About last night, the wild card, and AL MVP

Here’s the short version: it rained all night in Boston and Bruce Chen threw a two-hit shutout as KC beat the Rays 7-0.

So, technically, the Yankees could clinch today with a sweep of the 4:05/9:05 doubleheader and another Rays loss. This is fun. This is why I have an always will love the 162 game baseball season: all the pieces matter (just like Freaman said on The Wire). Think back to every close loss your team has suffered this year, they all matter in the end.

Bud Selig will look at this last weekend, see one tight Padres-Giants series and use it as justification that “the wild card works.” That may sound nice, but it doesn’t make it true. The wild card doesn’t really work. This year it robbed us of a tremendous race between the Yankees and the Rays. Both teams aren’t sprinting to the finish line because of the safety blanket that is the wild card. The Rays were two-hit last night, but their best player Evan Longoria didn’t even play. The Yankees started resting players weeks ago, before a serious slide created a “must-win” game last Sunday against the Red Sox.

Now, it’s not as if we have been robbed of a matchup between the two best teams in baseball. They’ve played 18 times this year and are likely to meet up in the ALCS for at least a few more. What really gets me about the wild card is that it opens the door for some teams that aren’t very good to win the World Series (like the 82-80 2006 St. Louis Cardinals). With eight teams in and a short first round series, anything can happen. The privilege of having a fighting chance in October, in my estimation, is something that a team really doesn’t deserve  if they win less than 93 games.

Switching gears here for a minute, honestly I didn’t expect to even write about the wild card just sort of went off on a rant. Anyway, most of the mainstream baseball writers came out with their awards columns yesterday and it’s looking very much like Josh Hamilton will win the AL MVP. If you followed me on twitter yesterday (@true_yankee) then you know that I feel differently about Hamilton’s season. It’s been a great year for Hamilton as he leads in most important offensive categories, which is as fine as it is dandy. The thing is Hamilton has competition for the award, mainly the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera and our very own Robinson Cano. Personally, I have both over Hamilton for the award and here’s why: Hamilton is, to some degree, a product of his ballpark and lineup protection. He holds a slim lead over Cabrera in OPS, but Hamilton’s 1.049 OPS is heavily weighted by a 1.205 home OPS. He isn’t doing nearly the same kind of damage on the road as Cabrera (1.015 to .894 road OPS). Hell, even Cano has a .917 road OPS.

Another thing I didn’t like especially about everyone who is going to vote for Hamilton is the line, “Hamilton’s defense wins it.” Sure, Miguel Cabrera isn’t a premium defender nor does he play a premium position. But, then again neither is Hamilton, who has only started 28 games in center for the Rangers. On the other side, there’s Robinson Cano who has played 157 games at second base with three to play making incredible plays and drawing plenty of gold glove buzz along the way. Though Fangraphs’ WAR only has him saving 1.5 runs, the entire industry is searching for refinement in defensive metrics. I hate to be that guy, but I’ve watched Cano all year and 1.5 runs doesn’t pass the eye test.

Not to mention that Hamilton has missed almost all of September, he only played in two games before a rib cage injury. If the division race in the west would’ve been closer, who knows if Hamilton would’ve come back sooner. Regardless, I think a combination of Hamilton’s ballpark which contributed to his home/road splits, lineup protection IBB: Hamilton (5), Cabrera (32), Cano (13), overrated defense, and missed time make this still a very tough call.

Don’t get me wrong, Josh Hamilton had a tremendous year. I know he leads in Fangraphs’ WAR, Runs Created, OPS, VORP, etc. I just think that given the other factors I mentioned that went into his lead in those statistics are advantages that Cabrera and Cano didn’t have. Cabrera’s numbers even in Comerica Park are still very close to Hamilton’s. Even with his .359 batting average, Cabby still tops Hamilton in OBP .420 to .412. And despite Hamilton’s slim lead in slugging, Cabby holds a .020 lead in Isolated Power. Cabrera certainly had a more balanced offensive game than Hamilton while playing half of his games in a pitcher’s park. Even though his team is in third place, remember that this is not a team award despite the fact that an October golfer hasn’t won the AL MVP award since ARod in 2003.

So here’s my ballot that doesn’t count:

1. Miguel Cabrera
2. Robinson Cano
3. Josh Hamilton
4. Jose Bautista
5. Shin-soo Choo
6. Carl Crawford
7. Evan Longoria
8. Adrian Beltre
9. Paul Konerko
10. Mark Teixeira

I hope you enjoyed this and that I didn’t go on for too long. Any questions about the rest of my ballot? I’d be more than willing to answer, just leave a comment on the story and I’ll get back to you soon enough.

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