Categories
MLB General

The Full Count: Dbacks and Yankees hold serve

1. The Best Ace: John Lackey took on Josh Beckett in a battle of Cy Young candidates, and it was the 2003 World Series MVP Beckett that emerged with a decisive victory. Beckett pitched a shutout for his second consecutive postseason start, a streak that dates back to that 2003 World Series when he was with the Marlins. Lackey, meanwhile, was mediocre with four runs allowed in six innings. David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis both homered off Lackey in the Red Sox’s 4-0 victory. This game was really all about Beckett, who was the only pitcher in the regular season to win 20 games. Beckett walked none, struck out 8, and only surrendered 4 hits against a pesky Angels lineup. Beckett has gone from a near-disaster last season to the Red Sox’s most reliable pitcher by far. He owns a 1.74 playoff career ERA, and will give the Red Sox as many starts as he can in the playoffs. A game one win in the division series usually leads to a series victory for the winning team; however, the fate of this series is not sealed. The Angels still have an excellent chance, with Kelvim Escobar and Jered Weaver taking the mound the next two games. Boston will counter that with Dice-K, who has oddly received almost no attention the last few months, and Curt Schilling. It seems to me at least that these are the best two teams in baseball, so the whoever wins this series has a great shot at winning the World Series.

2. The Momentum Continues: The Rockies have gone from fourth in the division to a possible World Series contender in less than a month. No one thought they would even make the playoffs a few weeks ago; now they proved they are for real with a playoff-opening victory in Philadelphia. The Rockies’ pitching staff is thought to be a joke; however, the Phillies certainly weren’t laughing after Jeff Francis shut them down. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard, three of the National League’s best hitters, went a combined 0-11. Francis allowed two runs (both off solo homers) in six innings while racking up eight strikeouts. His counterpart, Cole Hamels, was good as well, but the Rockies managed to emerge with the win. Matt Holiday, who should win the MVP hands-down over Rollins, had a key homer in the eighth inning. One element of the Rockies that few people are considering is their closer Manny Corpas, who has racked up 19 saves with a 2.08 ERA. Incredibly, the Rockies have won the last 17 games he has appeared in. Corpas and two-time All Star Brian Fuentes, who both pitched shutout innings in the win, give the Rockies a formidable duo in the bullpen. Their chance of winning this series is higher than many (including me) predicted.

3. Win for Webb: Since the Padres aren’t in the playoffs, the best pitcher by far in the National League is Brandon Webb. Webb, who went 18-10 with a 3.01 ERA this season, helped Arizona to a 3-1 win in their series opener against the Cubs. Webb had nine strikeouts in seven innings, allowing only one run. Carlos Zambrano had similar success through six innings, but regular season stud Carlos Marmol blew the game with two runs allowed. On the other hand, the Diamondbacks’ ace bullpen was nearly perfect after Webb left the game. The Diamondbacks’ only shot in the playoffs lies with Webb making multiple great starts, the bullpen remaining solid, and the offense being timely if not a powerhouse. The Cubs have a far deeper rotation and more stars on offense, giving them the advantage whenever Webb isn’t pitching.

Categories
MLB General

The Full Count: First round picks


The Tie is Broken: The Rockies and Padres played a rather excellent tiebreaker game that decided who is moving into the playoffs and who is staying home. The game lasted 13 innings, with the Rockies winning 9-8 in dramatic fashion. The Padres scored 2 runs in the 13th off Scott Hariston’s homer, but the Rockies came back in the bottom half of the inning against Trevor Hoffman. They scored three runs to win the game, with Matt Holliday getting the winning run on a close play at the plate. Holliday secured the NL batting title, and also passed Ryan Howard for the NL RBI title with his performance on Monday. The MVP candidate went 2-6 with 2 RBIs, and teammate Troy Tulowitzki was even better with a 4-7, three run effort. The Padres’ Adrian Gonzalez hit a grand slam early in the game to give himself 30 homers and 100 RBIs on the year. Both starters in this contest were lit up early on. Jake Peavy raised his ERA from 2.36 to 2.54 by allowing six runs in six innings. The Rockies’ Josh Fogg gave up five runs in four innings, but was bailed out by an excellent performance from the bullpen. The Rockies, who won 14 of 15 games to win the wild card, are completely deserving of their playoff spot.

