Mauer a lock for AL MVP?

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Tyler Kepner, who covers the Yankees for the New York Times, sparked a mini-controversy with an innocent little tweet following Mark Teixeria’s heroics in a 4-2 win over the Mariners on Friday night.

“By the way, this is probably obvious by now, but Teixeira’s the AL MVP. No question, as Joe Torre would say.”

Rob Neyer and Joe Posnanski
have already whacked him on the head for suggesting that anyone besides
Joe Mauer could realistically win the award. I’m with them. As I
watched him go 3-for-3 against the Indians on Friday night,
raising his batting average to .375 for the year, I was hard-pressed to
think of another player even remotely worthy of the distinction.
After all, Mauer enters play on Saturday tops in the league in batting,
on-base percentage (.444), slugging percentage (.622) and OPS (1.067),
all while playing the most demanding position in the league.

But, in my quest to find his nearest competition, I decided to look at two leading metrics for evaluating players:

Wins Above Replacement (WAR) Leaders – AL:

1. Joe Mauer – 5.7

2. Ben Zobrist – 5.4

3. Evan Longoria – 5.3

4. Derek Jeter – 4.7

5. Marco Scutaro – 4.6

VORP Leaders – AL:

1. Joe Mauer – 64.0

2. Jason Bartlett – 49.9

3. Ichiro Suzuki – 43.0

4. Carl Crawford – 42.0

5. Michael Young – 41.8

6. Derek Jeter – 41.5

7. Kevin Youkilis – 41.1

8. Justin Morneau – 39.9

9. Ben Zobrist – 39.4

10. Marco Scutaro – 37.9

You know, just in case you needed
any more evidence that Mauer is far and away the best player in the
league this season. It shouldn’t be close, really. But I suspect that
Kepner is focusing on an old-fashioned idea like winning baseball
games. And as the Twins currently sit in third place with an 18.3%
chance of making the playoffs, according to
Cool Standings, Mauer could, but shouldn’t, lose a few votes if they miss out come October.

But if we want to use Kepner’s
argument, Teixeira might not even be the most valuable player on his
own team. With an improved UZR (+8.3) to go along with an excellent
.318/.387/.456 line and the metrics shown above, Derek Jeter has a
stronger case for some individual hardware.

Mike Fiers may not be ready for start of regular season due to back issue

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Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press reports that Tigers starter Mike Fiers is dealing with a back issue and may not be ready for the start of the season. Manager Ron Gardenhire characterized the injury as a “stiff back” and added, “Maybe a little bit of a bulging disk or something like that.”

Fiers, 32, signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Tigers in December. He has had a forgettable spring, yielding 12 runs on 10 hits and eight walks with seven strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.

Fiers had a rotation spot locked up along with Michael Fulmer, Jordan Zimmermann, and Francisco Liriano. Matt Boyd and Daniel Norris were battling it out for the No. 5 spot. If Fiers opens the regular season on the 10-day disabled list, both could have spots in the rotation.