First-quarter awards: AL MVP

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justin morneau trot.jpgSame drill as the NL award. Let’s begin with VORP.
1. Justin Morneau – 28.8
2. Kevin Youkilis – 22.4
3. Robinson Cano – 21.8
4. Doug Fister – 21.7
5. Miguel Cabrera – 21.1
6. Evan Longoria – 20.7
7. Shaun Marcum – 20.3
8. Vernon Wells – 20.2
9. David Price – 19.7
10. Ricky Romero – 19.7
11. Matt Garza – 18.9
12. Ty Wigginton – 18.8
13. John Danks – 18.6
14. Vladimir Guerrero – 18.5
15. Jeff Niemann – 16.7
16. Phil Hughes – 16.2
17. Nelson Cruz – 16.0
18. C.J. Wilson – 16.0
19. Paul Konerko – 15.5
20. Carl Crawford – 15.2
And move right on to RAR
1. Justin Morneau – 30.4
2. Kevin Youkilis – 21.8
3. Robinson Cano – 19.9
4. Evan Longoria – 19.7
5. Vernon Wells – 19.5
6. Carl Crawford – 19.2
7. Alex Rios – 19.2
8. Magglio Ordonez – 19.1
9. Ricky Romero – 17.5
10. Austin Jackson – 16.8
11. Dustin Pedroia – 16.2
12. Shin-Soo Choo – 16.1
13. Miguel Cabrera – 15.7
14. Ben Zobrist – 15.5
15. Franklin Gutierrez – 15.3
16. Francisco Liriano – 14.9
17. Joe Mauer – 14.7
18. Jon Lester – 14.3
19. John Danks – 14.0
20. Alex Rodriguez – 13.8
WARP and RAR are in much better agreement here than in the NL, at least as far as the hitters go. Cabrera is the big change, as the UZR component of RAR rates him poorly.
I agree with RAR that none of the pitchers are seriously in the mix here. RAR actually has Romero as the league’s most valuable pitcher to date, but that’s not taking schedule strength into account and Romero has had it about as easy as any AL pitcher.
Here’s how they rank by OPS:
1. Justin Morneau – .362/.477/.681 – 1158 – 29 RBI
2. Kevin Youkilis – .324/.459/.593 – 1053 – 26 RBI
3. Miguel Cabrera – .340/.428/.603 – 1030 – 38 RBI
4. Paul Konerko – .262/.372/.631 – 1003 – 30 RBI
5. Ty Wigginton – .305/.369/.617 – 986 – 27 RBI
6. Evan Longoria – .323/.389/.589 – 978 – 37 RBI
7. Robinson Cano – .338/.390/.588 – 977 – 28 RBI
8. Vernon Wells – .301/.359/.596 – 955 – 32 RBI
9. Vladimir Guerrero – .342/.372/.551 – 923 – 35 RBI
10. Luke Scott – .283/.348/.575 – 923 – 20 RBI
11. Joe Mauer – .344/.410/.500 – 910 – 20 RBI
12. Jose Bautista – .242/.352/.556 – 907 – 33 RBI
It’s a clean sweep for Morneau. And I agree that he’s the league’s MVP to date. However, I don’t think it’s as overwhelming as RAR or OPS suggest. Morneau’s suddenly stellar walk rate has let to remarkable OBP, but he’s hitting just .273 with a .455 slugging percentage with runners in scoring position, which is why he has the rather modest RBI total. He’s 0-for-5 with a walk while hitting with the bases loaded this season.
Compare that to Cabrera, who is hitting .426/.534/.660 with RISP. He’s also 4-for-6 with the bases loaded. There’s the difference in RBI right there. Morneau has one RBI in six plate appearances with the sacks packed. Cabrera has 10 in seven plate appearances.
Youkilis also has fewer RBI, but in his case, it’s much more a matter of an opportunity. He hasn’t had a single plate appearance with the bases loaded. He has, however, hit .303/.510/.606 in 33 at-bats with RISP.
As for the other contenders, Longoria is at .340/.387/.547 with RISP, while Cano is at .326/.392/.581.
I’m not really liking the idea of placing three first basemen in the top three, but I think that’s the best arrangement for now. There’s little evidence that either Longoria or Cano is playing Gold Glove-quality defense at the moment, and Mauer did miss a week earlier this month.
First-quarter AL MVP
1. Morneau
2. Cabrera
3. Youkilis
4. Longoria
5. Cano

