Miguel Cabrera

Pouliot’s midseason award picks: AL MVP

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The reigning MVP has some heavy-hitting competition this year. Let’s see if he can hold them off.

AL OPS leaders:

1.136 – Miguel Cabrera: .368/.458/.678, 26 HR, 85 RBI, 2 SB in 323 AB
1.126 – Chris Davis: .329/.405/.721, 31 HR, 80 RBI, 0 SB in 301 AB
1.102 – David Ortiz: .320/.406/.607, 16 HR, 57 RBI, 2 SB in 244 AB
.927 – Mike Trout: .311/.388/.539, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 20 SB in 334 AB
.920 – Evan Longoria: .301/.371/.549, 17 HR, 47 RBI, 0 SB in 306 AB
.920 – Josh Donaldson: .318/.386/.534, 14 HR, 55 RBI, 2 SB in 305 AB
.913 – Jason Kipnis: .299/.385/.529, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 19 SB in 278 AB
.908 – Robinson Cano: .295/.372/.537, 20 HR, 54 RBI, 5 SB in 315 AB
.887 – Edwin Encarnacion: .270/.350/.537, 23 HR, 66 RBI, 3 SB in 315 AB
.878 – Joe Mauer: .318/.402/.475, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 0 SB in 305 AB

Other notables:

.846 – Dustin Pedroia: .321/.404/.441, 5 HR, 47 RBI, 12 SB in 324 AB
.841 – Howie Kendrick: .323/.367/.475, 9 HR, 38 RBI, 6 SB in 316 AB
.839 – Manny Machado: .321/.352/.488, 6 HR, 42 RBI, 6 SB in 361 AB

Here are the WAR top 10s:

Baseball-reference

5.2 – Manny Machado
4.9 – Miguel Cabrera
4.3 – Chris Sale
4.1 – Chris Davis
4.1 – Dustin Pedroia
4.0 – Clay Buchholz
3.8 – Robinson Cano
3.8 – Josh Donaldson
3.7 – Hisashi Iwakuma
3.7 – Jason Kipnis

Fangraphs

5.4 – Miguel Cabrera
4.6 – Mike Trout
4.6 – Chris Davis
4.5 – Evan Longoria
4.2 – Manny Machado
3.9 – Josh Donaldson
3.5 – Jose Bautista
3.5 – Joe Mauer
3.4 – Derek Holland
3.4 – Max Scherzer
3.4 – Felix Hernandez

Now, I’m all for considering pitchers for MVP awards, but three months into this year, I don’t think any pitcher besides maybe Scherzer is in the mix for even a down ballot vote. B-ref WAR may disagree, but I don’t believe any AL starters have been as valuable as Adam Wainwright and Matt Harvey in the NL.

If the BBWAA held the vote today, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Cabrera would win in a landslide, with Davis finishing second. And that’s justifiable. Cabrera ranks first in the AL in average, second in homers and first in RBI. Davis is second in average, first in homers and second in RBI. They’re one-two in OPS as well, and it’s close there. However, Cabrera’s extra 53 points of OBP are worth a lot more than Davis’s 48 points of slugging.

Defense brings the two only a bit closer together; I think Davis has a bit more value as a decent first baseman than Cabrera does as a poor third baseman. But it’s not a big margin. Cabrera’s ballpark is also a bit tougher than Davis’s, so I think it’s pretty clear that Cabrera comes out ahead of Davis.

That leaves Trout and Machado as the competition. There are two big differences in the Trout vs. Cabrera battle this year. First, the offensive gap is much larger. Last year, Cabrera edged Trout by a mere 36 points of OPS (.999 to .963). This year, it’s a 200-point margin. The other difference is that Trout’s defensive numbers are way down this year. B-ref rates him as below average, while Fangraphs has him right around average. My eyes tell me that Trout truly did struggle defensively in April, but that he’s been much better of late. Regardless, his defense and baserunning aren’t close to making up the offensive gap this year.

That leaves Machado, whose case is built on his remarkable defensive numbers. Fangraphs says he’s been worth a win and a half, making him baseball’s most valuable defensive player so far. B-ref has him at 2 1/2 wins, more than a win ahead of anyone else in the AL.

I’m pretty skeptical of B-ref’s accounting there. Machado is an excellent third baseman. Actually, he’s an excellent shortstop playing a position for which he’s overqualified. But 2 1/2 wins seems excessive. I have a hard time believing that a player who gets three balls hit his way per game can be worth 25 extra runs in half of a season. Fangraphs’ math makes him the AL’s fifth most valuable player, which sounds about right to me. For all of those wonderful doubles, he ranks only 16th in the AL in OPS and 26th in OBP. He’s third in outs made.

