There is lots of talk about who should win the American League Most Valuable Player. Even Don Cherry is weighing in. He and just about everybody else, including me, believe Blue Jays 3rd Baseman Josh Donaldson is the front-runner to be the American League Most Valuable Player. Donaldson would be the second Blue Jay to win the award and the first since George Bell in 1987.
Donaldson has been on fire since he was acquired from Oakland in the off-season. He has not only hit home runs and driven in runs, he has done so in situations where the team needed to score to win the game or at least stay alive. Add to it, Donaldson has been superb in the field. Take his diving catch in the stands in Tampa Bay back on June 24th for example. Those things have allowed the Blue Jays to challenge the New York Yankees for the American League East pennant and Donaldson to supplant Jose Bautista as The Guy in the Blue Jays’ clubhouse.
While Donaldson has put up the numbers to prove he is MVP worthy, there are some who feel Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels should win it because… well, he’s Mike Trout. Seriously. It seems the name alone is enough for a player to be declared the best in the league, ignoring the numbers and the contributions the player makes. If you apply that way of thinking in the NHL, Sidney Crosby would be the Hart Trophy winner each and every season and the Habs would be Stanley Cup contenders each and every year. And believe me, there are fans of the Canadiens who are stupid enough to believe it.
What this also show is numbers are only part of the story. There are other intangibles that need to be considered. Things that can’t be measured in numbers like saving runs at critical times, being a leader on the field, and how his presence in the line up makes his teammates better. If the MVP race was determined by head-to-head meetings, Donaldson would win it hands down based on what went on over the weekend. But those three games do not make you baseball’s best player. If you want to go by the numbers, as of August 24th, Donaldson is hitting .302 with 34 home runs and 100 RBIs. Trout is batting .297 with 33 dingers and 73 runs driven in. Then you factor in WAR (wins above replacement), a little statistical element designed to put a value in the player’s contribution, where Donaldson has a slight edge at 7.2 compared to Trout’s 7.0 according to FanGraphs.com.
I remember when Blue Jays pitcher Pat Hentgen and Yankees hurler Andy Pettite were going up for the Cy Young award in 1996. Baseball analyst Peter Gammons felt Pettite should be the favourite even though he trailed Hentgen in just about every pitching category. Gammons believed in the fact that because Pettite was pitching for a contending team in the Yankees and Hentgen was on a Blue Jays team sitting last in the division, it was enough to give Pettitte the Cy Young. Fortunately, the baseball writers collectively used their common sense and Hentgen ended up winning the award. Gammons may have had his ego bruised as a result but his brain fart did little to put a dent into his high baseball IQ.
But back to Donaldson and Trout. The MVP race in the American League is far from over. Gregg Zaun feels Trout should win over Donaldson only because of the position he plays in Centerfield, a position deemed more defensive-minded (Shortstop, Catcher, 2nd Base) than say at 3rd Base. But there are a lot of things to factor in when choosing a league MVP and they have just as much weight as playing on a winning team or makes dazzling plays. You have to be careful how you base your argument for MVP. I don’t think you can narrow it down to one or even two things. Simply put, there is no formula to picking a winner. Those who had Trout’s name already on the ballot at the start of the season better find some Liquid Paper.