First-third awards – AL MVP

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Let’s turn back to VORP to generate the list of candidates. Hitters only, for now:

1. Joe Mauer – 36.0
2. Jason Bartlett – 31.3
3. Justin Morneau – 29.7
4. Evan Longoria – 29.4
5. Adam Jones – 27.4
6. Victor Martinez – 27.2
7. Kevin Youkilis – 26.7
8. Jason Bay – 26.2
9. Torii Hunter – 24.7
10. Russell Branyan – 24.0
11. Carl Crawford – 22.9
12. Ian Kinsler – 22.0

That’s a very good list of candidates. I think Marco Scutaro, who ranks
17th in WARP, is a better choice than Branyan or Crawford, but he’s not
cracking that top nine. The list includes the top eight in OPS and the
top three in RBI. Mark Teixeira, who ranks ninth in OPS and fourth in
RBI, could well end up being the AL MVP, but he didn’t do much at all
during April and he’s getting a big boost from the new Yankee Stadium
(1126 OPS at home, 846 on the road).

How about those same 12 listed with their OPS, RBI and games played totals:

1. Joe Mauer – 1357 OPS, 35 RBI in 30 G
2. Jason Bartlett – 1014 OPS, 30 RBI in 44 G
3. Justin Morneau – 1046 OPS, 47 RBI in 54 G
4. Evan Longoria – 1005 OPS, 55 RBI in 52 G
5. Adam Jones – 1002 OPS, 36 RBI in 48 G
6. Victor Martinez – 992 OPS, 40 RBI in 53 G
7. Kevin Youkilis – 1147 OPS, 33 RBI in 39 G
8. Jason Bay – 1033 OPS, 51 RBI in 52 G
9. Torii Hunter – 976 OPS, 42 RBI in 50 G
10. Russell Branyan – 1036 OPS, 25 RBI in 47 G
11. Carl Crawford – 830 OPS, 25 RBI in 54 G
12. Ian Kinsler – 912 OPS, 40 R in 51 G

Obviously, Mauer’s numbers really stand out. Still, he’s played in
55 percent of the Twins’ games so far. If he remains the AL’s best
player over the rest of the year and plays in 80 percent of the Twins’
games, he should be the AL MVP. However, he hasn’t been the MVP through
two months.

Bartlett won’t be there at the end, but he’s still a serious
candidate now, even with the recent DL stint. Still, I think the top
Ray has to be Longoria, if only because he has played in eight more
games and been just about as effective. Similiarly, Bay has the
advantage of Boston’s two candidates.

So who is the AL MVP through two months? Well, it’s Zack Greinke of
course. If Mauer had put up these kind of numbers over 45 games, rather
than 30, he’d probably get the nod. Greinke, though, has supplied his
team with more victories than any of these hitters. The Royals have
gone 8-3 while scoring a total of 49 runs in his 11 starts. Also, while
Greinke is only pitching once every five days, he’s still helping the
team the rest of the time by saving wear and tear on the bullpen.
Greinke has already pitched five complete games, and he’s averaging 7.5
innings per start.

First third AL MVP

1. Greinke
2. Longoria
3. Morneau
4. Mauer
5. Bay
6. Bartlett
7. Roy Halladay
8. Hunter
9. Martinez
10. Jones

Kyle Schwarber is the feel-good story of the 2016 postseason

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Kyle Schwarber #12 of the Chicago Cubs reacts after hitting an RBI single to score Ben Zobrist #18 (not pictured) during the fifth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Most baseball fans and even the Cubs had resigned themselves to most likely not seeing Kyle Schwarber in game action until spring training next year after he suffered a gruesome knee injury in a collision with teammate Dexter Fowler back in early April. Schwarber suffered a fully-torn ACL and LCL in his left leg.

To the surprise of everyone, including manager Joe Maddon, Schwarber was cleared by doctors to play if the Cubs wanted to put him on the World Series roster. So they did. And, boy, are they glad they did it. In preparation, Schwarber saw over 1,000 pitches from machines and pitchers in the Arizona Fall League.

Schwarber essentially crammed for the final exam and unlike most students who do it, it has panned out well thus far. No one was expecting him to look outstanding against Indians ace Corey Kluber in Game 1, but in his first at-bat — his first in the majors since suffering the injury in April — Schwarber worked a 3-1 count before eventually being retired on strikes. Schwarber came back up in the fourth and drilled a Kluber sinker to right field for a two-out double.

