Rangers’ 2012 MVP Candidates

**ORIGINAL POSTED DATE 9/17/12**

A Texas Ranger has won the league MVP 5 times in the last 16 seasons. (Juan Gonzalez ’96, ’98; Ivan Rodriguez’99; Alex Rodriguez ’03, Josh Hamilton ’10).  That’s 31% of all AL MVPs since 1996.  This is far more than any other team during that span.  2012 looks to continue the trend.  All of the Ranger players have contributed to the team’s success but this post will focus on the Rangers’ two legitimate 2012 AL MVP candidates, Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton, and which All Star has a better shot at claiming the highest honor for individual performance.  As you will see, their offensive and defensive numbers are similar, heck, even their jerseys are only three numbers apart.

Josh Hamilton owns the statistics in the AL offensive categories.  He currently leads the AL in Home Runs, Runs Batted In, and ABs per HR.  He is also in the top five in OPS, Slugging, Total Bases, Runs Scored, Runs Created, Extra Base Hits, Intentional BBs, Sacrifice Flies, and more.  Hamilton’s offense has always been there, but this year we saw him struggle in the middle of the season from May 29th through July 31st  where Josh batted .204 (37/181) which also coincides with the Rangers toughest stretch in terms of W-L record (28-25).  This stretch revealed a level of inconsistency from Josh that Rangers fans haven’t seen from him since he joined the club in 2008.   

Conversely, Adrian Beltre has been steady and consistent the entire season.  While some of his power numbers do not rise to the level of Hamilton’s, Beltre is not far behind.  Beltre has a better batting average than Hamilton (by over 30 points), almost 30 more hits, and Beltre has struck out close to half as many times as Hamilton.  Beltre and Hamilton are virtually tied in plate appearances and games played.  Beltre’s numbers are more impressive when considering he protects Hamilton in the Ranger lineup where Beltre is coming up in clutch situations and rising to the occasion.  In the AL, Beltre enjoys top five rankings in Hits, Total bases, and Sacrifice Flies.  He will also finish the season with over 35 home runs and 100 RBIs.  Beltre’s numbers since August 1st when the pennant chase begins to heat up are a .338 avg., 14 HRs, and 31 RBIs.  By comparison, Hamilton is batting .283 with 13 HRs, and 39 RBIs.  The past six weeks have been very kind to the 3 & 4 spots in the Rangers batting order, which is why both of these men are in the conversation for the 2012 MVP.

If offensive numbers made an MVP, Hamilton would have an edge despite the mid season slump, but offense is just one part of the MVP equation.  Defensively, no one is better at third base than Adrian Beltre in the American League.  The reigning gold glove winner at one of the toughest positions has a higher fielding position this season than he did last season, and the other two seasons he won the gold glove.  In fact, at .972, Beltre has his highest fielding percentage of his big league career.  He only has 8 errors all season.  Josh Hamilton only has 5 errors in 268 chances with a .981 fielding percentage, and five assists in the outfield.  Hamilton has never won a gold glove in his career, but he has to receive consideration this year again for that honor.

Numbers alone do not make an MVP.  In the clubhouse, where there is no real objective way to measure leadership, we have to go by what we see.  What I see is two guys that have a lot of fun playing baseball.  Both have perpetual smiles in the dugout.  Beltre is two years older than Hamilton but has nine more years of MLB service time.  This makes Beltre feel a lot older than Hamilton, at least to me.  Beltre is in the middle of a very comfortable five-year contract.  Hamilton is a free agent after this season.   A good season won’t mean millions of dollars to Beltre in 2013 as it could to Hamilton.  In terms of “motivation”, one would expect Hamilton’s numbers to be far better than Beltre’s.  As we can see, that is simply not the case.  Beltre plays hard no matter what, he’s durable, and he seems to be the captain of the infield, and a strong presence in the clubhouse.  I’ve never questioned Hamilton’s effort.  Every player has a bad day, where things just don’t feel right.  There have been games, particularly in the middle of the season where Josh just seemed distracted.  Josh’s life is literally an open book.  He will always be under a microscope off the field.  I don’t think that “private issues” are any of our business, but Josh did profit from his plight earlier in his career and so some of the criticisms he receives are fair game. Beltre simply doesn’t have this baggage.  He is a shy guy when it comes to the media but a leader in the clubhouse and on the field.  While this shouldn’t give him an edge in the MVP race, it does give him an edge in the “intangibles” category of the MVP evaluation in my opinion.

It’s that time of year again where September creates the suspense accompanied with meaningful baseball and everyday players become legends.   The Rangers enjoy a modest lead in the AL West as they stare at their third straight division title and currently sit poised to have the number one seed heading into the playoffs.   As Rangers fans, it has been an awesome three seasons in a row.   This could be the end to a spectacular run with amazing players and teammates.   The rest of September to me could have that feel of the magical summer of 1961 where Mantle and Maris were competing with each other for the HR title and AL MVP (the quiet Roger Maris won both).  Every night either Hamilton or Beltre is getting a big hit or making a circus play in the field and their team has the best record in the AL.  Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, and possibly Derek Jeter may still have a say in the MVP before 2012 is over, but Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton do just as much for their team and their team is the best …so far.  

Will Mitchell is a Staff Writer for ShutDownInning. He can be reached at Will.Mitchell@ShutDownInning.com or on Twitter @WillMitchellesq.
Will Mitchell

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