That's Debatable: Who should be AL MVP?

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Welcome to The Show! On Monday, ESPN.com senior MLB writer Jayson Stark will drop by at 1 p.m. ET for another installment of "That's Debatable," a weekly feature in which we break down a hot topic you have suggested.

Monday's topic, courtesy of Tim in Chicago:
"With seven weeks left in the regular season, who's your pick to win the American League MVP award?''


Well, it's getting to be that time, all right -- that time to start debating which players should be clearing space on their shelves to fit a very large, very prestigious trophy in a few weeks. And of all of baseball's major awards, American League MVP might be tougher to decipher than any of them. So let's examine the main contenders:

THE CASE FOR JOSH HAMILTON

Hamilton has been leading the planet in RBIs for so long, it's easy to lose track of just how many he's piled up. He's on pace to drive in 153 runs -- a number topped by only four players in the division-play era: Manny Ramirez, Sammy Sosa (twice), Juan Gonzalez and A-Rod. And Chipper Jones (among others) has never knocked in more runs in any full season than Josh Hamilton has driven in already this year (111) -- by Aug. 11. Oh, and Hamilton also ranks in the top eight in the league in homers (second), runs scored (77), extra-base hits (fourth), slugging (sixth), on-base percentage (eighth) and runs created per 27 outs (fifth).

THE CASE FOR CARLOS QUENTIN

What a year this guy is having. Quentin ranks first in the league in homers (32), second in runs scored (82), third in RBIs (90) and third in OPS (.952). He's also having a gigantic second half, with 10 homers (most in the big leagues), 20 RBIs and a 1.164 OPS. If you toss the RBI column out of this argument (which, granted is tough to do), Quentin leads Hamilton in home runs, on-base percentage, slugging, OPS and runs. And let's note one other fascinating number on the old stat sheet. The batting averages of these two men with runners in scoring position (.324 for Quentin, .326 for Hamilton) are nearly indistinguishable.

THE VERDICT

If we were all voting for Best Story of the Year, Josh Hamilton might win that award unanimously. But Hamilton's cinematic back-story isn't the kind of criterion we're supposed to use when we choose our MVPs. So as we sit here right now, with seven weeks left, I'd cast my vote for Carlos Quentin.

Not that Hamilton is his only competition, by the way. You can make excellent cases for Justin Morneau, Milton Bradley, Ian Kinsler, Jermaine Dye, Francisco Rodriguez and that Kevin Youkilis-J.D. Drew tag team in Boston. But if Quentin and Hamilton are the top two contenders, and we stack up one against the other, what do we find?

We find that Carlos Quentin's team is in first place, despite pesky, season-long offensive issues -- while Hamilton's team is 14 games out of first place.

We find that, in the second half, as the games have gotten bigger, Quentin has out-hit Hamilton by 54 points, has out-OPS'd him by 232 points and, in fact, has topped him in every significant offensive catetory.

And we find that, aside from RBIs (and cinematic back-stories), Hamilton really hasn't greatly outshone Quentin in any major offensive department over the first four months of the season.

So for me, this is now Carlos Quentin's award to lose. But I'm betting some of you might beg to differ. And of course, that's what we're here for.


Every week, we'll give you the topic and then we'll have one of our writers stopping by to debate the issue with you. To suggest a topic for "That's Debatable," go here. Or check out the full archive.

Stark Archive: Chats | Columns

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