After those four, it’s mostly more third basemen and second basemen vying for spots. It shows how down of a year it’s been for AL outfielders; Trout is the only one in the top 10 in OPS.

AL MVP picks

1. Cabrera
2. Davis
3. Trout
4. Machado
5. Pedroia
6. Longoria
7. Donaldson
8. Kipnis
9. Cano
10. Ortiz

Giants and Brandon Belt have an arbitration hearing scheduled for Wednesday

San Francisco Giants'  Brandon Belt reacts after being called out on strikes by home plate umpire Jim Joyce to end the top of the first inning against the Colorado Rockies in a baseball game Friday, Sept.. 4, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Brandon Belt filed for $7.5 million and was offered $5.3 million by the Giants when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. That’s a pretty sizable gap. While there’s still a chance that an agreement will be worked out at the last minute, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that an arbitration hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The Giants haven’t gone to an arbitration hearing since 2004, when they lost to catcher A.J. Pierzynski. Schulman hears from one person involved that because of the gap between Belt and the Giants, there’s a real chance this will break that string and require a hearing.

Belt batted .280/.356/.478 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI over 137 games in 2015, but he dealt with concussion symptoms for the second straight season. An arbitration hearing could bring some unpleasant conversation to the surface.

Padres sign veteran utility player Skip Schumaker

Cincinnati Reds' Skip Schumaker is tagged out at home plate by San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey during the seventh inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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The Padres have inked veteran utility player Skip Schumaker to a minor league contract, per FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.

Schumaker, who turned 36 last week, has spent the last two seasons with the Reds. He batted .242/.306/.336 with one home run and 21 RBI over 131 games last season while making starts between all three outfield spots and second base. Cincinnati cut ties with him in November after declining a $2.5 million club option for 2016.

While Schumaker had to settle for a non-guaranteed deal here, it would be no surprise to see him land a bench job with the Padres come Opening Day.

Report: MLB, union making progress on new slide rule at second base

New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada falls after a slide by Los Angeles Dodgers' Chase Utley during the seventh inning of an NL Division Series baseball game Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP)
John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News via AP
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After Ruben Tejada suffered a fractured right fibula on a takeout slide from Chase Utley during the playoffs, there was momentum for a new rule about slides at second base. We haven’t heard much about it since the Owners’ Meetings in November, but ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that talks between MLB and the players’ union are making progress and a change is expected for the 2016 season.

The exact wording of the new rule is still unclear, but Olney hears that there’s a focus toward “ensuring that sliding runners either touch the base or make an effort to touch the base.” Below are some more details:

Sources said that in the union’s internal discussions, players made it clear they had been taught since they first began playing baseball to go into second base with the intent of breaking up double-play attempts. Although the union wants to improve safety for middle infielders, it does not want to eliminate players’ aggressiveness on slides or the ability to break up a double play.

However, there is a desire on both sides to eliminate slides on which a baserunner goes beyond the effort to reach second to make contact with middle infielders.

There’s already a rule in place for a situation like we saw with Utley, but it’s rarely, if ever, enforced. It’s unfortunate that Tejada’s fractured fibula had to be the catalyst for change or clarification with the rules, but hopefully this will result in fewer injuries in the future. Similar to the “Buster Posey Rule” for plays at home plate, get ready for life with the “Chase Utley Rule.”

Here’s the video of the Tejada/Utley play:

And here’s the video of another high-profile play from 2015 which resulted in a torn lateral meniscus and a fractured tibia for Pirates infielder Jung Ho Kang:

Report: Tigers and J.D. Martinez agree to a two-year, $18.5 million deal

J.D. Martinez
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UPDATE: Jason Beck of MLB.com confirms that it’s a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

8:00 p.m. ET: Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish reports that the Tigers have avoided arbitration with outfielder J.D. Martinez by agreeing to a two-year contract. No word yet on the terms involved, but Robert Murray of Baseball Essential reported earlier today that he was hearing rumblings about a two-year, $18.5 million deal.

Martinez filed for $8 million and was offered $6 million by the Tigers when arbitration figures were exchanged last month. There has been some talk about a long-term extension, but we heard last week that the two sides were discussing both one- and two-year deals. This new deal will buy out Martinez’s final two years of arbitration, so as of now, he’s still on track to go into free agency after 2017.

After a breakout 2014, Martinez batted .282 with 38 home runs and an .879 OPS over 158 games last season.