First-third awards – AL MVP

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Let’s turn back to VORP to generate the list of candidates. Hitters only, for now:

1. Joe Mauer – 36.0
2. Jason Bartlett – 31.3
3. Justin Morneau – 29.7
4. Evan Longoria – 29.4
5. Adam Jones – 27.4
6. Victor Martinez – 27.2
7. Kevin Youkilis – 26.7
8. Jason Bay – 26.2
9. Torii Hunter – 24.7
10. Russell Branyan – 24.0
11. Carl Crawford – 22.9
12. Ian Kinsler – 22.0

That’s a very good list of candidates. I think Marco Scutaro, who ranks
17th in WARP, is a better choice than Branyan or Crawford, but he’s not
cracking that top nine. The list includes the top eight in OPS and the
top three in RBI. Mark Teixeira, who ranks ninth in OPS and fourth in
RBI, could well end up being the AL MVP, but he didn’t do much at all
during April and he’s getting a big boost from the new Yankee Stadium
(1126 OPS at home, 846 on the road).

How about those same 12 listed with their OPS, RBI and games played totals:

1. Joe Mauer – 1357 OPS, 35 RBI in 30 G
2. Jason Bartlett – 1014 OPS, 30 RBI in 44 G
3. Justin Morneau – 1046 OPS, 47 RBI in 54 G
4. Evan Longoria – 1005 OPS, 55 RBI in 52 G
5. Adam Jones – 1002 OPS, 36 RBI in 48 G
6. Victor Martinez – 992 OPS, 40 RBI in 53 G
7. Kevin Youkilis – 1147 OPS, 33 RBI in 39 G
8. Jason Bay – 1033 OPS, 51 RBI in 52 G
9. Torii Hunter – 976 OPS, 42 RBI in 50 G
10. Russell Branyan – 1036 OPS, 25 RBI in 47 G
11. Carl Crawford – 830 OPS, 25 RBI in 54 G
12. Ian Kinsler – 912 OPS, 40 R in 51 G

Obviously, Mauer’s numbers really stand out. Still, he’s played in
55 percent of the Twins’ games so far. If he remains the AL’s best
player over the rest of the year and plays in 80 percent of the Twins’
games, he should be the AL MVP. However, he hasn’t been the MVP through
two months.

Bartlett won’t be there at the end, but he’s still a serious
candidate now, even with the recent DL stint. Still, I think the top
Ray has to be Longoria, if only because he has played in eight more
games and been just about as effective. Similiarly, Bay has the
advantage of Boston’s two candidates.

So who is the AL MVP through two months? Well, it’s Zack Greinke of
course. If Mauer had put up these kind of numbers over 45 games, rather
than 30, he’d probably get the nod. Greinke, though, has supplied his
team with more victories than any of these hitters. The Royals have
gone 8-3 while scoring a total of 49 runs in his 11 starts. Also, while
Greinke is only pitching once every five days, he’s still helping the
team the rest of the time by saving wear and tear on the bullpen.
Greinke has already pitched five complete games, and he’s averaging 7.5
innings per start.

First third AL MVP

1. Greinke
2. Longoria
3. Morneau
4. Mauer
5. Bay
6. Bartlett
7. Roy Halladay
8. Hunter
9. Martinez
10. Jones

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.