Midseason NL Most Valuable Player

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Fortunately, this one is going to be a lot easier to figure out than the AL ballot.

Let’s start with the NL’s top position players according to VORP:

1. Albert Pujols – 62.6
2. Hanley Ramirez – 46.6
3. Chase Utley – 46.0
4. Prince Fielder – 43.4
5. Pablo Sandoval – 37.8
6. Raul Ibanez – 34.0
7. Ryan Braun – 33.6
8. Carlos Beltran – 32.8
9. David Wright – 32.8
10. Matt Kemp – 31.6
11. Miguel Tejada – 30.4
12. Brad Hawpe – 29.9
13. Adam Dunn – 28.2
14. Justin Upton – 27.8

Adrian Gonzalez has dropped from fifth to 23rd since the first-third MVP ballot on June 5.
Apart from the top 14, the only other player that looks like a
legitimate option for the top 10 is Shane Victorino, who ranks 17th at
25.8.

The OPS list isn’t a whole lot different from the one VORP came up with:

1. Albert Pujols – 1179 – 90 games
2. Prince Fielder – 1056 – 88 games
3. Raul Ibanez – 1015 – 64 games
4. Chase Utley – 1004 – 84 games
5. Hanley Ramirez – 979 – 82 games
6. Brad Hawpe – 973 – 80 games
7. Pablo Sandoval – 964 – 82 games
8. Carlos Beltran – 952 – 62 games
9. Adam Dunn – 943 – 87 games
10. Lance Berkman – 929 – 85 games
11. Ryan Braun – 921 – 86 games
12. Justin Upton – 918 – 84 games

There also aren’t any big surprises at the top of the WPA list:

1. Albert Pujols – 4.83
2. Prince Fielder – 4.31
3. Chase Utley – 3.85
4. Raul Ibanez – 3.53
5. Pablo Sandoval – 3.13
6. Ryan Howard – 3.05

Obviously, it’s a race for second. If Pujols stays healthy, it’s
going to be extremely difficult for anyone to overtake him. Maybe
Fielder could in the minds of the real voters if the Brewers reach the
postseason and the Cards don’t, but it’s a long shot.

VORP has the next three pretty tight. I favor Utley because of his
defense, but Hanley and Fielder both belong in the top four. After that
group, it’s more of a free for all. Beltran and Ibanez are right there
with the Utley group in terms of performance, but both have missed a
quarter of the season. Sandoval and Braun offer little defensively, and
Hawpe and Dunn are significant liabilities. Wright, always an overrated
fielder, is having his worst year with the glove. Kemp, on the other
hand, has played a nice center field. With so many imperfect options,
I’m definitely including both Dan Haren and Tim Lincecum in the top 10.

Midseason NL MVP

1. Pujols
2. Utley
3. H. Ramirez
4. Fielder
5. Haren
6. Sandoval
7. Lincecum
8. Braun
9. Ibanez
10. Kemp

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).