Pujols is a lock for the MVP

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The NL MVP, the final major postseason award, will be announced today.  While we could maybe argue about Rookie of the Year and while reasonable people could potentially disagree about the NL Cy Young, the BBWAA has basically gotten the awards right on the money for two straight years now, so there’s very little reason to think they won’t get it right today: Albert Pujols will win it in a walk.

The math, she is simple: Pujols led the league in on base percentage, slugging percentage, runs, home runs, extra base hits, runs created, total bases, intentional walks and adjusted OPS. He probably should have won the Gold Glove. If you want to cut through the specific numbers a bit, know this: he won the MVP last year on a losing team with numbers that are close to identical to those he had this year, and this year he led his team to the division title.  Simply put, there is no reasonable argument for anyone to get the MVP other than Pujols.  If you have such an argument, please give it to me in the comments, but right now I simply can’t see it.

But, in the interests of thoroughness, let’s look at the other people who may receive some voter love:

Hanley Ramirez: He won the batting title, hit 24 home runs, drove in over a hundred, stole 27 bases and improved on defense. Because he’s a shortstop he’s probably got the best argument over any of the non-Pujols contenders, but (a) he’s not a transcendent shortstop; and (b) even with the positional adjustment, he simply didn’t provide as much value to his team as Pujols did to the Cardinals.  If you believe in stuff like WAR — which is a stat that probably best quantifies a player’s value to his team — Hanley Ramirez was about as valuable as Derek Jeter was this year.  That’s great — fine damn season — but it’s not as valuable as Pujols was and it’s not worthy of the MVP.

Andre Eithier: Your token Dodger. Solid all-around season, but not spectacular in any one area (he led the league in exactly zero categories). He’ll get some attention because he had a lot of walkoff hits, and voters tend to like that.  Not as many as used to like it — Miguel Tejada basically won the 2002 MVP because of some late season walkoff jobs — but enough to give him some votes.

The first basemen who are not as good as Albert Pujols: Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Derek Lee, Adrian Gonzalez. While Howard bested Pujols in 2006, that was a function of (a) his novelty; and (b) people not yet being hip to the flaws in his game. Great player, sure, but not a complete one and certainly not one who has ever been as good as Pujols in a given season, including 2009.  Prince Fielder had a nice year too, but Milwaukee didn’t make any noise.  Same with Derek Lee and Adrian Gonzalez.  Given that all four of these guys play the same position as Pujols and don’t play it as well, they have no argument.

Field: Matt Kemp, Ryan Zimmerman, Chase Utley, Tim Lincecum, whoever.  I’m actually going to be far more interested in looking downballot later today to see what people really think about these kinds of guys. Of course, where they fall may simply tell us more about what the baseball writers feel about the bottom half of their ballot.  Weirdness — like say, the way Mariano Rivera got more MVP votes than Zack Greinke in the AL yesterday despite finishing behind him in the Cy Young — will probably be present in abundance.

Maybe it’s boring giving the award to Albert Pujols every year, but it’s better to be boring than wrong, ain’t it?

Video: Josh Donaldson and Keone Kela exchange words, benches clear

Josh Donaldson
The Associated Press
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The Blue Jays’ and Rangers’ benches emptied in the bottom of the 13th inning after Josh Donaldson barked at reliever Keone Kela. Donaldson had smoked a Kela offering home run distance but foul, then sent a salvo of not-fit-for-TV words in the right-hander’s direction. Kela barked back and both benches emptied. There was no violence and no ejections.

Donaldson apparently believed Kela was trying to quick-pitch him, per Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. That the pitch was quickly thrown didn’t seem to bother him any, considering the type of swing he put on the ball.

Here’s video of the incident at MLB.com.

Quick pitching has been one of a handful of unwritten rules getting more attention, it seems, this year. In August, Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa took issue with Mets reliever Hansel Robles quick pitching.

Royals hold on to beat Astros, even up ALDS at 1-1

Alcides Escobar
AP Photo

The Royals kept their foot on the pedal, rallying late to take down the Astros in Game 2 of the ALDS by a 5-4 score. The series is now evened up at one game apiece in the best-of-five series.

Ben Zobrist broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the seventh, ripping a single to left field to plate Alcides Escobar, who had led off the inning with a triple to right-center.

The Royals were down 3-0 after the first two innings and 4-2 after three. Astros outfielder Colby Rasmus accounted for two of the runs with an RBI double in the first inning and a solo homer in the third. Catcher Salvador Perez opened up the scoring for the Royals with a solo homer in the second.

Royals starter Johnny Cueto started off poorly but was able to rebound in the latter half of his six innings. Overall, he gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks with five strikeouts. Relievers Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson, and Wade Davis each pitched a scoreless inning behind Cueto to seal the deal. Davis benefited from replay review to secure the second out of the ninth inning, picking off pinch-runner Carlos Gomez at first base. He replaced Preston Tucker, who had walked with one out.

For the Astros, starter Scott Kazmir wasn’t able to escape the sixth inning, leaving with one out in the frame. He ultimately allowed three runs on five hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Lefty reliever Oliver Perez came in after Kazmir, but gave up two singles and a walk as his inherited runner scored. Josh Fields relieved Perez and allowed one of Perez’s runners to score on a bases-loaded walk.

The Royals are the first home team to win so far this post-season. The visiting Rangers beat the Blue Jays in both ALDS games played thus far, while the visiting Astros and Cubs both won in the Wild Card games.

The two squads will travel to Houston. Game 3 resumes on Sunday at 4:00 PM EDT with Dallas Keuchel taking the hill for the Astros and Edison Volquez toeing the slab for the Royals.

Cardinals take early 1-0 lead over the Cubs in Game 1 of the NLDS

Matt Holliday
AP Photo

Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday staked his team to an early 1-0 lead with an RBI single in the first inning of Game 1 of the NLDS against the Cubs. Rookie Stephen Piscotty had doubled with one out against Cubs starter Jon Lester, putting himself in scoring position ahead of Holliday’s single.

Starter John Lackey tossed a scoreless top of the first inning and reprised the performance in the top of the second, so the Cardinals have a small lead to open up their post-season.

Holliday, 35, posted an .804 OPS during the season but missed a significant amount of time in the second half due to a Grade 2 strain of his right quadriceps.