by Jack Kerwin | firstname.lastname@example.org
Yeah, it’s officially football season. But still …
Kinda tough to escape the goings on with Major League Baseball just yet. At least it is for me. Especially with teams pushing for the playoffs down the stretch and individuals stating their cases for individual honors.
Thing that really jumps out of late: It looks like reigning American League MVP Josh Donaldson isn’t about to hand over the hardware so easy after all. On pace for a very good season, the Toronto third baseman has gone off recently, super-charging an already-potent lineup with enough juice to carry it past Baltimore and Boston into first place in the AL East. In the last four days alone, Donaldson has five homers, 10 RBIs and seven runs scored.
Yeah, no argument here that if you’re going to start a team from scratch, Mike Trout is the most sensible choice. Tremendous talent and just 24. But Donaldson, even at 30, is hardly chopped liver at this point, and, frankly, he’s had a better season than the Angels outfielder again.
He leads the AL in runs scored (106), is third in homers (34) and sixth in RBIs (92) and has a better on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS than he did last season when he topped the circuit in runs scored, RBIs and total bases.
Oh yeah, he’s also fantastic with the glove.
Trout, generally accepted as the best player in the game, shouldn’t even be Donaldson’s biggest challenge to a repeat as league MVP. The stiffest competition right now actually comes in the form of Houston’s diminutive dynamo Jose Altuve (MLB batting average leader), Boston’s Mookie Betts (tied for AL lead with Donaldson on a combined 198 runs and RBIs) and David Ortiz (MLB slugging percentage and OPS leader), and teammate Edwin Encarnacion (AL leader in RBIs).
My gut feeling … Donaldson remains hot and runs away with it.
HARD TO IGNORE
Not for nothing, but one of MLB’s great individual achievements is registering 400 total bases in a single season. It’s only been done 29 times. By 18 different players.
Babe Ruth set the standard with 457 in 1921, but it was Yankees teammate Lou Gehrig who really shined over time in the category, doing it a whopping five times.
Phillies fans under the impression that their franchise’s history worth considering only stretches back to, oh, say, 1950, may want to take note that Gehrig’s closest colleague in the “400 club” is Chuck Klein, who pulled the trick three times in a four-year span for your team, your town, your Fightin’ Phillies.
Anyway, guess what? Betts has a legit, albeit outside, shot to reach that magical mark. Currently, he stands at an MLB-best 307 total bases, well ahead of the 290 Bryant has to top the NL. If Betts maintained his pace, he’d fall shy at 392. But the 23-year-old already has exceeded expectations exponentially this season, so … you never know.
HARD TO BELIEVE
Sticking with the 400 club, it’s amazing to realize that guys such as Ty Cobb and Ted Williams never reached it. Perhaps even more amazing than guys such as Hal Trosky and Luis Gonzalez getting there once and Todd Helton twice.
Even weirder, two years in the history of MLB saw four players pull it off in the same season: 1930 and 2001. Klein, Gehrig, Hack Wilson and Babe Herman did so in the former, while Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Gonzalez and Helton did so in the latter.
WHO YA GOT?
With the season winding down, the MVP races are coming into clearer focus. Below are top-5 candidates for the American and National leagues, and, no, Mike Trout doesn't make the cut ... right now:
Blue Jays 3B ... .294 batting average, 34 HRs, 92 RBIs, 106 runs scored.
Red Sox OF ... .322 batting average, 30 HRs, 96 RBIs, 102 runs scored.
Astros 2B ... .354 batting average, 22 HRs, 88 RBIs, 93 runs scored.
Red Sox DH ... .318 batting average, 31 HRs, 101 RBIs, 64 runs scored.
Blue Jays DH ... .269 batting average, 36 HRs, 106 RBIs, 83 runs scored.
Cubs 3B-OF ... .305 batting average, 35 HRs, 89 RBIs, 109 runs scored.
Nationals 2B ... .345 batting average, 25 HRs, 98 RBIs, 80 runs scored.
Rockies 3B ... .293 batting average, 35 HRs, 112 RBIs, 96 runs scored.
Cubs 1B ... .295 batting average, 25 HRs, 91 RBIs, 77 runs scored.
Dodgers SS ... .320 batting average, 23 HRs, 62 RBIs, 87 runs scored.