Is Jose Bautista the Front-Runner in the AL MVP race?

Devon TeepleAnalyst ISeptember 5, 2011

I can argue that Curtis Granderson, Justin Verlander, Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Bautista are all worthy of the American League MVP award.

Granderson is batting in the mid-.270s, has 38 home runs, leads the league with 107 RBI, ranks fifth with .905 OPS and has 24 stolen bases. 

Verlander is leading league with 21 wins, and sits atop the AL in ERA (2.34) and innings pitched (223). He also ranks first in strikeouts (224), BAA (.192) and WHIP (0.91).

Gonzalez leads the MLB in average, hitting at a .340 clip, has 188 hits (which also leads MLB), is tied for fourth in doubles with 40, third with 103 RBI and ranks fourth with an OBP of .952. 

Bautista, the all-around leader and captain of the Toronto Blue Jays, is having another stellar campaign. He leads the majors in home runs with 40, is tied for fifth with 92 RBI, leads both leagues in walks with 109 and again tops MLB in OBP (.446), SLG (.637) and OPS (1.084). 

Every one of these candidates is worthy of receiving the accolade. The debate is raging whether Verlander, the Detroit Tigers ace, is deserving despite the fact he plays only once every five days. Many people argue that pitchers, who have their own award (Cy Young), should be removed from the running.

In my opinion, if we are ruling out Verlander, Granderson is well deserving of the MVP—not because he is any better or trumps anything Bautista has done. It comes down to having a full season of performing at the highest level. 

Granderson’s numbers post-All-Star break are nearly on par to what he accomplished in the first half. If he continues to stay the course, he should knock out about seven more home runs in the next 25 games. His average has increased, as has his OBP and SLG. 

Bautista’s second half has been more or less the complete opposite. The first half was everything that we could have hoped for: .334 with 31 home runs and 65 RBI.

In 42 games since the All-Star break, last year's phenom has seemed out of sorts. Pitchers are not challenging Bautista with 0-2 fastballs. Opponents are now doubling up on off-speed pitches down in the count, challenging him six-to-eight inches on the inside part of the plate, and not giving up when everyone expects the “good ol' No. 1.”

The numbers prove that the second half is a completely different story for Bautista.

Bautista is batting .255, a drop of 79 points, dropping his overall average to .309. Nine home runs and 27 RBI have significantly dropped his SLG to .503 in the second half, and those struggles have made him seem very pedestrian. 

At the end of the day, things might turn for everyone involved. Bautista might regain his stroke, Granderson could continue to be the player everyone in New York expected him to be and Verlander and Gonzalez carry on at being the best in the world at what they do. 

George Bell is the only Blue Jay to ever win the MVP, and as things stand right now, Bautista can’t be the second Jay to win, or the front-runner in 2011 unless the Bautista of old shows up during the last month of the season.

Devon is the founder of
The GM’s Perspective

Devon is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies, and is now an independent scout.