It’s July, and that means that the marathon stretch of the MLB season is upon us. Some teams are trying to maintain their division leads or gearing up to make runs; others are just trying to remain relevant. Now that the season has reached the point where it’s considered an appropriate sample size, discussion is ramping up in both leagues about who deserves to win an AL MVP award.
This discussion is particularly interesting in the American League because, as of now, the absolute favorite has to be Josh Hamilton. When it comes to putting the bat on the ball, the Rangers center fielder is currently sitting in a class all by himself. He has put together a monster season so far. Among the highlights is a .338 batting average, which currently has him sitting in second place in the AL.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given his stellar play, that’s one of the few statistical categories where Hamilton is trailing anyone right now. His 22 home runs are good for first in the American League. 61 RBIs and a .698 slugging average both rank at the top of the league as well, and his 42 runs scored are fifth in the entire American League. Some of the credit has to go to the Rangers organization, which has provided an amazing environment for Hamilton to thrive in. Still, despite all of Hamilton’s success, there are others players who are also contending for the award.
One of the most interesting names being thrown around in the 2012 AL MVP race right now is Paul Konerko. Konerko, a long-time veteran of the game and the White Sox, is currently batting an incredible .365. That’s far and away better than Hamilton’s average and places him easily ahead of his competition.
Aside from his batting average, Konerko’s other numbers are unremarkable. They’re solid, and there’s no doubt that he’s played tremendously this season. At the end of the day, though, there are players with better statistics who many voters will likely see as being more deserving. If Konerko were to win the AL MVP, many would view it as being more of a lifetime achievement award than anything. Konerko’s 15 year career has included five All-Star appearances, including recent ones in 2010 and 2011. He’s also won an ALCS MVP award and has won a World Series. At this point in his career, the MVP is one of the only things missing from Konerko’s resume.
Another interesting name being tossed around in the MVP race is Orioles center fielder Adam Jones. Jones is putting up solid numbers in the most important categories, ranking 10th, 6th and 15th for batting average, home runs and RBIs. The most common knock on Jones, though, is that his numbers are simply too similar to Josh Hamilton’s. Plus, since Hamilton’s numbers are actually better, it’s hard to come up with a logical reason that voters would choose Jones instead of Hamilton.
There are also some dark horse picks in addition to Hamilton, Konerko and Jones. Miguel Cabrera is currently fourth in overall batting average, and he also ranks second in RBIs. It wouldn’t be very surprising if he were to catch fire toward the end of the season and at least make things interesting. With pitcher Justin Verlander winning the award last year, there’s no option that can really be completely ruled out.
Still, for most people following the AL MVP race, the gut feeling has to be that Hamilton is going to win the award. He’s been very talented for a long time, and the numbers that he’s posted so far this season have simply been too eye-popping to ignore. A lot can change between now and the award being decided, but right now Hamilton has to be considered the clear favorite.
This is a guest post submitted by Don Phan. Don currently writes sports content for blogs part-time and is with FansEdge full-time as a marketing associate. FansEdge is a leading retailer of licensed sports fan merchandise and boasts an immense selection of MLB apparel for women, men and kids.