Coming into the season one of the bigger questions was whether or not Robinson Cano was ready to hit out of the no. 5 spot in the Yankees lineup. Afterall, protecting Alex Rodriguez in the batting order is a big deal.
If that question wasn’t answered on opening day when Cano went 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored there probably were no doubters left when he started off with a 10-game hitting streak that saw him crush four home runs. By the end of April he had a line of .400/.436/.765/1.201 with eight homers and 18 RBI’s.
That hot start has turned into a hot season. Cano has maintained a .323 average, a .945 OPS to go along with 36 doubles, 25 home runs, and 87 RBI’s. He hasn’t even trailed off as the season has progressed, putting up a 155 OPS+ the first half and a 158 OPS+ so far in the second half. Even the knock against him last season, that he couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position, has been forgotten thanks to a 147 OPS+ in those situations this year.
Cano’s bat doesn’t tell the whole story about just how good he’s been in 2010 as his glove work has been equally superb. He’s got soft hands, a quick transition on double plays. His range is good, not great, but his strong arm makes up for that. Combine all of that together and he is second in UZR with a 3.2 only behind Orlando Hudson in the American League.
Cabrera leads the trio in OPS+ with a 186. He has 40 doubles , 33 home runs, and 106 RBI’s. He’s even walked more than he’s struck out, 79 BB vs. 77 SO. He is ahead of Cano in runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, BB, batting average, OBP, slugging, and OPS. The only way Cabrera might not take the MVP is because his team isn’t going to make the playoffs.
That brings us to Hamilton. Hamilton’s season is only slightly less impressive than Cabrera’s and he’s carrying his team to an AL West title. With a league leading .357 batting average, 30 home runs, and a 1.042 OPS he leads Cano in runs, hits, doubles, homers, RBI, stolen bases, average, OBP, slugging, and OPS.
The thing that Cano has going for him that could help him get back in the MVP race is his defense and his position up the middle. Cabrera is a below average defender and plays first base, a non-premium position. Hamilton is average in center and slightly below average in left, where he gets most of his starts. If he was a full-time starter in center field than he might be equal to or even have a slight edge over Cano defensively, but 90 starts in left vs. just 38 in center.
Looking at WAR, wins above replacement which takes into account defensive ability and position, this is a pretty close race. Cabrera leads the three with a 6.3 WAR, Cano is second at 6.2 and Hamilton is pulling up the rear at 5.7. However, when you break down the numbers, I just can’t see Cano beating out either of these two stars who are having huge seasons.
I’m sure not everyone will agree with my assessment so here are the stats for the trio and you can decide: