consistent performer on a good team, but he isnít even the best candidate on his own team.
Joe Mauer. Segway to the best player on the Twins. Mauer won the batting title with a .328 mark. He also finished 2nd in on-base (.413) and he plays what many view as the most important position on the field, the captain behind the plate. The fact remains, you donít win an MVP with single-digit homers (9) and less-than 100 RBI (85).
Grady Sizemore. You canít blame the Tribeís disappointing season on Sizemore. 33 homers and 90 RBI to go along with 38 stolen bases are impressive numbers. The reason he isnít considered: lack of team wins and an unimpressive .268 batting average.
Josh Hamilton. Another great season spoiled by zero team success. 32 homers and an AL leading 130 RBI to go with a .304 batting average and that amazing performance in the Home Run Derby (just kidding, that doesnít factor in).
1. Dustin Pedroia
2. Kevin Youkilis
3. Carlos Quentin
4. Alex Rodriguez
5. Joe Mauer
6. Justin Morneau
7. Miguel Cabrera
8. Grady Sizemore
9. Josh Hamilton
10. Milton Bradley
Trivia question answer: George Brett in 1980.