Alex Gordon, a player that isn’t even starting at this year’s annual All-Star game, could be the American League MVP at the end of the season. Being one of the most underrated players in all of baseball, Alex Gordon doesn’t exactly get the attention that players such as Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera get on a regular basis. But you better believe that he is in the same class as both of those guys, and this year may end up being his best yet. I know what many of you reading this might think; how can a guy that is only hitting .263 with only nine home runs possibly beat out players such as Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Nelson Cruz, etc. for the right to claim the AL MVP award this season?
Before I answer that question, we first have to look at what the MVP award really means and stands for. We all tend to forget that the MVP award stands for most valuable player. Saying that the MVP award is reserved for the best hitter in each league is an asinine statement, but unfortunately many baseball fans believe just that. The supporters of Miguel Cabrera have certainly been the prime example over the last two seasons, as they have ignored the difference that Mike Trout makes both defensively and on the basepaths. Thankfully, there are a good amount of fans across baseball that look a little deeper and realize that there is more to baseball than just the ability to swing the bat. After all, players such as Jackie Bradley Jr., Zack Cozart, and Brendan Ryan are in the MLB for a reason, and it sure isn’t because of the way they swing the bat.
Now, for all baseball fans out there that are brave enough to look a little deeper, it can be seen that Alex Gordon has been one of the best players in the MLB over the course of this season. His 15.2 range runs above average and 19 defensive runs saved rank as the 2nd best in all of baseball this season. Gordon is in the same class as the most elite defenders, and heads above any other outfielder in the American League. His effort on defense is unmatched as he is seemingly fearless at all times. A play from him last season that proves this fearlessness happened on August 18th, when Gordon crashed into the wall at full speed while making, what turned out to be, a web gem worthy catch. Kansas City Royals’ pitchers love this guy, and it’s plays like these that make him stand out above the rest.
At this point in the season, Gordon is the clear favorite for a Gold Glove award and potentially even the Platinum Glove award, but that doesn’t necessarily help his MVP case very much if his offensive output doesn’t improve at some point. Gordon is currently slashing .263/.346/.422 with nine home runs, and while these may be very solid numbers, they are not sufficient for an MVP candidate. Over the course of baseball history, there has been only 30 players who have batted under .300 during their MVP seasons. On top of that, the last American League player to win the MVP award while batting under .300 was Don Bayler, 35 years ago, in 1979. An easy way for Gordon to improve his triple slash-line would be for him to increase his BABIP. Gordon appears to be having a bit of trouble this season as we can see with his below average .298 BABIP (career average .319 BABIP). If Gordon can elevate his offensive game by getting his current line drive percentage (14.4 LD%) up around the league average (20 LD%) and lowering his current fly ball percentage (40.9%) to below the league average (36%), we will see a noticeable difference in Gordon’s BABIP in the second half of the season. And with this difference, there will also be gradual increase in Gordon’s batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage if he can maintain his current strikeout and home run rates.
Saying Alex Gordon will win the AL MVP award is probably a bold prediction as long as Mike Trout is still in the American League, but overtaking the two-time runner-up MVP can most certainly be done. Gordon’s 4.4 WAR currently ranks as the second best in the American League behind only Trout (5.5 WAR). With Gordon having the obvious advantage defensively, the MVP race will largely depend on the 30-year-old, left fielder’s ability to build on a hot July (.855 OPS), and become a consistent threat at the plate and on the base paths in the second half of the season.