AL MVP Rankings: Josh Hamilton's Monster Week Makes Him the Man to Beat
Josh Hamilton is doing something special this season.
As you no doubt have already noticed, the star outfielder of the Texas Rangers is leading the American League in just about everything. Most notably, he leads the AL in batting average, home runs, RBI and pitchers' tears collected.
Okay, I made that last one up, but Hamilton is indeed on pace to win the Triple Crown in the American League. We've seen a lot of players make a run at winning the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski won it in 1967, but you just get the sense that Hamilton isn't going to tail off and fall short. He's too hot to cool down, as it were.
We shall see if Hamilton has it in him to win the Triple Crown. One thing that's for sure is that he's the man to beat for the American League Most Valuable Player. Some players in the league are having MVP-caliber years, but they all pale in comparison to Hamilton.
But for what it's worth, here are my updated rankings for the top five contenders for the AL MVP award.
5. Adam Jones, CF, Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: Unranked
Very quietly, Adam Jones had a solid year for the Orioles in 2011, batting .280 with 25 home runs.
He's on pace to have an even better year this year. Entering Monday, Jones is batting .291/.338/.567 with 10 home runs and 21 RBI. He already has five stolen bases a year after stealing just 12 all season.
Just as important as the stats is what Jones' production has meant for the Orioles this season. You can count me among the people who are waiting for them to hit the skids, but they're stubbornly hanging on to the lead in the American League East. Jones' play out on the field is a big reason why.
Per FanGraphs, Jones' WAR for the season is 2.2, which ties him for second in the American League among position players. He's on pace to have the best season of his career, and the Orioles are going to stay in the race as long as he keeps it up.
4. Austin Jackson, CF, Detroit Tigers
Last Week: No. 4
I had Austin Jackson at No. 4 in my MVP rankings last week, and that seemed to catch a lot of people by surprise.
That just goes to show that Jackson's great season is happening under the radar. He enters play on Monday with an impressive batting line of .320/.403/.504, with four home runs and six stolen bases in six attempts.
For the record, his .907 OPS just barely edges Adam Jones' .905 OPS.
Jackson isn't just doing it at the plate, either. Per FanGraphs, Jackson's 3.9 UZR ranks fifth among American League outfielders, and he's tied for fifth among outfielders with four defensive runs saved.
All told, Jackson's WAR checks in at 2.2, tying him with Jones for second in the AL. It's a close call between the two of them, but I have to give Jackson the slight edge because the Tigers have needed his production more than the Orioles have needed Jones' production.
3. Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees
Last Week: No. 2
When I checked in with Derek Jeter last week, he was hitting close to .400 with five home runs.
Thanks to a week that saw him bat just .250, Jeter is now down to .372/.418/.538, and he remains stuck on five home runs. His MVP candidacy is still strong, but it got weaker over the course of the last week.
The numbers are only part of the story, however. The Yankees have had to go through a lot of drama in the early part of the season, and most of the news they've gotten has been bad news.
In times like these, the Yankees have needed Jeter to be a rock, and he's obliged them. Things haven't been fun for the Bombers this season, but Jeter has come to play.
According to FanGraphs, Jeter's WAR is only 1.4. I think I speak for everyone when I say that that number doesn't quite do him justice.
2. Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: No. 1
Matt Wieters was hitting over .300 when I had him at No. 1 in my MVP rankings last week, and he played a big part in Baltimore's sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Wieters proceeded to have a down week, batting just .167 and going hitless in four straight games at one point. Entering Monday, his batting line was down to .274/.356/.547.
Nonetheless, Wieters is still a very strong MVP candidate. His offensive numbers are very good for a catcher, and his defense behind the plate has been just as strong as it was last year, when he won his first career Gold Glove.
Just as important is what Wieters has done with Baltimore's pitching staff. Per ESPN.com, Wieters has a catcher's ERA of 3.29, lowest in the AL among qualified catchers.
Wieters' WAR is 1.5, according to FanGraphs. For any other position player, that's pretty good. For a catcher, that's excellent.
1. Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers
Last Week: No. 3
Yes, it's true. Josh Hamilton checked in at No. 3 when I did my AL MVP rankings last week.
Listen, if I had known he was going to respond by hitting nine home runs and rack up 18 RBI, I would have had him at No. 1. I just didn't see that coming. Nobody did.
Hamilton's numbers are absolutely ridiculous. He enters play on Monday as the AL leader in batting average (.402), home runs (18), RBI (44), slugging percentage (.866) and OPS (1.321). We joke a lot about players having "video game numbers," but Hamilton actually has video game numbers.
To boot, his Texas Rangers have the best record in the American League at 23-12. They wouldn't be where they are without him.
Per FanGraphs, Hamilton's WAR is an AL-best 3.2. No AL position player is even close to him in that category.
And that kind of sums it up.