MLB 2011: Who Will Lead the AL in Each Major Category?
Who will be this year's batting champion? Who will hit the most home runs? Who will be the most valuable player in baseball?
When the season starts, everyone has an answer to these questions. And almost everybody ends up being wrong.
Two weeks into the season, 24 of Bleacher Report's MLB Featured Columnists gave their picks for who would lead both leagues in each of 10 categories: batting average, home runs, RBI, runs, steals, OPS, wins, ERA, UZR, and WAR.
Today, we take a look at the results for how we thought the American League would shape up (NL to come tomorrow).
Included this slideshow are the results for each category, as well as the average league-leading total and an explanation from someone who voted for the winner.
Let's see how we did!
Batting Average: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (.339)
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers—25 percent
2. Howie Kendrick, Angels—21 percent
T3. Josh Hamilton, Rangers—13 percent
T3. Joe Mauer, Twins—13 percent
T5. Billy Butler, Royals—8 percent
T5. Robinson Cano, Yankees—8 percent
T5. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox—8 percent
8. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners—4 percent
On Cabrera (by Brandon Williams)
Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera entered the week with a .350 average that ranks third in the American League, but there's little chance the two players above him (Toronto's Jose Batista and Minnesota's Jason Kubel) will be able to maintain their prolific numbers over the course of the season.
His troubles with alcohol and weight are well-documented, which makes it a scary proposition when thinking about just how great the 28-year-old could be if/when his demons are finally exorcised.
Home Runs: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers—21 percent
T2. Nelson Cruz, Rangers—17 percent
T2. Adam Dunn, White Sox—17 percent
T2. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox—17 percent
T5. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays—13 percent
T5. Mark Teixeira, Yankees—13 percent
7. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees—4 percent
On Cabrera (by Samantha Bunten)
You have to like Cabrera's chances based on his consistency; he puts up the numbers year after year, and thus far is belting HRs at about the same pace as last season (five last April, five so far this April).
Add to that the fact that most of Cabrera's home runs are of the tape measure variety rather than shots that barely clear the fence, indicating perhaps that he won't lose many long flies to near misses that get caught on the warning track.
RBI: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (128)
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers—29 percent
2. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees—25 percent
T3. Nelson Cruz, Rangers—13 percent
T3. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox—13 percent
T3. Mark Teixeira, Yankees—13 percent
6. Adam Dunn, White Sox—8 percent
On Cabrera (by Matt Goldberg)
The man can rake with the very best and has averaged 117 RBI in his seven full seasons heading into 2011. He hits at home or on the road, day or night, with two outs or none, and has a career .322 BA with RISP.
Only 28, if he matches his 126 ribbies from last year, he surpasses 1,000 for his career. Care to bet against him leading the AL again?
Runs: Carl Crawford, Rays (115)
1. Carl Crawford, Red Sox—38 percent
T2. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers—13 percent
T2. Ian Kinsler, Rangers—13 percent
T2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox—13 percent
T5. Robinson Cano, Yankees—4 percent
T5. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox—4 percent
T5. Brett Gardner, Yankees—4 percent
T5. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox—4 percent
T5. Derek Jeter, Yankees—4 percent
T5. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox—4 percent
On Crawford (by Robert Knapel)
Carl Crawford has been off to an incredibly slow start this season. Most of his struggles can be tied to the fact that he currently has a .178 BABIP. Once this number returns back towards Crawford’s career average of .329, he should start scoring more runs.
As long as Crawford gets on base, the Red Sox’ powerful lineup should be able to drive him in.
Stolen Bases: Juan Pierre, White Sox (54)
1. Juan Pierre, White Sox—54 percent
2. Rajai Davis, Blue Jays—13 percent
T3. Carl Crawford, Rays—8 percent
T3. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox—8 percent
T3. Brett Gardner, Yankees—8 percent
T5. Denard Span, Twins—4 percent
T5. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners—4 percent
On Pierre (by Brent Nault)
Pierre led the MLB last season in stolen bases with 68, and I expect him to do about the same this year. Juan is without a doubt one of the speediest players in baseball and is always among the league leaders in stolen bases.