In the seventh inning, facing one of the American League’s two scariest left-handed relievers in Andrew Miller, Schwarber worked a full count before drawing a walk. During the regular season, Miller walked exactly one lefty batter. Schwarber made it two. Schwarber would face Miller again in the eighth, going ahead 2-1 before ultimately striking out. He finished 1-for-3 with a walk and a double in the Cubs’ 6-0 loss. Considering the circumstances, that’s amazing.

Schwarber continued his great approach in Game 2 in what turned out to be a 5-1 victory. He struck out against Trevor Bauer in the first inning, but returned to the batter’s box in the third inning and singled up the middle to knock in the Cubs’ second run. Schwarber made it 3-0 in the fifth when he singled up the middle again, this time off of Bryan Shaw, to make it 3-0. Facing Danny Salazar in the sixth, Schwarber drew a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second base with two outs. Finally, he struck out against Dan Otero in his eighth-inning at-bat, finishing the evening 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI singles and a walk.

But now, as the Cubs return to Chicago for World Series Games 3, 4, and 5 at Wrigley Field, they have to contest with National League rules, a.k.a. no DH. Will Maddon risk Schwarber’s subpar defense to put his dangerous bat in the lineup? Even if Schwarber is not put in the starting lineup, he can at least serve as a dangerous bat off the bench late in the game when the Indians send out their trio of relievers in Shaw, Miller, and closer Cody Allen. At any rate, what Schwarber has done already in the first two games of the World Series is mighty impressive.

Jake Arrieta flirts with no-hitter, pitches Cubs past Indians 5-1 in World Series Game 2

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 26:  Jake Arrieta #49 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Two of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gene Puskar - Pool/Getty Images)
Gene Puskar - Pool/Getty Images

Cubs starter Jake Arrieta pitched into the sixth inning before allowing his first hit. Behind his strong performance, the Cubs were able to take down the Indians 5-1 in Game 2 of the World Series to even things up at one game apiece.

Unlike their Game 1 performance against Corey Kluber, the Cubs’ offense was ready early. Kris Bryant singled with one out in the first inning against Indians starter Trevor Bauer and promptly scored when Anthony Rizzo drilled a double down the right field line. The Cubs would score again in the third with a two-out rally as Rizzo walked, then Ben Zobrist and Kyle Schwarber hit consecutive singles to center field, plating one run to make it 2-0.

With Zach McAllister returning to the mound for the fifth after relieving Bauer in the fourth, he walked Rizzo, then gave up a triple to Zobrist. The Cubs continued to press their foot on the gas, with Schwarber hitting another RBI single. After Jason Kipnis committed a fielding error on a Willson Contreras grounder — what should’ve been the final out of the inning — McAllister walked Jorge Soler to load the bases, then walked Addison Russell to force in a run, pushing the Cubs’ lead to 5-0.

Arrieta had a first-inning scare, issuing back-to-back two-out walks, but he escaped the jam and seemed to be on cruise control until the sixth inning. He got Carlos Santana to fly out to lead off the sixth, continuing his no-hit bid, but Kipnis broke it up with a double to right field. After getting Francisco Lindor to ground out, pushing Kipnis to third base, Arrieta uncorked a wild pitch, helping the Indians score their first run of the game. Arrieta then served up a single to Mike Napoli, which proved to be the end of the line. Manager Joe Maddon came out to replace him with lefty Mike Montgomery. Montgomery ended the bottom of the sixth by inducing a weak ground out from Jose Ramirez.

Montgomery struck out the first two batters he faced in the seventh, then got into a bit of hot water by yielding a single to Brandon Guyer, then walking Game 1 hero Roberto Perez. Carlos Santana, however, struck out to end what would be the Indians’ last real chance to get back in the ballgame.

Montgomery remained in the game in the bottom of the eighth. He struck out Kipnis, got Lindor to ground out, then gave up a line drive single to Napoli before Maddon pulled the plug. Closer Aroldis Chapman entered to face Ramirez. As expected, Chapman got Ramirez to whiff on a fastball to send the game to the ninth.

In the bottom of the ninth, Chapman fanned Rajai Davis and got Coco Crisp to ground out for two quick outs. He walked Guyer on five pitches but ended the game as rain drizzled onto Progressive Field by getting Perez to ground out to shortstop.

The World Series is now headed back to Wrigley Field. The two clubs will enjoy a day off on Thursday to travel. Game Three will be played at 8:00 PM EDT on Friday. The Indians will send Josh Tomlin to the hill while the Cubs will counter with Kyle Hendricks.