Adrian Beltre is no stranger to MVP races. The Texas Rangers' slugging third baseman finished second in the NL MVP voting in 2004 following his monster year with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he finished ninth in the AL MVP voting in 2010 after his one and only season with the Boston Red Sox.
When all is said and done this season, it's looking like Beltre will once again feature prominently in the AL MVP voting. He's no spring chicken anymore at the age of 33, but Beltre is in the middle of yet another excellent season.
And right now, nobody in baseball is hotter than he is.
Beltre is coming off a week that saw him hit three home runs in one game and then hit for the cycle in another. These performances caught the eyes of baseball fans from all over, but Rangers fans will vouch that Beltre has been a hero all season, not just last week.
It's high time he got some love in my weekly AL MVP rankings. Scroll ahead to see where he ranks in the top five this week.
Note: All stats come from Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Last Week: No. 3
Josh Hamilton's prolonged slump now feels like ancient history. He was next to irrelevant in June and July, but he's heated up with the Texas weather in August.
Hamilton is coming off a week in which he hit a solid .333 with a homer and nine RBI, which he racked up courtesy of a five-RBI game and a four-RBI game against the Twins. He's now up to 27 RBI in the month of August.
To put that in perspective, Hamilton drove in 27 runs in June and July combined.
For the season, Hamilton is hitting .290/.354/.582 with 35 home runs and an AL-best 111 RBI. He ranks third in the AL in slugging and fourth in OPS at .937.
Per FanGraphs, Hamilton ranks sixth in the AL with a weighted on-base average of .387. He's tied with Alex Gordon for seventh in the AL with a WAR of 4.2.
So, why is Hamilton down two spots this week?
It's not so much his fault. As good as he was last week, and as good as he's been in the month of August, one of the players immediately ahead of him in this week's rankings has been even hotter recently, and the other has had a better overall season.
Hamilton is having an excellent overall season, to be sure, but he hasn't been as valuable as a lot of people probably think. The fact that he and Gordon, who is hitting .293 with a .349 wOBA, have the exact same WAR says a lot.
Besides, Hamilton isn't even the most valuable player on his own team these days.
Last Week: Unranked
The most valuable player on the Rangers is Adrian Beltre.
Granted, this has more than a little to do with the week he just had. Beltre hit .433 last week with an absurd 1.533 OPS. That's what happens when one slugs five home runs, including three in one game, and hits for the cycle.
Beltre upped his batting average to .310—a figure that ranks eighth in the American League. He's also sitting on a .519 slugging percentage.
I know what you're thinking: Moving him up to No. 4 in the AL MVP rankings is a bit of a knee-jerk reaction, right?
Kinda. Sorta. Not really.
Beltre's big week definitely helped get his foot in the door, but it's not like he's come out of nowhere. He was having a very good season even before he exploded last week, and he deserves credit for being a far more consistent producer than Mr. Hamilton.
From the middle of May straight through to the end of July, Hamilton was a .224 hitter with a pedestrian .731 OPS. He had two-and-a-half bad months.
Beltre has really only had one bad month all season, and that was in July when he posted a .698 OPS. Every other month, his OPS never dipped below .881.
Plus, you have to take Beltre's excellent defense into account. According to FanGraphs, he leads all qualified major league third basemen with a UZR/150 of 15.2, and he's tied for third among MLB third basemen with a DRS of plus-10.
His combination of excellent offense and defense gives him a WAR of 4.3, which ties him with Ben Zobrist (arguably baseball's most underrated player) for fifth in the American League.
Beltre's not a flash in the pan. He's legit.
Last Week: No. 4
Robinson Cano hit a rough patch in the middle of August, at one point collecting just two hits in 24 at-bats (a 0.83 batting average). Something was up with his super-sweet stroke.
Whatever it was, it looks like it's a thing of the past.
Cano is coming off a week in which he hit .381 with a 1.051 OPS. He's collected multiple hits in three of his last four games.