Match Me Up: The first round matchups have been finalized, and there are multiple intriguing games across the board. The Red Sox-Angels series will feature two of the league’s best pitching staffs. On Wednesday Beckett vs. Lackey will kick off this showdown. The other AL matchup, Yankees-Indians, is no less interesting. The Yankees are the hottest team in baseball and have by far its best lineup, but the Indians are very balanced and tied the Red Sox for the best regular season record. The NL matchups, though the teams aren’t nearly as good as those in the AL, should also provide for some good baseball. The Phillies-Rockies has great potential, as these were the two highest-scoring teams in the NL this season. Also, both teams are red-hot, having to earn their way into the playoffs by making late-season comebacks. The Diamondbacks-Cubs will be a matchup of two great pitching staffs. Here are my picks for the first round series:

Angels over Red Sox in 5.
Yankees over Indians in 5.
Phillies over Rockies in 4.
Cubs over D-backs in 5.

Categories
MLB General

The Full Count: Phillies complete greatest comeback in regular season history


Comeback Kings: The Philadelphia Phillies just completed one of the greatest divisional comebacks in baseball history, and they couldn’t be more deserving playoff participants. They made up 7 games on the Mets in a mere 17 games, the largest such comeback of all time. They won the NL East for one reason: they were great at coming back. 48 of their 89 victories this season were come-from-behind. The Mets, meanwhile, were a complete failure down the stretch this season. They lost 12 of their last 17 games, including 6 losses in their last 7 games, all at home. The Marlins pounded them 8-1 in their final game of the season, as Tom Glavine was knocked out after recording only one out. There was never any doubt in the Phillies’ game, a 6-1 victory over the Nationals. Two of their players added personal achievements in the victory, adding to the team achievement of its first playoff appearance since 1993. Jimmy Rollins hit his 20th triple, giving him at least 20 doubles, triples, homers, and steals on the year. He is the fourth player ever to do this, and the second this season along with Curtis Granderson of the Tigers. Also, Ryan Howard added three RBIs, giving him the NL lead for the second straight season. He finished with 136 ribbies along with 47 homers, including seven homers the last ten games of the season as the Phillies made their big run. These achievements do go along with the dubious mark of the all-time strikeout record (199). The Phillies will face the winner of the wild card in the first round of the playoffs.

Playoff before the Playoffs: The 2007 regular season isn’t over yet. There is one game left to be played that will decide the NL Wild Card champion. The Rockies and Padres ended the season exactly tied, forcing the first tiebreaker game in seven years. The Padres should not be in this position, as they led the Rockies by a mile the majority of the season. But Colorado, who was in fourth place two weeks ago, has had an incredible late-season rally with 13 wins in their last 14 games. Their pitching staff, which almost traditionally has been a joke, has been tearing it up during the streak to compliment their powerfully consistent offense. The Padres haven’t been that bad in September (15-13), but they couldn’t win either of their last two games at Milwaukee, which would have sent them to the postseason automatically. The pitching matchup for this game is a mismatch: Jake Peavy vs. Josh Fogg. Peavy, the guaranteed Cy Young winner, was the only pitcher in the majors to have below a 3.00 ERA this season, and he beat that mark by a mile (2.36). Fogg had a great September (3-0, 3.25 ERA), but is average at best. The Rockies do have the advantage of playing at home though, so this game will be interesting.

Players of the Day: Magglio Ordonez, Tigers: 3-4, 2 RBIs, won AL batting title with .363 average, finished second in majors with 139 RBIs.

Carlos Pena, Devil Rays: HR (46). In Pena’s remarkable yet underappreciated season, he finished second in the AL in homers, fourth in RBIs (121), and second in slugging (.627).

Categories
MLB General

The Full Count: Phillies finally catch the Mets


1. Comeback Completed: Philadelphia has been catching up with New York for the past month. Finally, they are tied for the division lead. The shocked Mets have gone from obvious division favorites to possibly missing the playoffs. New York lost its fourth game in a row on Thursday in an embarrassing 3-0 home shutout to the Cardinals. Pedro Martinez, who has a 2.57 ERA since returning to the rotation, had eight strikeouts in a losing effort. He was outpitched by Joel Pineiro, who shut down the overrated Mets lineup with eight scoreless innings. Meanwhile, the Phillies topped the Braves for the second straight day. They scored six runs off John Smoltz, four in the first inning, as rookie Kyle Kendrick picked up his 10th win. Now the teams are tied at 87-72 for the division lead with three games to go. Both teams have an easy final series at home: the Phillies play the Nationals while the Mets face the Marlins. Whoever loses this division race will be in tough competition with San Diego for the wild card. Right now the Padres are a game ahead of both teams.

