First-third awards: 2011 AL MVP

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Closing out the selections with the one no-brainer in the bunch.  Still., there’s a good race for second place.

First, the OPS leaders:

1.276 – Jose Bautista (OF TOR): .360/.502/.773, 20 HR, 40 RBI, 5 SB in 172 AB
1.064 – Matt Joyce (OF TB): .364/.423/.642, 10 HR, 31 RBI, 4 SB in 173 AB
1.001 – Miguel Cabrera (1B DET): .311/.432/.568, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 0 SB in 190 AB
.964 – David Ortiz (DH BOS): .313/.382/.582, 13 HR, 28 RBI, 0 SB in 201 AB
.960 – Curtis Granderson (OF NYY): .278/.348/.612, 17 HR, 41 RBI, 8 SB in 209 AB
.918 – Adrian Gonzalez (1B BOS): .329/.377/.541, 10 HR, 46 RBI, 1 SB in 231 AB
.908 – Jhonny Peralta (SS DET): .314/.373/.535, 8 HR, 31 RBI, 0 SB in 172 AB
.901 – Howie Kendrick (2B LAA): .322/.388/.520, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 4 SB in 177 AB
.901 – Mark Teixeira (1B NYY): .257/.367/.535, 16 HR, 38 RBI, 1 SB in 202 AB
.899 – Mitch Moreland (1B TEX): .307/.384/.515, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 2 SB in 163 AB
.897 – Paul Konerko (1B CWS): .310/.381/.516, 12 HR, 44 RBI, 1 SB in 213 AB
.896 – Carlos Quentin (OF CWS): .258/.351/.545, 13 HR, 37 RBI, 0 SB in 198 AB
.875 – Asdrubal Cabrera (SS CLE): .299/.352/.522, 10 HR, 39 RBI, 7 SB in 224 AB

A couple of shortstops and a second baseman find their way into the the top 13 here. A few other notables:

.877* – Alex Avila (C DET): .281/.349/.527, 8 HR, 30 RBI, 2 SB in 146 AB
.852 – Kevin Youkilis (3B BOS): .254/.377/.475, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 1 SB in 181 AB
.839 – Robinson Cano (2B NYY): .284/.324/.514, 11 HR, 37 RBI, 5 SB in 208 AB
.809 – Russell Martin (C NYY): .242/.352/.458, 9 HR, 26 RBI, 6 SB in 153 AB

Avila falls short of qualifying for the batting title, hence his placement in the second list.

Now we’ll see what WAR has to say about it. Baseball-Reference first:

4.9 – Jose Bautista (OF TOR)
3.4 – Matt Joyce (OF TB)
3.2 – Denard Span (OF MIN)
2.4 – Adrian Gonzalez (1B BOS)
2.3 – Curtis Granderson (OF NYY)
2.2 – Kevin Youkilis (3B BOS)
2.1 – Miguel Cabrera (1B DET)
2.1 – Howie Kendrick (2B LAA)
2.0 – Alex Gordon (OF KC)
1.9 – Alex Avila (C DET)
1.9 – Asdrubal Cabrera (SS CLE)
1.9 – Jacoby Ellsbury (OF BOS)
1.9 – Yunel Escobar (SS TOR)
1.9 – Maicer Izturis (INF LAA)

I left the pitchers off the list. Josh Beckett, who ranked third at 3.3 WAR, is the only one I’d consider worthy of a down-ballot vote right now.

B-Ref thinks Span has been the AL’s best defender by a huge margin. He’s credited with 1.8 WAR defensively. The next highest are Alcides Escobar and Brett Gardner at 1.0 WAR.

The Cabreras are taking big defensive hits. Miguel and Asdrubal rank third and fourth here with 2.6 and 2.4 offensive WAR, but both lose half a win with their gloves.

On to Fangraphs’ WAR:

4.9 – Jose Bautista (OF TOR)
3.2 – Matt Joyce (OF TB)
2.9 – Howie Kendrick (2B LAA)
2.9 – Curtis Granderson (OF NYY)
2.7 – Alexei Ramirez (SS CWS)
2.6 – Denard Span (OF MIN)
2.3 – Ben Zobrist (2B-OF TB)
2.2 – Alex Rodriguez (3B NYY)
2.2 – Jhonny Peralta (SS DET)
2.1 – Miguel Cabrera (1B DET)
2.1 – Alex Gordon (OF KC)

Fangraphs also rates Span as the league’s top defender. The shocking thing is that Kendrick comes in second. Zobrist and A-Rod are also getting big points there.

One last list: WPA. Yesterday, I used only the positive component in discussing the NL MVP race, but I’ve reconsidered and will go actual WPA today.

3.52 – Jose Bautista (OF TOR)
3.02 – Miguel Cabrera (OF DET)
2.60 – Matt Joyce (OF TB)
2.19 – Curtis Granderson (OF NYY)
2.09 – Adrian Gonzalez (1B BOS)
2.00 – Michael Young (INF-DH TEX)
1.93 – Justin Smoak (1B SEA)
1.79 – Adam Jones (OF BAL)
1.54 – Bobby Abreu (OF LAA)
1.24 – Michael Brantley (OF CLE)

So, yeah, that’s four lists and Bautista tops every one of them. It gets more complicated after that.

