Monday, September 19, 2016

Dozier's Case For American League MVP

Photo Credit: Brad Rempel, USA Today Sports
There's no arguing how bad the Twins have been this season. Even through all the mucky mess on the field, Brian Dozier has emerged as one bright spot in a sea of darkness.

The home runs and his recent hitting streak have kept him in the news. He's put up numbers that have never been seen before from a second baseman but is it enough to put him into the American League MVP conversation.

By The Numbers
Dozier's 39 home runs as a second baseman (two have come as DH) have him tied for all-time AL record by a second baseman. He is only three home runs behind Davey Johnson and Rogers Hornsby for the MLB record. Baseball Reference ranks Dozier as the fifth best player in the AL this season while FanGraphs ranks him as the sixth best AL player. He has more home runs than everyone in front of him and he is closing in on the century mark with RBI (98) and runs (99).

When Dozier scores his next run, he will join Chuck Knoblach as the only Twins to ever score 100-plus runs in three straight seasons. Since June 18, Dozier has 34 home runs, the most in baseball, while his closest competitors have only managed 22 apiece. During his current 22-game hit streak, he's hitting .351/.425/.766 with 11 home runs in 94 at-bats.

Historical Precedent
Voters tend to look at the best players on winning teams when handing out the top AL hardware. However, there is a historical precedent for MVPs playing for losing teams. The 1991 Baltimore Orioles finished in sixth place in the AL East with a 67-95 record. Cal Ripken Jr. cranked 34 home runs and drove in 114 on his way to the AL MVP.

The 2003 Texas Rangers finished the year with 91 losses but Alex Rodriguez still came away with the AL's top honor. Rodriguez had a historical season for a shortstop while hitting 47 home runs and drove in 118 RBI. He combined for a 8.4 WAR, the seventh best total of his career.

It takes the right atmosphere in the baseball world but it is not unprecedented for player on a losing team to win the MVP.  

Candidates Catching A Cold
For much of the first half of the season, it looked like Jose Altuve could run away with the AL MVP. The Astros were playing well and he was putting up tremendous numbers. He hit .341/.413/.542 with 14 home runs, 24 doubles, and 23 stolen bases. As the Astros have fallen further behind in the standings, Altuve has struggled at the plate. So far in September, he is hitting .222/.279/.365 with five extra-base hits.

Josh Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, looked to join Miguel Cabrera as the only back-to-back MVP winner in the 2000's. Much like Altuve, he played very well in the first half by combining for a 1.017 OPS with 23 home runs and 20 doubles. A second half slide has seen his average dip to .253 while be limited to just 20 extra-base hits. Toronto is just four game out in the AL East so this could help Donaldson's candidacy.

Fishing For Trout
While other candidates might be falling by the wayside, Mike Trout might be emerging as a favorite. Like Dozier, Trout is on a bad team but his WAR total far outpaces the competition on both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs. He entered play on Monday leading the AL in walks and OBP. He's also on pace to lead the AL in Offensive WAR for the sixth consecutive season.

If the voters looked solely at WAR, Trout would have many more MVPs in his trophy case. His lone MVP award came in 2014 when the Angels won the AL West by 10 games. If Altuve and Donaldson continue their recent cold streaks, the voters might look to a familiar name even if he is on a bad Angels squad. By many accounts, he is the best player in the game and he has only one MVP award.

When push comes to shove, Dozier will likely get some top-10 and even top-5 votes for the AL MVP. He would need to continue his blistering pace over the last few weeks to make his numbers truly stand apart from the crowd.

Unfortunately, there haven't been many eyes on Minnesota baseball this season and that can only hurt his MVP chances. It's been an historic season for the Twins Brian Dozier but it has been a small ripple in a very big MLB pond.

Where would Dozier be on your AL MVP Ballot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.

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