Tomorrow is September 1st, marking the start of the road to postseason baseball. Second-place teams will give their last push for a wild-card spot, Stephen Strasburg will be shut down and the Cubs, yet again, will not be in the postseason.
It's also around this time when chatter begins about the awards season. This first article in my series to close out the 2012 season will be focused on the American League MVP.
One of the season's most pleasant surprises was the production of Los Angeles Angels OF rookie Mike Trout. Trout has put up some incredible numbers in 2012, leading the AL in runs (103), stolen bases (41), batting average (.336) and OPS (.984).
If Trout sustains these numbers throughout September, he should be a shoo-in for both the AL MVP and the AL Rookie of the Year award. The biggest challenge for him will be his team's spot in the standings, as the Angels sit third in the AL West behind the Rangers and A's.
Trout's biggest competition is Detroit Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera's stats are very comparable to Trout's, with the exceptions that Trout is faster than Cabrera, but Cabrera has a more powerful bat. The upside for Cabrera is that his team is closing the gap to go from second to first in the AL Central, and the guy from a winning team will garner a bit more attention.
The downside for Cabrera is that he isn't the only player on the team who will be in consideration for the MVP award. Prince Fielder is putting up decent numbers himself, hitting 23 HR/93 RBI/.314 AVG. His stats won't win him the MVP over Cabrera, but they could help divide the votes in favor of Trout.
It would be surprising to not see Josh Hamilton's name in the mix for MVP as well, especially with the Rangers in first place. Hamilton's average has dropped quite a bit over the season, but it still hovers around .290. What's key are his 36 home runs and 112 RBI. Hamilton, like the Tigers duo above, will split votes with Adrian Beltre, but Hamilton has the upper hand.
A pair of Yankees will also be mentioned in the MVP voting, with several votes being cast for Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. Both are having better years than last season, and Jeter is having his best season since 2009. But the Yankees haven't looked nearly as dominant this year and have the Baltimore Orioles, of all teams, are on their tails for first place in the AL East. These two will most likely not factor for a MVP win.
Outside of these six, there will be a bunch of players who will steal a vote or two, but will not factor in the race for MVP. These players include, but are not limited to:
- Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers 3B
- Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox OF
- Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins C
- Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels 1B (only because he is Pujols)
- Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels OF
- Paul Konerko, Chicago White Sox 1B
This year will not have a starting pitcher in the mix, and we'll be lucky to see one receive even one vote. Honestly, the AL pitchers this year don't have the dominating stats that were presented last year by Justin Verlander. Felix Hernandez and David Price have good numbers, but respective team standings will prevent them from receiving votes.
My bet is still on Trout. The guy will have to hit a serious cold streak for voters to discount him. If the Angels are able to close the gap and grab a wild-card spot, then the award should be his without discussion.