Vegas-Style Odds for the Top 2013 AL MVP Candidates with Josh Hamilton in L.A.
By signing Josh Hamilton, the Los Angeles Angels fortified their lineup with a third legitimate American League MVP candidate. Teammates Albert Pujols and Mike Trout share the same distinction.
Do their individuals odds improve or worsen in each other's company?
Here's my breakdown of the 2013 AL MVP race. According to these rough projections, one player is significantly favored over his peers.
AL Players Just Outside the Top 10
Players with odds slightly worse than 50-1:
Yoenis Cespedes (Oakland Athletics), Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers), Prince Fielder (Detroit Tigers), Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners), David Ortiz (Boston Red Sox), Dustin Pedroia (Boston Red Sox), Salvador Perez (Kansas City Royals), CC Sabathia (New York Yankees), Jered Weaver (Los Angeles Angels).
Joe Mauer: 50-1
The face of the Minnesota Twins franchise quietly had an excellent offensive year in 2012. He led the American League with a .416 on-base percentage while appearing in a career-high 147 games.
However, Joe Mauer's odds of winning MVP are below two percent because of his reduced workload behind the plate. He caught 1,037 innings over the past two years after averaging nearly as many per season from 2008-2010. His triple-slash line would be more impressive if he were still exclusively being used at baseball's most physically demanding position.
Minnesota's fall from relevance hurts his candidacy, too.
Evan Longoria: 40-1
Evan Longoria's durability is becoming somewhat of a concern. He spent considerable portions of 2011 and 2012 on the disabled list.
Still, the third baseman possesses as much all-around ability as any American League player. Beyond his power-hitting prowess, Longoria has proven to be an effective base-runner and smooth-fielding third baseman with a strong arm.
It doesn't seem like the 27-year-old will have enough help in the Tampa Bay Rays lineup. For the Rays to be successful, James Loney will have to enjoy an outstanding bounce-back year and Wil Myers will have to reach his potential as a rookie. Otherwise, Longoria won't amass as many runs scored or runs batted in as other award contenders.
Justin Verlander: 40-1
Justin Verlander was robbed of a second consecutive AL Cy Young Award. He's a strikeout artist with the pitch efficiency to last into the later innings, and he has rarely struggled in an outing since 2011 began.
In the last 20 seasons, only one non-position player has won AL MVP. You're looking at him.
So long as Verlander maintains the velocity to get away with mistakes and the control to put batters in uncomfortable counts, he shouldn't be ignored in this race.
Jose Bautista: 35-1
With Brett Lawrie and Jose Reyes atop the Toronto Blue Jays batting order, Jose Bautista's bombs will bring home more runs than ever.
He's just as disciplined as he is powerful. So unlike Josh Hamilton, he isn't susceptible to slumps of uselessness.
In April 2012, for example, Bautista wasn't timing his swing correctly. He fouled off pitches that should have left the ballpark and constantly found himself with two strikes. Yet he posted a .320 on-base percentage that month and continued to contribute to the offense.
BBWAA voters will pay close attention to Bautista next season because the Blue Jays enter it with depth and World Series aspirations.
Albert Pujols: 30-1
There's a reason the Los Angeles Angels paid Albert Pujols a quarter-billion dollars last winter—he's among the all-time greats.
Ingrained in our minds are images of the slugger whiffing in his first weeks in the American League. Others also recall that his influence was limited late in 2012 as a designated hitter.
But Baseball-Reference.com won't allow us to use selective memory. It shows that Pujols performed like his old, dominant self during the months of June, July and August (1.026 OPS).
He'll still be a phenom at age 33.
Adrian Beltre: 20-1
Ever since he left the Seattle Mariners, Adrian Beltre has closely resembled the player who once finished runner-up to Barry Bonds in NL MVP balloting.
He's increasingly being recognized as an elite individual as Wins Above Replacement and other sabermetrics become mainstream. That's because those all-encompassing statistics reveal how valuable uality fielding can be, and Beltre is incredible at third base.
In season No. 16, he'll be the new focal point of the Texas Rangers batting order.
Josh Hamilton: 20-1
Shifting to a corner outfield spot will spare Josh Hamilton from some wear and tear. He has never been an elite defender, and with less ground to cover, he won't be in situations to negatively affect the Los Angeles Angels.
Despite the pitcher-friendly conditions of his new home ballpark, Hamilton will continue to hit for gaudy power numbers. According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, he led the American League with 15 "no doubt" home runs last summer.
The question is whether Hamilton's body will betray him.
Robinson Cano: 25-2
Robinson Cano has taken the field 159 times or more in six straight seasons, so he's a pretty safe bet to avoid major injury again.
He makes across-the-body throws that no other second baseman ever has. Moreover, Cano's line-drive swing produces extra-base hits at a rate that middle infielders seldom do.
He's on the verge of signing a record-breaking contract in free agency. How's that for motivation?
Mike Trout: 10-1
The league will do its best to adjust to Mike Trout after his dominant rookie campaign.
But even if his batting value wanes, there will be nothing to prevent him from stealing bases at will or saving games with his glove.
Dissenting voters who argued against Trout as the deserving AL MVP in 2012 cited his limited games played. They even discredited his accomplishments because the Los Angeles Angels missed the postseason.
Neither of those statements will be applicable to his 2013 candidacy if the Halos meet expectations.
Miguel Cabrera: 7-1
Miguel Cabrera has very poor odds of winning another Triple Crown.
He doesn't need it to validate his greatness, anyway.
The best pure hitter in baseball is surrounded by other elite offensive players like Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson and Victor Martinez. Endless rallies of Miggy knocking them in—and vice versa—can compensate for his mediocre defense.