Why Joe Mauer Is a Lock To Win the American League MVP
The winner of the 2009 American League MVP award will be named on Monday, and Joe Mauer is the front-runner to take home the trophy.
There are a number of players in pursuit of the Golden Boy, including Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira.
Jeter has certain unmeasurable qualities that have earned him the title of Yankee Captain, and Teixeira was the most powerful weapon on the best team in the majors.
But Mauer is no slouch as far as leadership goes, and his prowess at the plate was just as daunting to opposing pitchers as Teixeira's.
Mauer came up as a highly-touted superstar and hometown hero, and he has delivered on both fronts during his time with the Twins.
Then, tucked away in Detroit and somewhat forgotten after the Tigers late-season collapse, we have Miguel Cabrera, who quietly mounted an outstanding offensive campaign.
The big right-hander hits the ball about as hard as anyone in the league, but his impact on the field just doesn't stack up to that of Mauer.
There are also some that might argue for Cy Young winner Zack Greinke to win the award because of the dominant numbers he put up on the mound for a terrible Kansas City team.
I just don't think you can hand the award to a player on a last place team; I mean after all, if the Royals didn't have Greinke they still would have finished last.
It doesn't take anything away from the season Grienke had, but the other players I will break down had more of an impact in helping their team to success than Greinke did.
With that out of the way, here is how I think voting in the top five will shake out:
1. Mauer (.365/28/96)
Joe Mauer flat out mashed the ball in 2009.
After missing time early in the season due to a back injury, Mauer exploded onto the scene on May 1.
One of the few abilities Mauer left to desire in the past was his low power output, as he hit just 16 home runs in 2007 and 2008 combined.
Then, in his first at-bat of the season, he slammed a 2-0 pitch for a solo home run over the left-center field wall.
That moment set the pace for the following 137 in which he played, as Mauer set career highs in all three triple crown categories with a batting average of .365, 28 home runs, and 96 RBI.
Not only did he increase his power output, but he also recorded 13 more walks than strikeouts (76 BB/63 K) while doing so.
2. Miguel Cabrera (.324/34/103)
After losing a considerable amount of weight in the offseason, Cabrera decreased his strikeout total from 126 in 2008 down to 106 in 2009, and he also worked 12 more walks.
His power numbers did go down slightly from 2008 (37/127), but there's no denying that without Cabrera in the Tigers' order they wouldn't have had a lead in the division to blow down the stretch.
3. Derek Jeter (.334/18/107 runs/30 SB)
Jeter won his first Gold Glove since 2006 and his average ballooned by 34 points from last season.
4. Mark Texeira (.292/39/122)
The switch-hitter led the league in home runs and RBI even after getting off to his normal slow start.
He played Gold Glove first base, and deserves a lot more credit for just how dynamic he is in the field.
Teixeira has excellent hands and saves his infielders from countless errors, either by scooping a ball out of the dirt or coming off the bag to make a tag.
5. Ichiro (.352/11/88 runs/26 SB)
He finished second to Mauer in batting average and recorded his ninth consecutive 200-hit season. Ichiro also won his ninth Gold Glove in a row and the third Silver Slugger award of his career.
Also, would you believe that the singles specialist led the league in intentional walks?
A lot of people might think it's outrageous that Cabrera would finish in front of both Jeter and Teixeira, but I see the latter two splitting votes and keeping each other out of the second spot.
Let me say this: I would put Teixeira as the runner-up, Jeter third, and Cabrera fourth, but I believe that the voters will be divided on the two Yankee candidates and it will result in Cabrera leaping over the both of them.
In regards to Mauer, he just had far too dominant of a season for any of the other players to steal the award from him.
For those that still can't trust the numbers I've outlined, I can't stress enough that neither Cabrera nor Jeter led the league in any of the major stat categories, while Mauer led in a number of areas.
There is the issue that Mauer missed the entire month of April with an injury.
I argued during the NL Cy Young race that Chris Carpenter shouldn't win the award because he failed to register 200 innings.
Mauer still started in 105 games—seventh amongst AL catchers—and the big difference is that when he came back, he played every day.
Carpenter ranked 26th in the NL in innings pitched.
It works out to be a little unfair to Carpenter, but since he didn't get to play every day and instead took the mound every fifth day, the time he missed was too much to overcome.
By playing nearly every day upon returning, Mauer was able to fight his way back into enough games to be accepted for the award.
All of that being said, Mauer is the clear-cut MVP in my book.
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