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

Joe Girardi won’t use Masahiro Tanaka in Game 7

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The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.

Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.

Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.

Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.