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The Red Sox MVP Candidates, And Why It Won't Happen

Much has been made of the Red Sox' MVP hopefuls. From the main-stream love for Adrian Gonzalez, to the stat-head appreciation of Dustin Pedroia (though Jacoby Ellsbury has now surpassed even him), it seems like there's an option for everyone.

Adrian Gonzalez is a strong contender based on the traditional stats. He ranks first in batting average, second in RBI, and even by some slightly more advanced numbers, fifth in OPS.

Dustin Pedroia was fighting Jose Bautista neck-and-neck for the lead in fWAR for much of the last month, going on an unreal tear through June and July. While his bat isn't the sort of thing that inspires anything more than Silver Slugger talk (heaven forfend!), when you add the fact that he's playing remarkable defense at second--the kind that should earn two Gold Gloves in one year--he enters the conversation as well.

Jacoby Ellsbury, meanwhile, is the healthy middle ground. While he and Pedroia are relatively similar offensively, Ellsbury's numbers come from a different, more noticeable place. He's reached the important plateau of 20 homers, after which it starts to get impressive for players at advanced defensive positions, and he ranks among the leaders in stolen bases. And just the notion of a 30/40 or even 30/50 season sets ESPN anchors aquiver. 

And yet, none of these men will win the MVP.

The problem has to do with who's voting.

My feeling, at least, is that the electorate, as it were, can be divided up into four groups.

  1. Traditionalists who ignore team standings
  2. Traditionalists who only vote for players on good teams.
  3. Statistically-oriented voters who ignore team standings
  4. Statistically-oriented voters who only vote for players on good teams.

Category four seems like by far the smallest group, with category two the largest and three the second largest.

For Dustin Pedroia, at least, his only hope lies in group number four, and even then Jacoby Ellsbury is taking votes from him. It's hard to imagine any situation in which he realistically takes home the MVP at this point barring a ridiculous streak that manages to boost his image amongst the traditional voters.

Category three, for now, is largely going to be dedicated to Jose Bautista--category one would also probably favor him. The Blue Jays' slugger has had an unreal season, leading the American League in wOBA by over 35 points. When you consider the relative quality of offense in the league, this is Barry Bonds type stuff.

No, I'm not trying to cast aspersions with that. Let it go.

The all-important category two is where Adrian Gonzalez could come in, but even there the competition seems too strong. For all that Gonzo has the huge average, Curtis Granderson is actually well ahead of him in homers, and even has the RBI lead at this point. Two-of-three triple crown categories is usually enough to win over a good portion of the voters, and even Jacoby Ellsbury and Justin Verlander could pilfer some votes.

So who likely takes it homer? Right now, my money is on Jose Bautista, thanks to a trend towards the statistical outlook in recent years of award voting. But Curtis Granderson remains an annoyingly likely candidate. He plays for the Yankees, has steals and homers, and gets the benefit in perception of playing at an advanced defensive position without really taking the hit for relatively mediocre defense amongst his peers. So it goes in the MVP race.

There's still a month to go, though. 30 games for Ellsbury to reach new milestones, or for Dustin Pedroia to reassert himself to the statistically minded. But with the natural tendency for players on the same team to split votes anyways, for now at least it seems like the Sox will have to settle for some consolation prizes.

Like--hopefully--a World Series.