Midseason AL Most Valuable Player

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I went with Zack Greinke as AL MVP one-third of the way through the season,
but he’s fallen back to the pack by posting a 3.97 ERA since the
beginning of June. The focus will return to the position players this
time around.

Here’s the top 16, according to VORP:

1. Joe Mauer – 46.2
2. Jason Bartlett – 38.2
3. Ben Zobrist – 36.9
4. Ichiro Suzuki – 35.3
5. Derek Jeter – 34.8
6. Justin Morneau – 34.8
7. Torii Hunter – 32.7
8. Adam Lind – 32.4
9. Kevin Youkilis – 30.2
10. Shin-Soo Choo – 29.8
11. Evan Longoria – 29.4
12. Carl Crawford – 28.7
13. Jermaine Dye – 28.4
14. Marco Scutaro – 28.3
15. Jason Bay – 28.0
16. Russell Branyan – 28.0

And here is the OPS leaderboard, along with how many games each player has played:

1. Joe Mauer – 1069 – 64 games
2. Ben Zobrist – 1012 – 81 games
3. Kevin Youkilis – 985 – 74 games
4. Justin Morneau – 965 – 88 games
5. Russell Branyan – 956 – 79 games
6. Jermaine Dye – 942 – 81 games
7. Torii Hunter – 938 – 77 games
8*. Jason Bartlett – 930 – 68 games
9. Adam Lind – 928 – 87 games
10. Miguel Cabrera – 926 – 85 games
11. Jason Kubel – 914 – 77 games
12. Mark Teixeira – 913 – 84 games
13. Jason Bay – 908 – 86 games
14. Evan Longoria – 898 – 84 games

Bartlett actually falls just short of qualifying.

WPA
is also interesting in this case. I’m now going to go too far down the
list, but the stat does add to the candidacy of a few of our top
candidates.

WPA, for those who don’t know, measures how much every at-bat in every game increased or decreased a team’s chances of winning.

1. Johnny Damon – 3.12
2. Jason Bay – 3.10
3. Ben Zobrist – 2.91
4. Franklin Gutierrez – 2.47
5. Joe Mauer – 2.29
6. Mark Teixeira – 2.24

Gutierrez really sticks out like a sore thumb, but he has his OPS up
to 801 now and he’s one of the game’s most valuable defensive players.
He isn’t far away from deserving serious consideration for down-ballot
votes.

OK, enough lists. Let’s try to figure this out. I do have a top 10 in mind:

Mauer
Bartlett
Zobrist
Youkilis
Bay
Jeter
Longoria
Morneau
Hunter
Ichiro

Teixeira’s numbers are Yankee Stadium inflated, so I’m comfortable
leaving him out. Cabrera doesn’t offer much defensively, and he has
just 50 RBI. Aaron Hill and Brandon Inge were the next two players on
my list, and considering their gloves, there’s pretty good arguments
for including both in the top 10.

In terms of quality, Mauer is undeniably the AL’s MVP to date. The
problem is that he’s played in only 72 percent of Minnesota’s games.
Then again, several other top candidates have missed time, Bartlett
most notably. Youkilis has sat out 14 games, and while Zobrist has
played in 81 games, he’s started only 64.

Quantity is important, so I think it’s worth looking at the RBI
list. Bay leads with 72, followed by Morneau at 70, Longoria at 66 and
Hunter at 65. Hunter may well be overrated with the glove at this point
in his career, but he’s still contributing quite a bit on defense, as
is Longoria. Bay and Morneau are the only ones in the top 10 who really
aren’t. Hunter and Ichiro are Gold Glove locks, and Mauer, Bartlett and
Longoria are top contenders. The numbers say Jeter is playing an
average shortstop, which is plenty valuable. Youkilis and Zobrist both
add a great deal to their value by playing multiple positions.

I have to say that after all of this, I’m just about as confused as
I was going in. I’m ready to put Mauer at the top of the list, though
I’d feel more comfortable about it if he had played an additional 8-10
games. I also believe that Greinke has to be on there somewhere, and
Ichiro is the most logical candidate to get the boot. While he’s
currently sporting a career-high 873 OPS, he hasn’t been nearly as good
with runners on. And, yeah, it’s mostly the fault of his teammates, but
he has fewer runs+RBI than Bay or Morneau have RBI alone.

AL MVP

1. Mauer
2. Zobrist
3. Bartlett
4. Youkilis
5. Jeter
6. Greinke
7. Bay
8. Morneau
9. Hunter
10. Longoria

Dodgers top Giants, clinch fifth straight NL West title

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The Dodgers are NL West champions for the fifth time in a row. They clinched with a 4-2 win over the Giants on Friday night, taking their first and only lead on a mammoth record-breaking home run from Cody Bellinger in the third inning.

Rich Hill turned in another quality start, going six innings with five hits, a run and nine strikeouts to keep the Giants at bay. He tacked on an RBI hit of his own, too, lashing a double to left field for his first extra-base hit since 2007.

The Giants, meanwhile, deployed Jeff Samardzija and his 4.42 ERA for 4 1/3 innings. Samardzija was on the hook for the Dodgers’ four-run spread in the third and took his 15th loss of the season. Pablo Sandoval came through with a solo home run in the ninth, but the rest of San Francisco’s offense wasn’t so lucky against Kenley Jansen, who struck out the side to clinch the game — and the division.

After Friday’s showstopper, the Dodgers are just two wins away from their first 100-win season since 1974. If they win the remaining eight games of the season, they’ll beat out the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers for the most wins in franchise history.

Watch: Cody Bellinger breaks NL rookie home run record

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Cody Bellinger helped the Dodgers to their first lead on Friday night, going deep for his 39th home run of the season and setting a new National League rookie home run record in the process. With two on and two out in the third inning, the Dodgers’ slugger launched a 2-1 pitch from the Giants’ Jeff Samardzija, skimming the right field fence to give the team a three-run cushion:

The three-run bomb was Bellinger’s sixth of the season. In what is undoubtedly a Rookie of the Year award-worthy campaign, he’s logged 21 solo shots, 11 two-run blasts and a single grand slam. His historic home run topped former NL rookie leaders Frank Robinson and Wally Berger, at 38 homers apiece.

The Dodgers need to stay on top of the Giants to clinch the NL West or, barring that, have the Marlins pull off a win over the Diamondbacks. They currently lead the Giants 4-1 in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Marlins, meanwhile, are staying just ahead of the D-backs with a 9-7 lead in the top of the sixth.