MVP Watch

Now that every team has about 1/3 of its season complete, we have a large enough sample of games to get a flavor for the awards races this year. Some of the early favorites to take home hardware are no where to be found, a group including Albert Pujols, Justin Upton, Tim Lincecum, and Roy Halladay. Some new and exciting players like James McDonald and Chris Sale have emerged, seemingly out of nowhere to take up residency on my 1st awards watch. Let’s take a look, starting with the MVP race today:

American League MVP

1.  Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers – .343/.400/.700, 21 HR, 58 RBI, 184 OPS+, 3.0 offensive WAR

Hamilton, the 2010 MVP, is the runaway leader at the trimester, with no other AL player coming close to his production. He leads baseball in homers, RBI, WAR, extra base hits, and slugging. The week-long hitting binge he had in May stacks up as one of the greatest performances of all-time. The big issue with Hamilton is health, and as long as he stays on pace to play more that 140 games, he will remain the MVP frontrunner. His team is also one of the strongest in the American League, and Hamilton is their best player, which makes for an even more convincing argument.

2.  Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox – .366/.445/.617, 11 HR, 33 RBI, 185 OPS+, 2.4 oWAR

Konerko is having the finest season of his career, leading the AL in batting average, on-base %, and OPS+. He has been a monster if he can get ahead in the count, batting .394 anytime a pitcher falls behind on the 1st pitch. The White Sox have used his production, coupled with a resurgence from Adam Dunn, to take an early .5 game lead in the AL Central division.

3.  Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles – .307/.354/.582, 16 HR, 35 RBI, 153 OPS+, 2.5 oWAR

Jones has already parlayed his hot start into a long-term deal, keeping him in Baltimore until 2018, and he will probably make his 2nd All-Star appearance this year. His production thus far merits an All-Star berth, as Jones is on pace to hit for career highs in batting average, homer, on-base %, RBI, and steals. His defense is somewhat questionable in centerfield, but the O’s are surprising everyone this season, and Jones is the big reason why.

4.  Jason Kipnis, Cleveland Indians – .275/.335/.441, 9 homers, 35 RBI, 118 OPS+, 1.9 oWAR

Kipnis leads all American League players in stolen bases with 13, and has been the Tribe’s most steady contributor this season. He also plays superb defense at 2nd base, turning double plays like a veteran and taking away ground balls that normally go for hits. Cleveland has a ground ball heavy staff, so his impact with the glove is even more pronounced. He also leads all 2nd basemen in homers and RBI, providing elite power for his position. Kipnis, who’s only 25, is blossoming into one of the true stars in baseball at a valuable position.

5.  Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels – .337/.387/.629, 12 HR, 31 RBI, 182 OPS+, 2.4 oWAR

The best hitter on the Angels this season hasn’t been Albert Pujols, its been Mark Trumbo. The powerful right-hander has hit the ball a ton this year, ranking 3rd in batting average, 2nd in slugging, 3rd in OPS, 3rd in OPS+, and 9th in homers. Trumbo has been a little rough in the field, particularly at 3rd base, where he was so unplayable he has been pulled from the position. But when he’s at bat you shouldn’t turn the channel, because he has the potential to do something exciting every time he hits.

Just missed the cut: Derek Jeter, New York Yankees, Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins, Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

National League MVP

1.  Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds – .348/.475/.610, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 189 OPS+, 2.6 oWAR

Votto has been an absolute menace to opposing pitchers the past 10 games. He’s hit .553/.591/.842 with 2 homers and an outstanding 21 hits. His 22 doubles also give Votto a shot to break the all-time doubles record in a season set by Earl Webb with 67. He has been the force behind Cincinnati’s offense which has been league average despite giving nearly 300 at-bats to Ryan Ludwick, Scott Rolen, and Devin Mesoraco, who are hitting a combined .186.

2.  David Wright, New York Mets – .359/.461/.578, 7 HR, 33 RBI, 188 OPS+, 3.0 oWAR

The difference between Wright and Votto is razor thin and based on personal opinion, Wright could be the correct choice. His revival has been the key to the Mets’ resurgence, and his 37-30 K/BB ratio is the best in baseball for an everyday player. The longer the Mets can stay in contention, the better for Wright’s MVP, chances, because much like Votto, he is carrying a relatively weak lineup.

3.  Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates – .333/.394/.568, 10 HR, 33 RBI, 164 OPS+, 2.5 oWAR

McCutchen, even more than Wright or Votto, is the only offensive oasis in the otherwise Sahara Desert-bare lineup the Pirates slap together every night. He’s a true 30-30 threat with 10 homers and 10 steals this year, and if he can prevent a nasty 2nd half slump like he did in 2011, the Pirates centerfielder is a legit MVP candidate. McCutchen is also one of the best defensive centerfielders in baseball, gifted with a rocket launcher arm and fleet on his feet too.

4.  Melky Cabrera, San Francisco Giants – .366/.406/.536, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 166 OPS+, 2.5 oWAR

The Melk Man is one of the most fun players in the Majors to watch, and leads the Majors in hits, multi-hit games, and triples. The spacious dimensions of AT&T Park play to his strengths perfectly, allowing Cabrera to spray base hits all of the field, without worrying about hitting homers.The result has been a career-best year for Melky, which has propelled the Giants offense into the middle of the league, a common theme amongst all the MVP candidates.

5.  Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies – .319/.386/.606, 14 HR, 45 RBI, 148 OPS+, 2.2 oWAR

CarGo has been on a tear over the last 2 weeks, hitting 6 homers while batting .358, propelling himself into the MVP discussion. His candidacy will probably never get off the ground this season because of Colorado’s putrid, league-worst pitching staff, which is a shame because Gonzalez could be having the best year of an already stellar career. He could be looking at a new career high in homers, RBI, and hits by the end of the season.

Just missed the cut: Matt Kemp, Los Angeles Dodgers, Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers, Carlos Beltran, St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Ruiz, Philadelphia Phillies

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