WAR favors Joyce for the second spot, but he didn’t play against lefties early on and he’s started just 47 of the Rays’ 56 games. Consequently, he’s tied for 17th in the league in RBI. I think those factors knock him down a bit.

Granderson looks like a pretty strong choice for the second spot despite the middling .348 OBP. Hitting lefties for the first time in his career, he’s second in the league in homers and fourth in RBI while playing a quality center field.

I really want to put Asdrubal up near the top, too. He’s the biggest reason the Indians have ranked as the game’s surprise team for two months. Peralta has been just as good offensively, but I’m not buying into the idea that he’s really the superior defensive shortstop.

AL MVP
1. Bautista
2. Granderson
3. A. Cabrera
4. Joyce
5. A. Gonzalez
6. M. Cabrera
7. Peralta
8. Beckett
9. Young
10. Gordon

That’s the list. I gave some thought to sneaking Avila on, as he’s easily been the league’s best catcher to date, yet three Tigers seemed like overkill. Instead, I went for the guy who has been far and away the top left fielder, Gordon.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Twins 14, Orioles 7: Baltimore jumped out to a 5-0 lead and led 6-2 after four but then the Twins started bashing. Actually, it wasn’t so much bashing as the ten runs they scored between the fifth and sixth innings all came without the benefit of a homer. Max Kepler and Miguel Sano did homer at other times in the game, however. Kepler drove in four. Sano and Eduardo Escobar each knocked in three. Minnesota even scored on a balk. This game had a bit of everything. Adam Jones hit a homer. It was his 125th dinger at Camden Yards, giving him the all-time lead in that park. The old record holder: Rafael Palmeiro.

Yankees 4, Royals 2: Brett Gardner, Didi Gregorius and Chris Carter all went deep as the Yankees beat Jason Vargas. Vargas had a 1.01 ERA through his first seven starts. In his last two he’s allowed nine runs on 11 hits in ten innings. Both of those games have come against the Yankees, though, so maybe it’s more them having his number than him turning into a pumpkin.

Rockies 8, Phillies 1: Top prospect Jeff Hoffman got called up for a spot start and struck out seven over seven three-hit, one-run innings. Nolan Arenado hit a two-run homer. Philly has lost 18 of 22.

Reds 5, Indians 1: The Battle for Ohio Begins. With the loss, Cleveland is in the early lead to be stuck with Ohio. OK, I kid — I’m an Ohioan, I can do that — but I don’t know for sure what the winner gets. It’s either some cup or a trophy or maybe they get to cut in line at Cedar Point or something. Anyway, Scott Feldman was sharp, allowing one run and striking out nine in six innings, and Scott Schebler homered for the third straight game. Great Scott.

Angels 3, Rays 2: J.C. Ramirez outdueled Jake Odorizzi and the Angels broke a 2-2 tie on a Jumbo Diaz wild pitch in the seventh. Five total runs scored and 12 hits between the teams over nine innings yet this game went three hours and thirty seven minutes. Eleven walks and 20 strikeouts is the likely culprit. Sounds like a slog.

Braves 5, Pirates 2: Welcome to Atlanta Matt Adams. The newest Brave hit a two-run homer in his second start since being acquired from the Cardinals and Brandon Phillips hit his 200th career homer. Center fielder Ender Inciarte had a career-high five hits for the Braves who were not fooled at all by Gerrit Cole. Meanwhile, Mike Foltynewicz and four relievers held the Buccos in check.

Giants 6, Cubs 4: Joe Panik homered to lead off the game and doubled twice. Not to lead off the game, though. It’d be impossible to do all of that in one plate appearance. Brandon Belt and Justin Ruggiano homered as well, also in their own distinct at bats. There are rules here.

Astros 1, Tigers 0: A combined one-hitter in a bullpen game. The bullpen game was necessitated by a pinched nerve in Dallas Keuchel‘s neck. Brad Peacock got the start and allowed only one hit and two walks with eight strikeouts over four and a third. Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Ken Giles went the rest of the way for a combined four and two-thirds perfect innings. Michael Fulmer only made one mistake in walking George Springer to lead off the game and then giving up an RBI double to Jose Altuve. Otherwise he scattered eight hits and allowed only that one run in seven innings. That, however, was enough to lose the game.

Diamondbacks 5, White Sox 1: Zack Greinke struck out a season-high 12, allowing only one run in eight and two-thirds. Daniel Descalso hit a three-run homer in the fourth that provided all of the cushion Greinke needed.

Astros’ bullpen throws combined one-hitter for MLB-best 30th win

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The Astros’ bullpen did yeoman’s work in place of the injured Dallas Keuchel on Monday against the Tigers. Keuchel is temporarily sidelined with a pinched nerve in his neck.

Brad Peacock made the spot start, limiting the Tigers to one hit and two walks with eight strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings. Chris Devenski took over with one out in the fifth, finishing out that inning as well as the sixth and seventh, facing the minimum. Will Harris pitched a perfect eighth and Ken Giles closed out the 1-0 victory in the ninth. Devenski, Harris, and Giles each had two strikeouts.

The Astros scored their only run in the bottom of the first inning as George Springer drew a leadoff walk, then scored on Jose Altuve‘s one-out double. Tigers starter Brad Fulmer pitched well enough to win on most days, giving up the lone run in seven frames.

After Monday’s win, the Astros became the first team to reach 30 wins, sitting on a 30-15 record. With a +55 run differential, even their expected record matches up with their actual record.