Is Andruw Jones back?

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Andruw Jones White Sox.jpgThe White Sox’ Andruw Jones has gotten off to a fantastic start: .292/.404/.708 with six home runs, including the walkoff job on Friday night.  Is the guy who once wowed us with his defense back to being a productive player after years in the wilderness?

Not so fast says FanGraph’s R.J. Anderson, who notes that his quick start is most likely a function of some luck on balls in play and a home run friendly park. His last line tells you all you need to know about how Anderson feels about Jones: “He’s just an aging slugger using his bat to prop the casket lid open.” Ouch.

While I want to be optimistic about Jones because (a) I vividly remember when he didn’t suck; and (b) he actually got into pretty good shape this winter, and maybe that will make a lasting difference, we’re clearly into “I’ll believe it when I see it” territory with the guy.  After all, he started out even hotter for the Rangers last April: .344/.523/.781. The rest of the year? Miserable. A blip of eight homers in July gave him a slugging-heavy .934 OPS that month, but otherwise he was terrible.

So many people wanted to believe that he was back in 2009. I imagine a lot of people want to believe the same thing this year. Until he puts up another month or two of good performance, however, we shouldn’t be buyin’ what he’s sellin’.

Justin Verlander named ALCS MVP

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Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.

“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”

Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.

The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.