Juan will keep trying to steal regardless of how many times he gets caught, and that's what makes me truly believe he will lead the AL in steals this season.
OPS: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers (1.055)
1. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers—59 percent
2. Josh Hamilton, Rangers—14 percent
T3. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox—9 percent
T3. Justin Morneau, Twins—9 percent
T5. Travis Hafner, Indians—5 percent
T5. Josh Hamilton, Rangers—5 percent
On Cabrera (by Dan Hiergesell)
Miggy is back at it again. Despite offseason troubles with authorities, Miguel Cabrera has excelled past early expectations and has shown why he has been one of the best hitters in the past decade.
The 28-year-old MVP candidate continues to hit for power in clutch spots and with his on-base prowess, it's a winning man's bet that he will lead the AL in OPS.
Wins: CC Sabathia, Yankees (20)
1. CC Sabathia, Yankees—29 percent
2. Jered Weaver, Angels—25 percent
3. Jon Lester, Red Sox—17 percent
4. Dan Haren, Angels—8 percent
T5. Felix Hernandez, Mariners—4 percent
T5. Derek Holland, Rangers—4 percent
T5. Francisco Liriano, Twins—4 percent
T5. David Price, Rays—4 percent
T5. Justin Verlander, Tigers—4 percent
On Sabathia (by Jordan Schwartz)
CC Sabathia has a tall hill to climb to catch Jered Weaver for most wins in the American League, but with the big lefty's history and the Yankees behind him, he should like his chances.
Entering Tuesday's action, Sabathia ranked 15th in the AL with a 2.73 ERA and four of his five outings have been quality starts, so when the consistent run support comes around, so should the wins. And remember, Sabathia has led all of baseball in victories the past two seasons.
ERA: Felix Hernandez, Mariners (2.53)
1. Felix Hernandez, Mariners—54 percent
2. Jered Weaver, Angels—17 percent
3. Trevor Cahill, Athletics—13 percent
4. Gio Gonzalez, Athletics—13 percent
T5. Dan Haren, Angels—4 percent
T5. Jon Lester, Red Sox—4 percent
On Hernandez (by Bob Warja)
"King" Felix led all of MLB in ERA in 2010 and is a good bet to do so again this year. That's because, for one, he's a dominating pitcher of course, but also because he knows he can't afford to give up many runs with the poor run support he has historically received (they have the league's worst run differential).
He's young, and at age 25, hasn't seemingly even hit his peak yet, so there is no reason to expect a decline.
UZR: Brett Gardner, Yankees (19.6)
1. Brett Gardner, Yankees—50 percent
2. Franklin Gutierrez, Mariners—30 percent
T3. Peter Bourjos, Angels—10 percent
T3. Carl Crawford, Red Sox—10 percent
On Gardner (by Nathan Palatsky and Chuck Platt)
UZR is the combination of four metrics to mathematically express who is the best fielder in baseball, outfield arm, double plays, range and errors.
Brett Gardner will successfully defend (literally) his UZR crown because of his speed, his comfort patrolling Yankee Stadium and his knack for reading batted. Gardner seldom makes an inaccurate read. It doesn’t hurt Gardner either that Yankee Stadium’s left field is pretty standard: no funny angles, strange shadows, etc.
WAR: Shin-Soo Choo, Indians (7.4)
1. Shin-Soo Choo, Indians—25 percent
T2. Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox—17 percent
T2. Evan Longoria, Rays—17 percent
T4. Miguel Cabrera, Tigers—8 percent
T4. Robinson Cano, Yankees—8 percent
T4. Carl Crawford, Red Sox—8 percent
T4. Josh Hamilton, Rangers—8 percent
T4. Felix Hernandez, Mariners—8 percent
On Choo (by Lewie Pollis)
The most underrated player in baseball according to a recent Sports Illustrated poll, Shin-Soo has quietly established himself as one of the best players in the game. His strong arm, good speed and power, and fantastic plate make him a five-tool player about whom other teams should be wary.
Last year, Baseball-Reference’s wins above replacement model had Choo at 7.3 WAR, good for second-best in baseball. Given that the guy ahead of him, Evan Longoria, has played only four games, I’d say it’s Choo’s spot to lose.