Athlon Sports' 2011 AL MVP

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Athlon editors comb through the crowded field of contenders and cast their vote for this year's AL MVP

<p> Athlon editors comb through the crowded field of contenders and cast their vote for this year's AL MVP</p>

With the World Series in the rear-view mirror and the hot stove just beginning to heat up, it's time to hand out some awards to this year's best performers on the diamond. The Baseball Writers' Association of America (BBWAA) has already named its AL and NL Rookies of the Year, AL and NL Managers of the Year, and AL and NL Cy Young award winners. And while no Athlon editors are members of the BBWAA, here's how four of us — Charlie Miller, Braden Gall, Patrick Snow and Mark Ross — would have voted if we did have a ballot to cast.

AL MVP

There's no lack of quality candidates for AL MVP, so this could come down to the closest vote of all the major awards, if anything due to the number of names that will receive consideration. In addition, four different teams have multiple MVP candidates, so in some cases voters will be pitting teammate against teammate when it comes to filling out their ballot.

The Boston Red Sox have center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the Detroit Tigers have first baseman Miguel Cabrera and AL Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, the New York Yankees have second baseman Robinson Cano and center fielder Curtis Granderson, and the Texas Rangers have third baseman Adrian Beltre, second baseman Ian Kinsler and designated hitter/infielder Michael Young. And that's not to forget Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball this season.

Contenders' Stats:

Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: .302, 105 R, 155 H, 24 2B, 43 HR, 132 RBI, .447 OBP, .608 SLG, 1.056 OPS

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Texas Rangers: .296, 82 R, 144 H, 33 2B, 32 HR, 105 RBI, .331 OBP, .561 SLG, .892 OPS

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers: .344, 111 R, 197 H, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, .448 OBP, .586 SLG, 1.033 OPS

Robinson Cano, 2B, New York Yankees: .302, 104 R, 188 H, 46 2B, 28 HR, 118 RBI, .349 OBP, .533 SLG, .882 OPS

Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Boston Red Sox: .321, 119 R, 212 H, 46 2B, 32 HR, 105 RBI, 39 SB, .376 OBP, .552 SLG, .928 OPS

Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Boston Red Sox: .338, 108 R, 213 H, 45 2B, 27 HR, 117 RBI, .410 OBP, .548 SLG, .957 OPS

Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees: .262, 136 R, 153 H, 26 2B, 41 HR, 119 RBI, 25 SB, .364 OBP, .552 SLG, .916 OPS

Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers: .255, 121 R, 158 H, 34 2B, 32 HR, 77 RBI, 30 SB, .335 OBP, .477 SLG, .832 OPS

Justin Verlander, P, Detroit Tigers: 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 251 IP, 57 BB, 250 K, 0.92 WHIP, 34 GS

Michael Young, DH/IF, Texas Rangers: .338, 88 R, 213 H, 41 2B, 11 HR, 106 RBI, .380 OBP, .474 SLG, .854 OPS

Athlon's Winner: Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees

Granderson got two of the four first-place votes and beat out Ellsbury by one lone point, perhaps a indication of how the BBWAA's vote will pan out? Ellsbury got one first-place and two second-place votes to finish second. Tiger teammates Cabrera and Verlander tied for third with Verlander getting the remaning first-place vote, but also finishing seventh on one ballot. It's that sort of discrepancy which could play a significant role in the BBWAA vote in determining this year's AL MVP. Bautista rounded out the top five.

Here's how the Athlon editors voted

Charlie Miller's ballot:

1. Curtis Granderson
Granderson is the Yankees’ catalyst and led the AL in both runs and RBIs while adding strong defense in centerfield. Granderson, a career .215 hitter vs. lefties with a .346 slugging percentage, batted .273, slugged .604 and swatted 16 of his 41 homers off lefties.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury
Over the last month of the season as the Red Sox watched their lead evaporate, Ellsbury was solid, hitting .362 with a .693 slugging percentage since Aug. 26. Coming into 2011 the fleet centerfielder had just 20 career homers. He hit 32 this season.
3. Justin Verlander
For about four months the Tigers were rather ordinary when Verlander wasn’t on the mound. That changed over the last two months of the season as the Tigers played well enough when he wasn’t pitching to win the AL Central.
4. Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera was a hitting machine for the Tigers. He scored 111 runs, drove in 105 and won his first batting title.
5. Jose Bautista
Bautista was the most feared hitter in the Toronto lineup. So much so, that in 181 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Bautista walked 64 times, 22 of those intentional.
6. Adrian Gonzalez
7. Robinson Cano
8. Michael Young
9. Alex Avila
10. Adrian Beltre

