Despite Huge Season Cano Overshadowed for MVP

Coming into the season one of the bigger questions was whether or not Robinson Cano was ready to hit out of the no. 5 spot in the Yankees lineup. Afterall, protecting Alex Rodriguez in the batting order is a big deal.

If that question wasn’t answered on opening day when Cano went 2-for-5 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored there probably were no doubters left when he started off with a 10-game hitting streak that saw him crush four home runs. By the end of April he had a line of .400/.436/.765/1.201 with eight homers and 18 RBI’s.

That hot start has turned into a hot season. Cano has maintained a .323 average, a .945 OPS to go along with 36 doubles, 25 home runs, and 87 RBI’s. He hasn’t even tailed off as the season has progressed, putting up a 155 OPS+ the first half and a 158 OPS+ so far in the second half. Even the knock against him last season, that he couldn’t hit with runners in scoring position, has been forgotten thanks to a 147 OPS+ in those situations this year.

Cano’s bat doesn’t tell the whole story about just how good he’s been in 2010 as his glove work has been equally superb. He’s got soft hands, a quick transition on double plays. His range is good, not great, but his strong arm makes up for that. Combine all of that together and he is second in UZR with a 3.2 only behind Orlando Hudson in the American League.

Unfortunately for Cano, Miguel Cabrera and Josh Hamilton play in the same league and those two players are having absolutely monster seasons.

Cabrera leads the trio in OPS+ with a 186. He has 40 doubles , 33 home runs, and 106 RBI’s. He’s even walked more than he’s struck out, 79 BB vs. 77 SO. He is ahead of Cano in runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, BB, batting average, OBP, slugging, and OPS. The only way Cabrera might not take the MVP is because his team isn’t going to make the playoffs.

That brings us to Hamilton. Hamilton’s season is only slightly less impressive than Cabrera’s and he’s carrying his team to an AL West title. With a league leading .357 batting average, 30 home runs, and a 1.042 OPS he leads Cano in runs, hits, doubles, homers, RBI, stolen bases, average, OBP, slugging, and OPS.

The thing that Cano has going for him that could help him get back in the MVP race is his defense and his position up the middle. Cabrera is a below average defender and plays first base, a non-premium position. Hamilton is average in center and slightly below average in left, where he gets most of his starts. If he was a full-time starter in center field than he might be equal to or even have a slight edge over Cano defensively, but 90 starts in left vs. just 38 in center.

Looking at WAR, wins above replacement which takes into account defensive ability and position, this is a pretty close race. Cabrera leads the three with a 6.3 WAR, Cano is second at 6.2 and Hamilton is pulling up the rear at 5.7. However, when you break down the numbers, I just can’t see Cano beating out either of these two stars who are having huge seasons.

I’m sure not everyone will agree with my assessment so here are the stats for the trio and you can decide:

Rk G AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
1 Miguel Cabrera 127 461 92 157 40 33 106 79 77 .341 .435 .646 1.082 186
2 Josh Hamilton* 125 490 91 175 39 30 93 40 93 .357 .409 .633 1.042 173
6 Robinson Cano* 128 496 89 160 36 25 87 48 60 .323 .386 .558 .945 156
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 8/29/2010.
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3 Responses to Despite Huge Season Cano Overshadowed for MVP

  1. Dan Reiner says:

    What I find is forgotten by many people, and Yankee fans especially, is that Cano already has 48 walks and we aren't even into September (his previous career high being 39 in a season). This coming in a season when Nick Swisher is having a career low season in walks.

    I'm a strong believer that the MVP should have the stats and the team to prove his title, rather than stats alone. Obviously Cabrera is having the best season thus far of the three, but as stated, the Tigers are basically out of contention.

    My vote would be Hamilton, Cano, Cabrera as of today, mainly because of the incredible season the Rangers are having and Hamilton is the offensive leader of that team. Undoubtedly, Cano is the Yanks' MVP, because not only has he put up above average numbers as a second baseman ALREADY (see Dustin Pedroia, 2008), but he has led a supposed offensive lineup with the likes of Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada both batting .257, Alex Rodriguez missing a month of action, and Derek Jeter having one of his worst seasons, while still leading the team to the best record in baseball.

  2. smurfy says:

    I appreciate your strong mentions of the defensive dynamic, Rob. I believe that baseball is a team game in which a player's contributions include both o and d. More power to the stats folks here, as d was previously ignored in the MVP considerations. Three cheers for Robbie's d contributions, which have been large to the Yankees' winning ways.

    As a individual honor in a team game, I think it unfair to eliminate all but members of winning teams. The wins may represent confirming evidence, but a player can't choose his teammates.

  3. Mike S. says:

    A lot does depend on how much a guy is carrying his team and how much support he gets. It's ironic how the #2 Offensive everyday player on the Yanks this year to Cano isn't Jeter, A-Rod or Teixeira, but Swisher.

    You then have to go down a level and compare Cano, Cabrera and Hamilton to how much each is carrying his team. Then MVP is based on his teammates' incapabilities as much as the nominees' capabilities.

    …and that is where the WAR comes in.

    Not only that, is someone making a difference in a very tight race (Cano, what with Tampa and Boston being in the Yanks' division) more important or MVP-worthy than someone having a great year whose team is a) pretty far back (Cabrera, Tigers 11 out) or b) running away in a weak 4-team division? I might tend to think so.