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Most Valuable Player Award Goes to…the Best Team?

October 26, 2010

Even in this, the “Year of the Pitcher” both the American and National Leagues are seeing the closest races for most valuable player in recent memory.

In the National League, reigning MVP Albert Pujols remains at the top of the list but will he hold his title for a second year? His .311 batting average (5th), 42 homeruns (1st), 116 RBI (1st), .412 OBP (2nd–through the weekend) are enough to warrant a good amount of first place votes. But it’s not just his name atop these lists nor is his team atop the NL Central Division, an uncontrollable but possible costly flaw in his third consecutive run for NL MVP.

There is another first basemen, Joey Votto and his Cincinnati Reds were unstoppable after the All-Star break and currently hold a commanding 7-game lead on the St. Louis Cardinals.  Votto has been nothing short of impressive in his third full season in the big leagues.  Batting .326 (2nd) with 37 homeruns and 111 RBI, he sits third in these categories and leads the league with a .426 on-base percentage. Yet the edge goes to Votto not because of his personal stats but the number of his team’s wins. Clearly if St. Louis wasn’t the dominant team that it has been roughly for the past decade, although Albert Pujols still might have won but the race wouldn’t have been unanimous, like it won’t be this year.

Demonstrating this was Carlos Gonzalez or “CarGo” of the Colorado Rockies. In the past few months he has become a dark horse to win the award.  This is partly because he leads the league in batting (.341) and is in second with 114 RBI and fourth in homeruns (33). Unlike most players, Gonzalez is one of the only players in either league to have a shot at a 30 – 30 season (30 HR – 30 stolen bases) where he is just five stolen bases away. His name has become more recognized in the battle for MVP because the Rockies went on a ten-game win streak in the month of September. Although the team has cooled down Gonzalez has not as his numbers continue to climb.

The American League also has a tight race for MVP. Josh Hamilton of the resurgent Texas Rangers will lead most writers’ ballots because of his impressive numbers.  However he was recently injured and while he still leads the league with a .361 batting average, his 31 homeruns are tied for fifth and 97 RBI drops him out of the top ten. His hopes to win are not necessarily over as his numbers will roughly stay the same as he will probably miss most of the remaining weeks of the regular season. On the contrary, his team’s eight game lead in the West allows the Rangers to rest Hamilton so he will be prepared for the playoffs.

The leading contender, Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, who seeks his first MVP award as he leads the league in RBIs (126), tied for second in homeruns with 38 and holds a .328 batting average. Miggy’s numbers are more than adequate to garner this award as is his remarkable turn-around from last season’s alcohol and anger related meltdown, which has proven to teammates and writers that he is everything he was hyped to be. Yet his Tigers are eliminated from the playoffs with Minnesota clinching the division a week ago.

It will be interesting to see how the MVP voting will go down in both leagues as playoff races couldn’t be tighter and players couldn’t be counted on more. Yankees second basemen Robinson Cano, who has had a career season, should get more notice being the one constant in the star-studded line-up. While he doesn’t lead the league in any categories he has been a vital part of the Yankees success this season.

With so many contenders vying for the crown, personal stats cannot be the sole voting factor. Yes, they play a huge part but the most intangible stat would be the contribution to team wins. Unless a player has a phenomenal year where there are no other challengers the real winner is the guy on the best team.

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