Mauer a lock for AL MVP?

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Tyler Kepner, who covers the Yankees for the New York Times, sparked a mini-controversy with an innocent little tweet following Mark Teixeria’s heroics in a 4-2 win over the Mariners on Friday night.



“By the way, this is probably obvious by now, but Teixeira’s the AL MVP. No question, as Joe Torre would say.”



Rob Neyer and Joe Posnanski
have already whacked him on the head for suggesting that anyone besides
Joe Mauer could realistically win the award. I’m with them. As I
watched him go 3-for-3 against the Indians on Friday night,
raising his batting average to .375 for the year, I was hard-pressed to
think of another player even remotely worthy of the distinction.
After all, Mauer enters play on Saturday tops in the league in batting,
on-base percentage (.444), slugging percentage (.622) and OPS (1.067),
all while playing the most demanding position in the league.




But, in my quest to find his nearest competition, I decided to look at two leading metrics for evaluating players:



Wins Above Replacement (WAR) Leaders – AL:



1. Joe Mauer – 5.7

2. Ben Zobrist – 5.4

3. Evan Longoria – 5.3


4. Derek Jeter – 4.7


5. Marco Scutaro – 4.6



VORP Leaders – AL:



1. Joe Mauer – 64.0

2. Jason Bartlett – 49.9


3. Ichiro Suzuki – 43.0


4. Carl Crawford – 42.0

5. Michael Young – 41.8

6. Derek Jeter – 41.5

7. Kevin Youkilis – 41.1

8. Justin Morneau – 39.9

9. Ben Zobrist – 39.4

10. Marco Scutaro – 37.9



You know, just in case you needed
any more evidence that Mauer is far and away the best player in the
league this season. It shouldn’t be close, really. But I suspect that
Kepner is focusing on an old-fashioned idea like winning baseball
games. And as the Twins currently sit in third place with an 18.3%
chance of making the playoffs, according to
Cool Standings, Mauer could, but shouldn’t, lose a few votes if they miss out come October.



But if we want to use Kepner’s
argument, Teixeira might not even be the most valuable player on his
own team. With an improved UZR (+8.3) to go along with an excellent
.318/.387/.456 line and the metrics shown above, Derek Jeter has a
stronger case for some individual hardware.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.