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.

Pujols has 2 more RBIs, Cardinals beat Pirates 8-7 in 10

Cincinnati Reds v St. Louis Cardinals
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PITTSBURGH – Albert Pujols drove in two more runs and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in 10 innings Tuesday night.

Pujols hit a two-run single in the third inning to push his career total to 2,218 RBIs. That came a night after he broke a tie with Babe Ruth for second place on the career list. Hank Aaron holds the record with 2,287.

Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol then removed the 42-year-old Pujols at the end of the inning. St. Louis opens postseason play Friday when it hosts a best-of-three National League wild-card series.

Juan Yepez gave the Cardinals the win when he hit a tiebreaking single with one in the 10th inning off Chase De Jong (6-3) to score automatic runner Ben Deluzio.

“Tonight was interesting because you’re fairly scripted in who you want to use and who you don’t want to use and what you want tomorrow to look like so you can get ready for Friday,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It was a good one to still figure out a way to come out on top.”

The Cardinals threw out the potential tying run at home in the bottom of the 10th when automatic runner Kevin Newman tried to score from second base on Oneil Cruz‘s line single off the glove of first baseman Alec Burleson. The ball deflected to second baseman Brendon Donovan, who threw home to catcher Andrew Knizner.

The Pirates challenged the call, but it was upheld on video review.

“I thought we were going to get it overturned,” Newman said. “I just thought he didn’t tag me until he got higher up on the body.”

It was the Pirates’ 100th loss, the second year in a row they have reached that mark.

The Cardinals got two hits each from Donovan, Corey Dickerson, Knizner and Paul DeJong.

Cruz had three hits for the Pirates and Bryan Reynolds, Rodolfo Castro, Jack Suwinski, Ke'Bryan Hayes and Ji-Hwan Bae added two apiece. Miguel Andujar drove in two runs.

Chris Stratton (10-4) pitched two scoreless innings for the win.

“They weren’t the prettiest two innings I’ve ever pitched but I got a great play from the defense in the 10th inning to help me out,” Stratton said. “It was a good play all the way around.’

Pujols’ hit put the Cardinals ahead 3-1 but the Pirates answered with six runs in the bottom of the third. Andujar’s run-scoring double highlighted an inning that includes RBI singles by Castro, Suwinski, Ben Gamel and Bae.

The Cardinals then scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie the score at 7-all. Donovan hit an RBI single, Dickerson drove in two runs with a double and the tying run scored on a throwing error by Cruz, the rookie shortstop.

Both starting pitchers lasted just 2 2/3 innings. The Cardinals’ Dakota Hudson was rocked for seven runs and nine hits while the Pirates’ JT Brubaker allowed three runs on four hits.

Brubaker was activated from the injured list before the game. He had been out since Sept. 16 with right lat discomfort.

HELSLEY HURT

Reliever Ryan Helsley, the Cardinals’ closer, left in the eighth inning with a jammed right middle finger. Helsley was injured after catching a line drive by Bae and using his hands to brace himself while dodging a piece of a broken bat.

Helsley said he expects to be ready to pitch Friday.

“I don’t think there was anything super wrong with it,” Helsley said. `Just give it some rest and let it resolve itself.”

ROSTER MOVES

The Pirates optioned right-hander Roansy Contreras to Triple-A Indianapolis to clear a roster spot for Brubaker. They also recalled infielder/outfielder Tucapita Marcano from Indianapolis and optioned catcher Jose Godoy to the same club.

PIRATES AWARDS

Center fielder Bryan Reynolds was voted the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award, emblematic of the Pirates’ MVP, by the Pittsburgh chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Mitch Keller won the Steve Blass Award for best pitcher. Former infielder Michael Chavis was voted the Chuck Tanner Good Guy Award.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Cardinals: OF Tyler O'Neill (strained right hamstring) has been ruled out for the wild-card series but St. Louis is hopeful he can play in the NLDS round if it advances. . 3B Nolan Arenado (left quadriceps tightness) missed his second straight game but could play Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Cardinals: Have not decided on a starter for Wednesday, though Marmol said LHP Matthew Liberatore (2-1, 5.46) and RHP Jake Woodford (4-0, 2.33) are possibilities.

Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (4-3, 3.12), who was acquired from the Cardinals on Aug. 1, gets the start.