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

White Sox 7, Twins 6; Twins 10, White Sox 2: The Sox and Twins cancel each other’s win out in this twin-bill. Yolmer Sanchez homered and drove in four runs and Jose Abreu went deep in the first game, as Jorge Polanco hit a three-run homer in a losing cause. In the nightcap Jorge Polanco hit a three-run homer in a winning cause. Brian Dozier hit a three-run homer as well, while  Byron Buxton and Jason Castro each added a solo shot. The Twins have won five of six.

Orioles 7, Athletics 3: Adam Jones hit a pair of solo home runs, scored three times and went 4-for-4 on the evening while Jonathan Schoop added a three-run homer. Boog Powell hit a homer for the A’s. It was the first homer of his career, but the 134th time any Boog Powell hit a homer in Baltimore. The last time: September 28, 1974.

Dodgers 6, Pirates 5: Curtis Granderson hit a grand slam in the Dodgers’ five-run seventh — it was his second salami in the space of a week, one with the Mets, one with the Dodgers — and Yasiel Puig hit a solo homer in the 12th inning that put the Dodgers over. The Pirates have lost seven of nine.

Indians 5, Red Sox 4: Cleveland wins on a walkoff bunt from Roberto Perez + a Brock Holt throwing error trying to get the runner at third. That led to a celebration for Cleveland, but there was much to worry about too, as ace reliever Andrew Miller flashed low velocity before leaving with patella tendinitis in his right knee.

Diamondbacks 3, Mets 2: It was 1-1 after regulation but A.J. Pollock hit a two-run homer in the top of the tenth, which was better than Michael Conforto‘s solo shot in the bottom half, giving Arizona the win. There were 12 pitchers used in this game, obscuring the fact that Arizona’s Taijuan Walker (5.1 IP, 7 H, 0 ER) and New York’s Robert Gsellman (6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER) pitched pretty darn well.

Mariners 6, Braves 5: Andrew Albers got the win — his second in a week after going four years since his last one — and he also (all together now) helped his own cause with an RBI on an infield single. Two sac bunts too, which is a pretty dang good day for an AL pitcher in an NL park. All the nicer that he did it against Atlanta, whose minor league system he had been in all season before an August 11 trade to Seattle. He pitched well there too, so you can imagine he wanted to show them.

Rangers 5, Angels 3: Cole Hamels allowed two runs on three hits over seven and Adrian Beltre hit a three-run homer. The loss dropped the Angels a half-game back of Minnesota for the second AL Wild Card. The Rangers are in the mix too, and they closed to within two games of the final spot. It’s pretty much chaos, however, as eight teams are within four games of each other in Wild Card contention. It’s gonna be a cluster for a good three weeks I suspect. Maybe longer.

Giants 2, Brewers 0: Chris Stratton and three relievers — one of which was Matt Cain, which is hard to get used to seeing in a box score — shut out the Brewers. Stratton’s six shutout innings added to six and two-thirds shutout innings in his previous start to give him a nice little streak. He only struck out one, however, which seems like a violation of the laws of physics in 2017.

Andrew Miller left Monday’s game due to reaggravation of patella tendinitis

Jason Miller/Getty Images
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Indians reliever Andrew Miller lasted only six pitches in Monday night’s appearance against the Red Sox. He walked Mookie Betts on six pitches before being relieved by Dan Otero. Per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Miller reaggravated the patella tendinitis in his right knee.

Miller, 32, missed a couple of weeks earlier this month with patella tendinitis. He was activated last Friday and got two outs in a scoreless appearance against the Royals that night.

Bastian pointed out that Miller’s velocity has been lower than usual. He averaged 92.1 MPH on his fastball on Friday and 90.1 MPH on Monday, well below his normal average around 94 MPH.

The Indians should have more on Miller’s status after Monday’s game or on Tuesday. The lefty is carrying a 1.65 ERA with a 79/16 K/BB ratio in 54 2/3 innings on the season.