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AL MVP Race: A Yankee Fan Relents

Curtis Granderson (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

I was excited Sunday night when my editors submitted as a story topic “Curtis Granderson for MVP.” Ever the happy contrarian, I jumped at the chance to argue Granderson and not Dustin Pedroia, not Jacoby Ellsbury nor Adrian Gonzalez should win the award. It was just the challenge I needed to make my mark right away. Plus I’m grateful for any chance I get to stick it to Boston fans.

But before I wrote the story I felt like watching a movie. Luckily, someone uploaded High Fidelity onto YouTube. I get to the part where Rob, Dick and Barry are listening to a tape made by these obnoxious skater kids who had tried to shoplift from their store. They don’t want to like it but as Barry says with resignation in his voice “It’s…It’s really f—— good.”

The Boston Red Sox are indeed a good club this year and have had their way with the Yankees, winning 10 of 12 games. The top of their lineup has been unbelievable with Ellsbury and Pedroia now healthy after missing much of last year. Adrian Gonzalez has been everything and more for them since coming over from San Diego. For the Yankees, Curtis Granderson has been a pleasant surprise since working on his swing with hitting coach Kevin Long late last year. As Alex Rodriguez has struggled and been hurt, and as Mark Teixeira flirts with .250, Granderson has been the run scoring, run producing threat the Yankees hoped they were getting when they traded for him in the winter of 2009.

But is he the American League MVP? According to research from, even the most ardent Yankee fan may find it difficult to argue for Granderson.

Heading into game action on August 17, Pedroia has the highest Wins above Replacement Player rating (6.0) of any of the 4 MVP candidates mentioned in this article. Ellsbury is second with 5.6, Gonzalez is third with 5.3, and Granderson is last with a 3.9 rating. Another crucial SABRmetric stat is Defensive Runs Saved, which calculates how good a defensive player is. Ellsbury is tops in this group with a +12 rating while Granderson, his centerfield counterpart in the Bronx, has a -15 rating. Pedroia has a +11 rating and Gonzalez breaks even at 0.

When you think of the MVP (unless it’s Ichiro in 2001), you think of a strong run producer. Although Ellsbury is seen as a leadoff hitter, he’s driven in a total of 77 runs. With Runners in Scoring Position (RISP), his stats are off the charts (.355 BA/5 HR/58 RBI/1.035 OPS). Although Gonzalez is hitting two points higher than Ellsbury in this category (.357), his OPS (On Base + Slugging Percentage) is .918. Pedroia (.298 BA/2 HR/ 44 RBI), is third with an OPS of .848 and Granderson (.246 BA/7 HR/56 RBI), is last with an OPS of .825.

Another mark of an MVP is how well they perform when the game is tight. Baseball Reference defines this as plate appearances after the seventh inning in which the team hitting is tied, ahead by one, or the tying run is on deck. In Late/Close situations, Gonzalez is hitting .319 with 18 RBI and an OPS of .910. He’s followed closely by Pedroia (.872 OPS). Granderson is third with an OPS of .838 and Ellsbury is fourth with an OPS of .822.

During Gonzalez’s first press conference as a member of the Red Sox, he remarked how he was looking forward to beating the Yankees. His numbers do not match his sentiments. Through 12 games against New York, Gonzalez was sporting a .191 batting average with an OPS of .711. How you perform against your chief rival should be an important factor in MVP voting. Whereas Gonzalez has struggled, Ellsbury and especially Pedroia have thrived. Ellsbury is hitting .348 with 13 RBI and Pedroia is at .439 with an OPS of 1.153. Granderson does have three homers and eight RBI against Boston, but a batting average of .222.

Granderson is having a special season, much better than last year. But despite his struggles, the Yankees were still in the hunt for a division title up until the last day. On the flip side, because of the prolonged absences of Pedroia and Ellsbury, Boston couldn’t get it going and chased Tampa and New York in the standings. This year, both are healthy and both have been instrumental as Boston is closer to the playoffs. As of today, I’d have to give the slight edge to Pedroia because of his WARP and prowess against the Yankees. After all, he’s really f—— good.

About CJ

I'm an aspiring writer living in Staten Island.

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One comment for “AL MVP Race: A Yankee Fan Relents”

  1. New Post: AL MVP Race: A Yankee Fan Relents

    Posted by Sports of New York | August 18, 2011, 1:50 am

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