Debating the MVPs: Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, and Dustin Pedroia

By Jackson Alexander

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On Monday, I began scouting the potential MVP candidates by selecting Jacoby Ellsbury over Curtis Granderson as the better choice. Next up: Adrian Gonzalez, Miguel Cabrera, and Dustin Pedroia.

The decision to break the bank (7yr/$154 million) this summer for Gonzalez has gone swimmingly thus far. The former San Diego Padre helped the Sox emerge from the abyss in April and has not stopped hitting since. At the all-star break, Gonzalez was widely regarded as an early leader for the MVP award. He led the majors with a ridiculous .354 batting average and posted a 1.006 OPS (on-base + slugging). His second half has not been nearly as spectacular, but his triple slash line remains impressive at .340 average/.407 on base percentage/.554 slugging percentage.

However, it is my firm belief that if you are to win an MVP, you should be the best player at your position, particularly if the position happens to be first base. With that in mind, Detroit first baseman, Miguel Cabrera, was posting shockingly similar numbers while we were drooling over the incredible season put together by Gonzalez and anointing him as the 2011 MVP.

But when people think about the 2011 Detroit Tigers, they’ll likely remember Justin Verlander’s superlative season. Somehow, Cabrera’s contributions to the team have flown under the radar. He’s hitting .330 average this season with a .434 OBP (on base percentage), and a .555 slugging percentage. Those figures stack up pretty well to A-Gon particularly if one values on-base percentage.

The more I compare the two, the harder it becomes to determine the better MVP candidate.

However, I’d give Gonzalez the slightest of advantages for a few reasons. A-Gon plays a slick first base for the Sox, while Cabrera is widely regarded as a liability at first for the Tigers. As I stated earlier, they’re pretty equal when it comes to hitting statistics but Gonzalez leads the league in two relatively important categories to MVP voting; hits (197), and batting average (.340).

As for Pedroia, the 2008 AL MVP has once again produced MVP type numbers this season, proving that 2008 was no anomaly. In a down year for second baseman, Pedroia stands out as the most complete of the bunch. There are no holes in his game. He can hit for average (.300), he gets on base (.384), he hits for power (20 home runs), and he steals bases (25). The .384 OBP, and 25 steals leads all major league second baseman, and he sits just behind Robinson Cano in batting average.

According to fangraphs, Pedroia ranks third in all of baseball in WAR at 7.4 wins above replacement. That puts him ahead of Gonzalez, Cabrera, and Curtis Granderson, and he trails just Jacoby Ellsbury (8.5) and Jose Bautista (8). His WAR is boosted largely by his defensive prowess. Pedroia has saved his team approximately 17 runs on defense, making him the second best defender in all of baseball this season.

Overall though, I don’t see him winning the MVP, particularly when you consider that he has two teammates that will take away some of his votes. His WAR is awfully impressive, but voters still tend to value statistics like batting average, runs scored, and RBI’s – statistics Pedroia does not necessarily excel in. He has power for a second baseman, but not the type of power the other candidates possess.

Jose Bautista- 1.073 OPS

Miguel Cabrera- .995 OPS

Adrian Gonzalez- .962 OPS

Curtis Granderson- .933 OPS

Jacoby Ellsbury- .922 OPS

Dustin Pedroia- .855 OPS

I just don’t see the voters giving someone an MVP award when there are clearly two hitters on his own team that are better than him. To recap, I’d pick Gonzalez over Cabrera (by the slightest of margins), and I view Pedroia as a contender, but an outside shot to win the award.

Jackson Alexander can be reached at [email protected]