New York: The Hottest Corners in Baseball
Weekend News: Alex Rodriguez hit his 52nd home run of the season on Sunday, extending his consecutive games streak of going yard to five. ARod has slugged seven homers during this span.
David Wright hit his 27th home run during Saturday's game, matching his career best in 2005. Including a day off on Sunday, Wright has jacked three homers with six RBI in his last six contests.
Rodriguez and Wright have jumped to the forefront of the Most Valuable Player discussions in the AL and NL, respectively. Should these two win the MVP awards, they would become the first players from the same city to capture such honors in the same year since Nellie Fox and Ernie Banks made the Windy City proud in 1959. Miguel Tejada (A's) and Barry Bonds (Giants) in 2002 and Jason Giambi (A's) and Jeff Kent (Giants) in 2000 were named MVPs as crosstown rivals in the Bay Area.
The third basemen would also become the first pair of players manning the hot corner to earn MVPs since George Brett and Mike Schmidt in 1980. Brett and Schmidt met in the World Series that fall with the latter leading the Philadelphia Phillies to the title over the Kansas City Royals in six games. The reigning MVPs were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in the magazine's baseball preview in April 1981. The headline aptly read, "Hotshots at the Hot Corner."
If Rodriguez and Wright were to win MVP honors in 2007, SI could do worse than putting them on the cover next spring. In the meantime, like Brett and Schmidt, New York's finest could lead their teams to the Fall Classic. The Yankees are 5 1/2 games back in the AL East but sit atop the Wild Card race with a four-game margin over the Detroit Tigers. The Mets enjoy a six-game lead over the Phillies in the NL East and could wind up with the best record in the league, earning home-field advantage in the NLDS and NLCS.
Rodriguez and Magglio Ordonez of the Tigers have been running 1-2 all season. ARod got off to an incredibly hot start, slugging 14 HR in the first three weeks of the season. He slipped to .235/.361/.422 in May, allowing Ordonez (.381/.450/.619 in May and June) to gain some traction in the AL MVP debate. However, with a strong September, Rodriguez (.533/.600/1.367 with 8 HR in 30 AB) is beginning to pull away from Mags.
AL RUNS CREATED ABOVE AVERAGE
1 Alex Rodriguez 77 2 Magglio Ordonez 65 3 David Ortiz 52 4 Carlos Pena 50 T5 Curtis Granderson 38 T5 Jorge Posada 38 7 Vladimir Guerrero 36 T8 Ichiro Suzuki 35 T8 B.J. Upton 35 10 Alex Rios 32
ARod is also leading Ordonez in Wins Above Replacement Value (WARP) and Win Shares, both of which incorporate defense into their tallies. At this point, it would be a huge surprise if Rodriguez didn't win his third MVP award this season.
Wright, on the other hand, experienced a poor April (.244/.370/.311) and has only recently become a strong candidate for NL MVP honors.
NL RUNS CREATED ABOVE AVERAGE
1 David Wright 55 2 Chase Utley 51 3 Chipper Jones 48 4 Prince Fielder 47 T5 Barry Bonds 46 T5 Hanley Ramirez 46 7 Albert Pujols 42 8 Miguel Cabrera 35 T9 Ryan Braun 32 T9 Matt Holliday 32
Wright not only leads the pack in RCAA but he also is #1 in WARP and Win Shares. According to the latter measurement, Eric Byrnes, Russell Martin, and Carlos Beltran should factor into the discussion as well. Beltran will have a tough time beating out Wright but Byrnes and Martin could become darkhorse choices if one of them leads their club to the NL West title.
Upon first blush, Wright's stats pale in comparison to ARod's. However, except for the differential in HR (and R and RBI), their numbers are remarkably similar. They have virtually the same totals when it comes to G, AB, H, 2B, 3B, SB, CS, BB, SO, AVG, and OBP. I realize that HR are a big deal – in fact, the biggest deal of 'em all – but I still think it is instructional to recognize the commonalities between the two. ARod has Wright beat up and down and around in HR and SLG, yet the latter's 27 dingers and .539 slugging percentage are impressive nonetheless.
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO AVG OBP SLG Rodriguez 141 519 132 165 28 0 52 140 22 3 82 101 .318 .424 .672 Wright 140 523 97 165 34 1 27 93 30 4 84 108 .315 .410 .539
Rodriguez, who is on pace to hit 59 home runs, could become just the sixth player in the history of the game to slug 60 in a season. If so, he would be the first non-OF/1B to reach this hallowed mark. Amazingly, he is the only non-OF/1B to rip 50 – something he has accomplished THREE times (52 in 2001 and 57 in 2002 as a SS and 52 and counting in 2007 as a 3B). Mike Schmidt never hit 50. Eddie Mathews never hit 50. Ernie Banks never hit 50.
YEAR HR 1 Barry Bonds 2001 73 2 Mark McGwire 1998 70 3 Sammy Sosa 1998 66 4 Mark McGwire 1999 65 5 Sammy Sosa 2001 64 6 Sammy Sosa 1999 63 7 Roger Maris 1961 61 8 Babe Ruth 1927 60
The man who wears #13 on his jersey is projected to score 150 runs and knock in 159. ARod could become the first player to go 150-150 in the same season since Ted Williams in 1949.
YEAR R RBI 1 Babe Ruth 1921 177 171 2 Lou Gehrig 1936 167 152 3 Lou Gehrig 1931 163 184 T4 Babe Ruth 1927 158 164 T4 Chuck Klein 1930 158 170 6 Al Simmons 1930 152 165 T7 Jimmie Foxx 1932 151 169 T7 Joe DiMaggio 1937 151 167 T9 Ted Williams 1949 150 159 T9 Babe Ruth 1930 150 153
Once again, we're looking at nothing other than OF and 1B. ARod's potential inclusion in lists like those above is a testament to his hitting prowess as well as his overall value as an infielder.
And that other third baseman in New York is Wright behind him.
Source of Tables: Complete Baseball Encyclopedia