My fifth look at the Most Valuable Player races finds two top American League contenders knocked out of the race by injuries — one permanently and one literally, as Kevin Youkilis had season-ending thumb surgery on Friday and Justin Morneau is continuing to struggle with the after affects of a concussion suffered in early July. Still, the AL award looks like a three-man race, while the NL chase continues to be dominated by two players who will do battle over the next three days for their division lead. Further down the NL list, we find this is a big year for second basemen in the senior circuit, despite Chase Utley’s continued absence.
1) Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers (1)
Season stats: .343/.430/.636, 26 HR, 93 RBI, 60.9 VORP
Last three weeks: .371/.494/.671, 4 HR, 14 RBI
If you believe that team performance is an important consideration in weighing the merits of Most Valuable Player candidates, than you should also believe that Cabrera’s candidacy has taken a blow in recent weeks. His Tigers have won just six of their last 26 games, falling from first place in the AL Central to third place, nine games out in the division, four games below .500 and closer to the Royals than the Twins. Such reasoning is absurd, of course. The Tigers have been in free fall because Brennan Boesch has stopped hitting and Magglio Ordoñez and Carlos Guillen both hit the disabled list on the same day, five days after Brandon Inge, effectively wiping out half of the Detroit lineup (their catchers were already gone) and resulting in a Tiger attack that has scored just 3.23 runs per game over that recent 6-20 nosedive. None of that is the fault of Cabrera, who continued to rake over that stretch, hitting .333/.455/.586 while being intentionally walked seven times in 26 games, which just goes to show how disconnected team performance and player value really are.