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.

The St. Louis Cardinals announce their first Pride Night

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The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they will hold their first Pride Night on August 25th.

A lot of teams have Pride Nights, but it’s worth noting that the Cardinals are holding one given some bad press — some fair, some unfair — they have received in recent years when it comes to matters of diversity and inclusion.

Earlier this month the club received criticism from the LGBT community due to Lance Berkman’s presence for the team’s annual Christian Day, given his past comments about transgender people and his participation in a Houston political campaign over access to public restrooms. Recently, a former Cardinals minor league player claimed he left baseball after enduring anti-gay comments from his coaches and teammates.

As club president Bill DeWitt III noted in the official announcement however, the Cardinals have hosted LGBT groups in the past. He says that the club is eager to “remind fans that everyone is welcome at Busch Stadium.” He notes that the event will raise money for the PrideSTL Scholarship Fund which, in DeWitt’s words, “help courageous students in our community.”

Nice move, Cardinals.

Johnny Cueto expected to opt-out of his deal after the season

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Johnny Cueto signed a six-year $130 million deal with the Giants prior to the 2016 season. In his first season he went 18-5 with a 2.79 ERA and 198 strikeouts in 219.2 innings, helping lead the Giants to the playoffs. This season has been rocky for Cueto — he’s got a a 4.42 ERA in 15 starts and has battled blisters — but they’ve been far rockier for the Giants overall, as they sit in last place in the NL West and have the second worst record in baseball.

Many suspect that the Giants will either rebuild or, at the very least, restructure some in response to this nightmare year. If so, they’re likely going to be doing it with Cueto, who Jon Heyman reports is going to opt-out of his deal:

San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Johnny Cueto is planning to opt out of his contract at the end of the year, but he would listen to any extension offer . . . Cueto has $84 million to go over four years. It would probably take an injury or major slump for Cueto not to opt out. But it makes sense that he will.

Heyman says the Giants are not inclined to give him an extension, so expect to see Cueto on the free agent market three days after the World Series ends, which is the deadline for him to exercise his opt-out rights.