2. Hold on Loosely: Though the Padres have made a charge, the Diamondbacks continue to hold the NL West division lead. They won 8-0 against the Pirates on Thursday to keep them a game ahead of San Diego. Micah Owings pitched six scoreless innings while going 4-4 with 3 RBIs. The game’s best-hitting pitcher now has a ridiculous .339 average, which is far above everyone in their everyday lineup. Considering the fact that he’s an average starter, they should consider moving him to the outfield eventually. With the win the D-backs are one game shy of becoming the first (and possibly the only) NL team to reach 90 wins this season. Ironically, on paper they are actually the worst among the NL’s playoff contenders. The bullpen is solid and they have a true ace in Brandon Webb, but beyond that their other starters are mediocre and their lineup verges on dismal. Though they could potentially be the #1 seed in the NL playoffs, they will need luck on their side to advance.

3. Simply Unstoppable: The Rockies won their 11th straight game to stay one game behind San Diego in the wild card race. They beat the Dodgers 10-4 to finish off their second sweep of the Dodgers during the streak. Garrett Atkins went 4-4 with a homer and Brad Hawpe drove in three runs for Colorado. Seven of their 11 consecutive wins have come against the Dodgers, who have fallen to only one game over .500 for the season. The Rockies will face the D-backs at home in what will be a crucial final series for both teams.

Player of the Day: Phil Hughes, Yankees: 7 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 5 strikeouts in a 3-1 win over the Devil Rays. The Yankees mathematically still have a shot at the division title, with the Red Sox’s magic number still at 2.

Categories
MLB General

The Full Count: Yankees clinch

A-rod looking as douchey as possible

1. Lucky Number 13: The Yankees continued the longest playoff streak in all of baseball by clinching a spot in October for the 13th consecutive year. They did so in style, beating the Devil Rays 12-4 as Cano and Jeter homered and Chien-Ming Wang won his 19th game of the season. Now the American League playoff teams are set, with Cleveland, Los Angeles, Boston, and the Yanks competing for the pennant. Unless there is a bizarre change in the standings in the last few days this season, New York will take on the Indians and the Angels will battle the Red Sox in the opening matchups. The Yankees’ run at the playoffs of course was expected before the season, but by the end of May many thought their season was over. That’s because they were one of the worst teams in the AL exactly four months ago, only a few games ahead of Tampa Bay. Since then, however, they’ve had the best record in the league, and with 15 wins in their last 20 games they will head to the postseason with momentum on their side.

2. Still Undecided: The National League playoff situation remains the exact opposite of the American League. While all four teams have clinched in the AL, no team has clinched a playoff berth in the NL. Many contenders seem to be slipping at the wrong time, particularly the Mets. They’ve had the NL East lead the majority of the season, but after losing 9 of their last 13 games, the Phillies are only one game back. The Phillies virtually eliminated the Braves by beating them 5-2; Atlanta would now need a complete miracle to make the playoffs. The situation in the NL Central remains uncertain, as it has been for about a month. The Cubs’ loss gave the Brewers an opportunity to get within a single game, but Milwaukee lost to the Cardinals and remains two back. The hottest team in the NL right now is the Rockies, who have won a franchise-record 10 consecutive games. They are now one game back of the Padres, and tied with Philadelphia.

3. Bye Bye, Barry: Barry Bonds has been extremely quiet ever since breaking the major league homerun record, as the sale of the 756 ball has received more attention than the man who hit it. Bonds has started to play less and less; in fact, until last night he hadn’t appeared since September 15. Now Barry deserves at least some recognition, as he appeared in his last game in a Giants uniform on Wednesday. Bonds, who will likely play next year as a DH for an American League team, has officially ended his tenure with the Giants. He won 5 MVP awards with the club, and hit over 500 homers with them alone. In his last game with the club, Bonds went 0-3 as the Giants lost 11-3 to the Padres. Jake Peavy picked up his 19th win for San Diego.

Player of the Day: Mike Lowell, Red Sox: 3-5, 5 RBIs in an 11-6 win over the A’s. Lowell, who leads the team in RBIs with 116, also set the club’s single-season RBI record for third basemen.

