AL MVP Rankings: Adam Jones Emerging as a Threat to Josh Hamilton
When I last sat down to compose my weekly rankings for the American League MVP race, Josh Hamilton was the man to beat, and everyone else in the race was a distant second. That's what happens when a dude hits nine home runs in a single week.
Yup, a big week can make that big of a difference (we are talking about weekly rankings, after all). And because of that, Adam Jones now looms large in the AL MVP race.
Jones, the do-it-all centerfielder for the Baltimore Orioles, hit close to .400 over the last seven days, and he smacked several balls out of the yard. Thanks in large part to his efforts, the O's have first place in the AL East all to themselves, and they also have the best record in the American League.
Basically, what Jones did last Sunday was sit down and say, "You know what? I feel like playing like an MVP this week." And he did.
But has he overtaken Hamilton for the lead in the AL MVP race?
Let's take a look. Here are my weekly top-five rankings for the American League Most Valuable Player award.
5. Austin Jackson, CF, Detroit Tigers
Last Week: No. 4
Austin Jackson has been in my top five ever since the start of May. I'm getting the sense that a lot of people haven't noticed how good of a season he's having, but the numbers don't lie.
Jackson is hitting .331/.414/.544 in 36 games for the Tigers, with five home runs and six stolen bases in six tries. He's reaping the benefits of a much more patient approach at the plate this season.
He's been money in the field too. Jackson has a 3.7 UZR and four defensive runs saved, which is pretty darn good when you consider how much ground he has to cover at Comerica Park. It's not an easy center field to play.
Sadly, Jackson is hurting at the moment. An abdominal injury has put him on the shelf since May 16, and the Tigers have proceeded to go 2-2 in his absence. It doesn't sound like he's going to be out for long, but it goes without saying that the Tigers will miss him while he's gone.
Despite his sudden injury woes, Jackson still ranks third in the American League with a 2.6 WAR, according to FanGraphs. He's having a great all-around season, and he's very much helped the Tigers stay afloat.
4. Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox
Last Week: Unranked
White Sox fans love to preach that Paul Konerko is the most underappreciated superstar in baseball, and they're not wrong. He's a truly great player who doesn't get his due from the national media.
Konerko is always good, but he's been better than good this season—he's been great. In 39 games, he has a batting line of .367/.453/.603 with eight home runs and 23 RBI. The only player in the American League with a higher OPS than Konerko is Josh Hamilton, which is saying something.
My gripe with Konerko's claim to the AL MVP is that the White Sox aren't really a great team. They are, in fact, quite mediocre.
But without Konerko, I suppose they would be worse than mediocre; they would probably be quite bad. He's a rock not just in Chicago's lineup, but in their clubhouse. The White Sox are lucky to have him.
Because Konerko is currently fourth in the AL with a WAR of 2.2, per FanGraphs, No. 4 seems to me like a good place to put him.
3. Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees
Last Week: Unranked
I'm pretty sure we were all complaining about Robinson Cano's slow start, like, yesterday. What happened?
It's been lost amidst the Bombers' recent struggles, but Cano is on one heck of a hot streak. Since May 6, he's batting over .400 with a 1.198 OPS. In that span, 10 of his 20 hits have gone for extra bases.
Cano does this kind of thing from time to time. He'll seem completely out of sorts for weeks on end, and then, next thing you know—POW!
It's worth noting that Cano is having a fine season in the field too, as he has a UZR of 5.2 and three defensive runs saved. He's making a run at another Gold Glove.
All told, Cano currently has a WAR of 2.1, according to FanGraphs. His Yankees are struggling, but they'd be struggling even more if it wasn't for him.
2. Adam Jones, CF, Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: No. 5
I mentioned way back in the introduction that Adam Jones is coming off a hell of a week.
Here are his numbers: a .387 average, a .424 OBP, an .806 slugging percentage, four home runs and eight RBI.
Not exactly a Josh Hamilton-esque week, but a pretty darn good week all the same.
For the season, Jones is now batting .308/.353/.610 with 14 home runs and 29 RBI. He's benefiting from an absurd 26.9 HR/FB rate that's bound to come down, but it's still fair to expect Jones to hit about 35 home runs with 100-plus RBI.
The numbers will help Jones' MVP candidacy, but the truly important part is what his early season success has meant for the O's. He's been their best player, and his home runs have had a tendency to come late in games. He's been clutch.
All in all, Jones checks in with a WAR of 2.8, according to FanGraphs. That ranks second behind the next guy on this list.
1. Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers
Last Week: No. 1
Josh Hamilton proceeded to come back down to earth this past week, batting a mere .318 with no home runs and just three RBI.
I am, of course, just joshing. Despite his down week, Hamilton enters this week still leading the American League in batting average, home runs, RBI, slugging and OPS. The phrase "video game numbers" don't do his numbers justice.
Hamilton's WAR, according to FanGraphs, is 3.4, tops in the American League.
Jones has closed the gap, but Hamilton is still the man to beat in the AL MVP race.
Last Week's Rankings
5. Adam Jones, CF, Baltimore Orioles
Movin' on up...
4. Austin Jackson, CF, Detroit Tigers
3. Derek Jeter, SS, New York Yankees
He's been awfully ordinary after a hot start, and he's killing the Yankees on defense.
2. Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles
His bat has gone deathly silent.
1. Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers
Steady as she goes.
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