José Abreu: MVP Candidate?

José Abreu: MVP Candidate?

There are a couple short weeks left in the regular season, and while the Cubs are trying to hang onto their lead in the National League Central, the White Sox are playing out the schedule as they continue their rebuild mission.

While almost all of the sports talk in Chicago is about either the Cubs or Tarik Cohen or, in the next week or so, the Blackhawks season beginning, José Abreu has quietly emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate in the American League.

In spite of the White Sox being in last place.

And Chicago knows a thing or two about a last place MVP.

andre-dawson

In 1987, Andre Dawson won the NL MVP on a Cubs team that finished 73-88. That Cubs team, like this year's White Sox, had some exciting young prospects some onto the scene (Greg Maddux was 21, Rafeal Palmeiro was 22, Shawon Dunston was 24).

Consider Dawson's 1987 numbers:

  • Batting Average: .287
  • On-Base Pct: .328
  • Slugging: .568
  • OPS: .896
  • Home Runs: 49
  • RBI: 137
  • Runs: 90
  • Extra-base Hits: 75

Dawson led the National League in home runs, RBI and total bases (353) in 1987. He struck out 103 times and walked 32 times in 662 plate appearances.

Consider Abreu's 2017 stats:

  • Batting Average: .306
  • On-Base Pct: .358
  • Slugging: .564
  • OPS: .922
  • Home Runs: 31
  • RBI: 92
  • Runs: 86
  • Extra-base Hits: 75

This is where the rub against Abreu comes in. Entering Tuesday's action, the only statistical category that Abreu leads the American League is total bases (313), which isn't a traditional vote-generating number like home runs, RBI or even OPS. But consider who the current American League leaders are in these caterories (all stats are entering Tuesday):

  • Batting Average: José Altuve - .358
    Abreu ranks 6th
  • On-Base Pct: Altuve/Aaron Judge - .411
    Abreu ranks 17th
  • Slugging: Judge - .579
    Abreu ranks 4th
  • OPS: Judge - .990
    Abreu ranks 4th
  • Home Runs: Judge - 41
    Abreu is tied for 10th
  • RBI: Nelson Cruz - 107
    Abreu ranks 7th
  • Runs: Judge - 108
    Abreu is tied for 13th
  • WAR: Altuve - 7.7
    Abreu (4.2) ranks 13th

Based on the league leaders, one would (rightfully) put Altuve and Judge at/near the top of the MVP ballot for the 2017 season.

What should elevate consideration for Abreu to be in the mix, however, is his second half. He's slashing .319/.373/.633 since the All-Star Game with 15 home runs and 34 driven in. He has 133 total bases since he wasn't an All-Star in Miami.

Compare that to the second half of Judge: .188/.354/.398 with 11 home runs and 24 RBI. Judge has 74 total bases since he stole the show in Miami at the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game.

Indeed, if there was a second half MVP for the Yankees it would be Gary Sánchez, not Judge.

Cleveland's José Ramírez and Francisco Lindor and Baltimore's Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop are also having magnificent seasons and should be considered. And Mike Trout is still Mike Trout (even though the Angels remained a .500 team with him out for a significant part of the middle of the season).

If I had a ballot for the 2017 American League Most Valuable Player, José Abreu would be second (behind Altuve). He certainly deserves more national attention for his play this season on a bad, rebuilding White Sox team than he's getting. 

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