Based on what past voting tells us, the checklist for AL MVP voting looks something like this:
Did you have a good year?
Did your team have a good year?
Did your team do better than expected?
Do people see your superlative play as the reason why your team did better than expected?
If you answered “yes” to all of the above, then congratulations, you’ve just won the world’s largest commemorative coin.
The importance of those criteria wax and wane with the year, but the basic questions remain the same.
(Whether or not those are the right questions to ask is a topic I’ll leave to the November blogging malaise.)
Remember, we’re not forecasting who will have the best year in 2012. We’re trying to decide the next AL MVP, a task that contains within it many sub-predictions and inputs beyond the candidate’s immediate control.
With all that as preamble, let’s run through five players who just missed the cut.
10. VERLANDER: Everything had to break right for Verlander to win last year, and even then he won smaller share of the votes than any winner since Alex Rodriguez in 2003. Now that he’s sharing the spotlight with a big free agent acquisition, the sledding gets even tougher.
9. KINSLER: Advanced stats love him, but voters tend to overlook middle infielders who don’t hit for a high average.
8. ELLSBURY: Not sure he can maintain the power numbers. If he slips into the 15-20 HR range, voters won’t want to reward a regression.
7. CABRERA/FIELDER: Classic case of split voting, with neither gaining enough momentum to win. Ryan Braun separated himself from Fielder last year by swiping 30 bags. Cabrera doesn’t have that added dimension.
6. HAMILTON: Will always be a fan and voter favorite because of his backstory—the trophy case proves it—but one has to wonder how many games his body will let him play. Or for that matter, how many games the Rangers will let him play
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