Top 10 MVP Candidates
With about six weeks to go in the 2009 MLB regular season, it's not just the pennant races that are heating up, it's the MVP races.
There are intriguing competitions in both the American and National Leagues for who will walk away with the hardware, and the fun thing about MVP races is that it's player-against-player competition, so if you're an Adam Dunn tearing it up but losing almost every game you play, you still have a chance to be named the Most Valuable Player for your league.
The first five slides present the senior circuit's MVP candidates, while the last five are for the AL.
NL: Adrian Gonzalez - 1B - San Diego Padres
Gonzalez has struggled to match his first-half numbers, but playing on an abysmal team like the Padres in a terrible hitters' park is a handicap. Who expected him to keep up that rate?
Despite the crummy team he's on and his slight second-half drop-off, the Gold Glove first baseman is still going to end up with career highs in home runs, walks and possibly on-base percentage and slugging.
Don't expect to see Gonzalez in the top five of the NL MVP balloting because of guys like Ryan Howard, but he is a top five player in his league.
Adam Dunn - OF - Washington Nationals
Dunn hasn't ever hit over .266, but right now he's mashing at a .282 clip. Add that to his 31 homers, 81 RBI, .414 OBP and .574 slugging, and we're talking about one of the senior circuit's elite bats.
What makes him more valuable than a Ryan Howard or Mark Reynolds is his ridiculous walk total of 89. He's No. 4 on my ballot, and I think you might see him somewhere close to that when the muckety-mucks get together and vote.
You might find it interesting that numbers four and five on my list are on the two worst teams in the NL, but there's two ways to look at it.
(One) To put up those kinds of numbers on terrible teams is amazing, or (Two) Because they're on basement-dwellers, they shouldn't even be in the top ten. I believe the former.
Hanley Ramirez - SS - Florida Marlins
For all the talk about Han Ram beefing up his upper body by 25 pounds in the offseason, he hasn't even hit 20 round-trippers yet, and he's been playing better defense at short than ever before. This is the direct opposite of what should happen when a guy gains 25 lbs. of muscle.
Despite the decrease in power, however, Ramirez has simply decided to become, by far, the best hitter for average in the National League, as right now he stands at .359. When you bat in the three-hole and have a .359 average, it's going to translate into lots of RBI, of which Ramirez has 82.
The 25-year-old also has 23 steals and has struck out only 77 times, far below average for a middle-of-the-line-up bat. All in all, the guy's gonna end up batting something like .359/.419/.572, all career highs. He's also on pace to end up with 45-50 doubles, which would be a career high, and he's already broken his previous RBI record of 81.
Throw in the fact that his team's in the midst of a playoff race, and there's no denying that this guy is one of the three most valuable players in the NL.
Prince Fielder - 1B - Milwaukee Brewers
I couldn't find a picture for this guy, but even if I had, the screen probably wouldn't have been able to contain it. I know, I know, not a very nice thing to say. But hey, I've got him at No. 2 on my MVP list, so who can complain?
The Prince has been mashing at a torrid pace of late, surpassing Albert Pujols for the Major League RBI lead. When you're beating Pujols in any stat category, you know you've arrived.
Fielder has clubbed 32 dingers, collected 108 ribbies, and is batting .310/.419/.604, with average and OBP both being career highs.
Perhaps the biggest thing that will hold Prince back from the MVP is that his Milwaukee Brewers are totally out of the playoff hunt. Still, second best doesn't suck, right?
Albert Pujols - 1B - St. Louis Cardinals
Do you think it's even fun for this guy to hit a home run anymore?
I don't think this needs much explaining, but I'll throw out his stat line just for the heck of it: .321/441/.676, 39 HR, 105 RBI, 94 runs, 30 doubles, and 88 BB.
I get nauseated just by looking at those sick numbers. This guy's a machine, and it doesn't hurt that his Cards are running away with the NL Central.
AL: Carl Crawford - OF - Tampa Bay Rays
This is a fitting picture for Crawford, as it seems the dude's always stealing something. A home run, a base, you name it.
.323/.379/.479, 12 HR, 58 RBI, and 77 runs. Need I say more? Oh yes, he's stolen a few bases, too...54, to be exact.
He hasn't led off for the Rays in one game this season, but in the two-hole, make no mistake: Carl Crawford is the catalyst of the Rays' offense.
Crawford's a no-brainer for a top five MVP finish.
Ichiro Suzuki - OF - Seattle Mariners
Ichiro is the best pure hitter in the game. Period.
Seattle's right fielder leads the Majors by twenty in the hits category with 179, and he owns the Major's second-best average at .365.
Ichiro, who's stolen 24 bases in his ninth MLB season, is far and away the most consistent and valuable lead-off hitter in baseball, and has yet to not win a Gold Glove or collect 200 hits in a season.
Despite players like Russell Branyan, Ken Griffey Jr., Franklin Gutierrez and Felix Hernandez getting hyped for turning around the Mariners this year, Ichiro has been Seattle's MVP, no doubt about it.
Mark Teixeira - 1B - New York Yankees
I think Mark Teixeira is one of those guys who doesn't allow himself to get phased by anything.
He signs a monster contract with the Bronx Bombers in the offseason, then gets off to his typical slow start and has everybody talking about how the Big Apple might be too much for him.
So what does he do? Heat up in May like he always does, and go on to be the Yankees most consistent stick in the order.
With 30 homers and 86 ribbies, he's #3 on my list, but don't be surprised if he ends up getting first or second in the MVP balloting.
Teixeira's other stats: .283/.382/.553, 73 runs, 33 doubles.
Justin Morneau - 1B - Minnesota Twins
I'm not a Yankees or Twins fan, but I had a really tough time deciding whether Morneau should be No. 2 or three. Add up all the stats, and Morneau has had a better season, but the Yankees are in contention, while the Twins...not so much. Minnesota is five games under .500 and 6.5 games out of first place in the AL Central.
Obviously, I ended up going with Morneau at No. 2 anyway, as I think it's only fair since he is having a better season.
The Twins' first baseman has, over the last three years, become one of baseball's elite players, and this season hasn't been any different.
HR: 28, RBI: 94, AVG: .298, OBP: .386, Slugging: .555.
Morneau won the MVP back in 2007, and he's a three-time All-Star with two Silver Sluggers to his name as well.
Though No. 2 on this list, he'll probably end up in the 3,4,5 slot.
Joe Mauer - C - Minnesota Twins
Man, what's with the Twins? They're 6.5 games out of the playoffs and yet the M&M Boys are one and two in the MVP race! Morneau and Mauer must be having pretty good years.
Yes, they are.
Joe's a catcher, but he's on the way to his third AL batting title in the last four years. He's hitting .383 at the moment, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him end up around .390. Then again, that's probably wishful thinking, as he could just as easily end up around .370, which would really be a disappointment.
This is Mauer's first year to really flash his power, as he's knocked 25 over the fence and collected 77 RBI. He won the Gold Glove last year, and will most likely receive the honor again this year.
Scary thing is, the dude's only 26-years-old, so baring any career-threatening injuries, he'll probably go down as the the most productive catcher in the history of the game when his career's all said and done.
Mauer has struck out only 47 times, and boasts an OBP of .448, by far the highest in the American League.
Teixeira might come in second in the MVP race, but I'd be thoroughly surprised and frustrated if he came in ahead of Mauer.
Bank on it. Joe Mauer is the 2009 American League MVP.