My Ballot for SBN Most Valuable Player

Here are my votes for the MVP award:

1. Justin Verlander. For most of the season, Jose Bautista had the highest Wins Above Replacement in the American League (per Baseball-reference.com). At seasons end though, Verlander and Bautista were in a tie.  In this case my tie breaker is Verlander’s contributions to a playoff team. Looking back at the season, Verlander’s June performance stands out to me. On June 1 the Tigers were five games back, and at the end of the month they were a half game up in the Central division.  During that time Verlander made six starts, pitched at least eight innings in five of them (and seven in the other), and allowed only five runs, no more than two in any start.  He pitched 49 innings with a 0.92 ERA, walked six and struck out 54. In the end the Tigers won by 15 games, they didn't need Verlander’s performance.  But at the time, it was extremely impressive and the clearest example in the 2011 season of one player carrying his team.

2. Jose Bautista.  He was the early favorite, hitting a Barry Bonds-like 363/505/786 for the first two months.  After that, he was still very good.  Despite Toronto’s .500 finish, I would have been more than happy to vote for him.  I don’t hold it against him that Rajai Davis is not Curtis Granderson, or that Aaron Hill is no Robinson Cano.  But in the end, Verlander’s excellence equaled that of Bautista, and the playoff situation became a tiny tiebreaker.

3. Jacoby Ellsbury.  Just a great all-around season, with Ellsbury adding power to a high average, great base running, and strong defensive game.  I greatly enjoyed the Red Sox September collapse, but Ellsbury, hitting .358 with 8 homers in the final month, did everything he could to avoid it.

4. Miguel Cabrera. He doesn't do anything on defense, and as we saw in the playoffs, he can't run a lick.  But Cabrera is a great hitter, and led the league in both batting and on base average.

5. Evan Longoria.  He ranked very high in value stats such as wins above replacement because he’s a great hitter even when batting .244, and plays strong defense at third.  In my estimation, he jumped a few spots with his game 162 performance, capping a 6 run 8th inning rally with a 3-run homer, and then hitting the final walk-off homer to put Tampa Bay into the playoffs.

6. Mike Napoli.  Take him away from the Rangers and put him back on the Angels (while forcing Scioscia to play him over Mathis), and the Angels probably win the West.  Napoli had a better season by rate stats (320/414/631, 171 OPS+) than any year Johnny Bench ever had.  He played strong defense as well, with a career high 36% of opposing runners thrown out.  Had he caught more than 61 games (he spent a lot of time at first and DH as well) he might even be #1 on my list. 

7. Dustin Pedroia.  Sure, he looks more like an imp than a king-slayer, and plays for my least favorite team, but Pedroia deserves some respect.  He hits for average, gets on base, hits for power, steals bases at an excellent percentage, and does this while playing gold glove defense at second.

8. Jered Weaver.  To those who don’t understand how a pitcher can be compared to a position player, my response is that it's all about wins and runs.  Does a pitcher keep more runs off the scoreboard than a hitter puts onto the scoreboard?  If so, then the pitcher is more valuable.  Weaver was more valuable than any hitter or other pitcher on his team, and it wasn't even close. 

9. Curtis Granderson.  I hear he might be available!  Jerry Dipoto should get on that.  Granderson led the league in both runs and RBI, but his batting average (262) and on base average (364) are little short of the top candidates, and his defense in center did not grade out well in the advanced metrics.  Still, he’s a fine player and had a great season, just a bit less than the guys ahead on this list.

10. Adrian Gonzalez.  Gold glove defense and a 338/410/548 bat.

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