Trophy Talk: AL MVP Race Heats Up

It’s that time of year, when the weather starts getting cooler and the pennant races start to heat up. And so do the debates about who will be named Most Valuable Player of their respective league. Today, we take a look at a few players who are deserving of the honor.

In order to win the MVP, a few factors have to come into play. Your team usually needs to be on the verge of a postseason berth or guaranteed a trip to the post season. Your numbers need to hover in the range of 35-plus home runs, 100-plus RBIs, and at least a .300 batting average. A player also has to be an intricate part of the team’s success or, in other words, the guy they turn to for the clutch at-bats.

The first name that comes to mind in the AL is Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge, who seems to be on pace to match or break Mark McGwire’s single-season HR record for a rookie (49). Through 139 games Judge has hit .273 with 41 home runs, and 90 RBI. The Yankees were an after thought in the AL East when the season first began since it appeared the division would be dominated by the Red Sox and Blue Jays.

The Yankees currently sit four games behind the Red Sox in the East but are first in the AL wild card standings with a three-game lead on the Twins and a five game lead over the Angels. Judge anchored the line up from a power stand point when star-prospect Greg Bird went down with an injury during the first half of the season. It was about to be the Bronx Bombers once again with those two in the lineup, but Judge has done enough damage for the both.

Speaking of the Angels, their center fielder Mike Trout is making a strong case for his third MVP this season – despite missing a large chunk of June and July with a thumb injury.

In just 97 games, Trout has hit .319 with 28 HR and 62 RBI. Now Trout drives in his fair share of runs but he is more of a table-setter for an Angels team which features power bats behind him like Albert Pujols, Justin Upton, and Kole Calhoun.

What Trout needs is for the Angels to reach the AL Wild Card game and punch their ticket to the postseason. That is the only way he will win the MVP. The numbers are great for under 100 games played but the baseball writers will be favoring team success over individual success in a close MVP race.

Unfortunately, our last candidate’s team does not have a shot to get into the postseason despite his MVP-type numbers this season. We are talking about Orioles third baseman Manny Machado, who has a .270 average with 32 HR, and 91 RBI in 140 games. Machado will probably finish with the best regular-season stats by the end of 2017.

There is no doubt that Machado is clutch, having blasted three walk-off home runs in the last month. But not entering the postseason will be a strike against Machado in such a stacked MVP race.

If the season were to end today, Judge would probably take home a few pieces of hardware including the AL MVP, Rookie of the Year, and Silver Slugger award for outfielders. If that were to happen, he would be the first rookie to win both the MVP and ROY since Ichiro did that in 2001.

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