Braden Gall's ballot:

1. Justin Verlander
Without a clear hitter standing above the rest, the best pitching season in 20 years for the AL Central Champs absolutely makes Verlander the most indispensable piece of any team.
2. Jacoby Ellsbury
Had Boston made the playoffs this stat line, combined with his defensive value at one of the three key positions on the field, would have been good enough to win the MVP: Fifth in AL in hitting (.321), fourth in stolen bases (39), fifth in home runs (32), sixth in RBI (105), third in doubles (46) and third in runs scored (119). All from the lead-off spot.
3. Curtis Granderson
A 40-20 season while leading the league in runs scored and RBIs from the two-hole of the AL East champs while playing one of the premiere defensive positions? That is tough to beat, however, the Grandy-Man will lose votes because of the stout protection around him in the order.
4. Miguel Cabrera
Led the AL in batting and was key cog in heart of AL Central Champs line-up. But trails Ellsbury and Granderson in nearly every category — including the oft-overlooked defensive side of the ball. His ratios, particularly on-base percentage, makes him an easy top-five choice, but his overall game isn’t as dynamic as the two ahead of him on my ballot.
5. Jose Bautista
The power numbers are off the charts — at least for the modern era of baseball — but he did it on a team that finished 16 games out of first place and at .500 for the season. Without the home run champ, the Blue Jays are 20 games out of first? 22? Ricky Romero was the most valuable Blue Jay in 2011.
6. Michael Young
7. Adrian Gonzalez
8. Robinson Cano
9. Adrian Beltre
10. Asdrubal Cabrera

Patrick Snow's ballot:

1. Curtis Granderson
One of my favorite statistics when comparing hitters in runs scored plus RBIs. Guess who led the league in both, compiling 136 runs and 119 RBIs? Granderson was a Yankees’ catalyst, leading the AL East champs in runs, RBIs, home runs (41) and triples (10). He also added 25 steals and played a solid center field. Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera had another great season, but Granderson’s was better.
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Jacoby Ellsbury
4. Jose Bautista
5. Adrian Gonzalez
6. Robinson Cano
7. Justin Verlander
8. Ian Kinsler
9. Michael Young
10. Victor Martinez

Mark Ross' ballot:

1. Jacoby Ellsbury
Boston’s center fielder bounced back from an injury-plagued 2010 to post a 30-30 campaign and finished in the top six in the AL in average, runs, hits, doubles, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, on-base and slugging percentage, as the Red Sox lead-off hitter. He also didn’t make an error in 154 games in center.
2. Curtis Granderson
The Yankees’ center fielder led the AL in runs (136) and RBI (119) and finished second in home runs (41) and triples (10), while also stealing 25 bases.
3. Justin Verlander
Named the AL Cy Young winner by an unanimous vote, Verlander went 20-2 in his last 24 starts with one of the two losses being a 1-0 decision. During that same span, Detroit went from a game above .500 and seven games behind first place, to finishing the season at 95-67 and winning the AL Central by 15 games.
4. Miguel Cabrera
The linchpin of the Tigers’ offense, Cabrera finished with the highest batting average (.344) and on-base percentage (.448) in all of baseball and also led the majors in doubles (48). With runners in scoring position, Cabrera hit .388 for the year with 10 home runs and 75 RBIs.
5. Jose Bautista
The clear-cut MVP of the first half (.334, 73 R, 31 HR, 65 RBI), the Blue Jays' slugger still posted impressive numbers (.302, 105 R, 43 HR, 103 RBI) for the season, and led all of baseball in slugging percentage (.608) and OPS (1.056) despite being pitched around so much (ML-best 132 BB, including 24 intentional passes).
6. Adrian Gonzalez
7. Michael Young
8. Robinson Cano
9. Adrian Beltre
10. James Shields

Other Baseball awards-related content:

American League Rookie of the Year

National League Rookie of the Year

AL & NL Managers of the Year

American League Cy Young

National League Cy Young

National League MVP

Miscellaneous: 
MLB League: 

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