Cano effectively rescued his batting average from dipping below the .300 mark with his strong week. He's now hitting .309/.374/.541 with 25 homers and 68 RBI, putting him on pace to finish with over 30 home runs and just about 90 RBI.
For the time being, he ranks in the top 10 in the AL in homers, batting average, slugging and OPS. According to FanGraphs, his .386 wOBA is good for sixth in the AL, just behind Hamilton's .387 wOBA.
Like Beltre, Cano gets extra consideration in these rankings because of his defense. He ranks third among AL second basemen with a UZR/150 of 9.3, and he's tied for first with Dustin Ackley with a plus-14 DRS.
As I tend to note every week, Cano's excellent work on defense is extra important this year, as he's basically balancing out Derek Jeter's subpar (to put it lightly) defense at shortstop.
It all adds up to a 5.7 WAR for Cano. That's good for second in the American League behind Mike Trout.
With all respect to Jeter, Cano is the best player on the Yankees this season. In fact, it's not close.
Last Week: No. 2
Something weird happened on Sunday. For the first time all season, Jim Leyland's lineup card did not feature Miguel Cabrera. He wanted to give his superstar third baseman a day off to rest his wounded right ankle.
That's a very good excuse for a day off, mind you, but it was still strange to see Cabrera riding the pine. Fortunately, the Tigers won anyway, and the word from the Detroit Free Press is that Cabrera should be able to return to the hot corner in the near future.
The Tigers will be glad to have him back. Cabrera is, after all, living up to his billing as the best right-handed hitter in the game this season.
Through 126 games, Cabrera is hitting .324/.391/.586 with 32 homers and 106 RBI. He ranks fifth in the AL in homers, second in RBI, first in slugging and second with a .977 OPS.
Per FanGraphs, only Mike Trout has a higher wOBA than Cabrera's .409 wOBA. He also ranks third in the AL with a WAR of 5.3, which is impressive given the fact that he rates as a below-average defensive third baseman (real shocker there).
Cabrera has the numbers to support his campaign for the MVP. The bigger question now is whether or not he and the Tigers can qualify for the postseason, which is no sure thing given the fact that they're 2.5 games behind the White Sox in the AL Central and a half-game out in the AL wild card race.
Making the postseason is of utmost importance for Cabrera. As good as his numbers are, they just don't quite measure up to the numbers the next guy on this list is putting up.
Last Week: No. 1
Just as it was weird to see Cabrera out of Detroit's lineup on Sunday, it was pretty weird to see Trout go hitless in two straight games against the Tigers on Friday and Saturday. He hadn't posted back-to-back 0-fers since the middle of June.
Oh well. Trout is still hitting an AL-best .337 with an AL-best .986 OPS. His .401 on-base percentage is good for third in the AL, his .585 slugging percentage good for second. His 100 runs scored and 41 stolen bases both lead the league.
Based on numbers alone, Trout is without a doubt the favorite to win the AL MVP award. The real question is whether or not his Angels are good enough to qualify for the postseason.
It's looking more and more like they aren't. The only two series the Angels have won in August came against Cleveland and Boston, two of the AL's most hopeless teams. After dropping two out of three to Cabrera's Tigers in Detroit this weekend, the Angels are now four games out in the AL wild card race.
If Trout's Angels miss the playoffs and Cabrera's Tigers get in, Cabrera will win the MVP award.
If both teams make or miss the playoffs, the award should go to Trout. He has the inside track until further notice.
5. David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
I'm not against giving pitchers the MVP award, and Price certainly deserves more AL MVP consideration than fellow elites like Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez. But position players should be given priority over pitchers in the MVP race, and Beltre's huge week forced me to make space for him in these rankings by knocking Price out.
If Beltre cools down (and that seems inevitable), Price will soon find himself back in the top five.
4. Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees
3. Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers
Down a couple, because the world is an unfair place.
2. Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers
Steady as she goes.
1. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
The dude even goes shark fishing. He'll go inside the cage. The cage will go into the water. Sharks will be in the water.
Feel free to check out last week's rankings.
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