Categories
MLB General

The Full Count: Padres come up big


1. (Re)taking the Lead: The Padres’ tie with the Phillies atop the wild card standings didn’t last very long. As the Phillies lost to the Braves, San Diego beat San Francisco 6-4 with a huge rally in the ninth. Brian Giles hit a game-winning three run homer to cap off a four-run ninth. The 86-71 Padres are theoretically in the division race too, at two games back, but it is the wild card that gives them a better shot at making the playoffs. They will play their last division game of the year Wednesday at San Francisco before heading off to Milwaukee for their last series.

2. The New Contenders: The Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies are two late-season additions to the wild card race. They are the two hottest teams in the majors, and both won on Tuesday as well. The Rockies have won nine in a row, while the Braves have won eight of their last nine games, including a key 10-6 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday. The win, powered by Mark Teixeira and Chipper Jones homers, put the Braves at three games back in the wild card. The Rockies are even closer, at just one game back of the Padres. They beat Los Angeles, who is officially out of the race, by a score of 9-7. Troy Tulowitzki hit his 23rd homer of the year and Todd Helton added three hits for Colorado. The Rockies, who have scored the fifth-most runs in the majors, will play the Dodgers once more and then face the Diamondbacks for a season-ending three game set.

3. Power Play: The Brewers are edging closer to the playoffs, just two games back of the Cubs after a 9-1 win over St. Louis. They wouldn’t even be near contention without the contributions of MVP candidate Prince Fielder, who added two homers to his league-leading total. Fielder now has 50 home runs, the youngest player ever to reach that mark. Additionally, he and his father Cecil are the only father-son tandem in big league history to each have 50-home run seasons. Prince is having a truly unbelievable season for a second-year player, almost matching what Ryan Howard did last year. He has almost doubled his rookie homerun total (28) while also improving every other category known to man. He isn’t the leading MVP candidate, but he will pick up plenty of votes, especially because he reached the big 5-0.

Player of the Day: Victor Martinez, Indians: 2-4, HR (25), 3 RBIs in a 4-3 win over Seattle. Why isn’t Martinez one of the MVP candidates? He has been by far the Indians’ best hitter this season, with a .301 average and 110 RBIs, both leading the team.

Categories
MLB General

The Full Count: Phillies move into wild card lead doing nothing


1. It’s a Tie: The Padres seemingly had the wild card wrapped up, but with a four game losing streak they let two other teams back in the race. The Phillies, who were off on Monday, are now tied with San Diego for the wild card lead. The Rockies, who are riding an eight game winning streak, are now a game back. The Padres’ loss came 9-4 at the hands of the Giants. Chris Young continued his baffling collapse with seven runs allowed in five innings. This raised his ERA over 3 for the first time since May. Barry Zito of the Giants, one of the all-time biggest wastes of money, finally won his 10th game of the year. The Padres, 85-71, have two more games against the Giants before they travel to Milwaukee for a four-game showdown to finish the season. The Rockies have the toughest road among the contenders with Los Angeles and Arizona to finish up the season. The Phillies have the Braves and Nationals, all at home. Atlanta, who is three games back, could become competitive in the race themselves if they sweep Philly.

2. Unwanted Losses: Both New York teams lost on Monday. For the Yankees, it put them 2 games back of the Red Sox for the division lead. For the Mets, a loss put them only two games ahead of the Phillies in the division. The Mets fell to the last-place Nationals by an embarrassing 13-4 score. Spot starter Mike Pelfrey got torched for seven runs in the blowout loss at home. The Yankees also lost at home, this one coming to the Blue Jays. The pesky Jays, who swept Boston last week, took 2 of 4 from New York in the series. Rookie Jesse Litsch had 7.2 innings of near-scoreless action to pick up the win over Andy Pettitte. Even though the Yanks face Tampa and Baltimore the last two series, it is unlikely they will win the division. They play all those games on the road, while the Red Sox will stay at Fenway Park for the rest of the season.

3. Too Little, Too Late?: The Brewers certainly had an impressive showing Monday: a 13-4 win over St. Louis to put them three games back of the Cubs, who didn’t play. Ryan Braun (33) and Prince Fielder (48) both homered and had three RBIs. They piled up nine runs, though only four earned, off St. Louis starter Adam Wainwright. The Cardinals, who have been officially eliminated from playoff contention, have gone 4-15 since September 7. At that point they were one game back in the division, now they trail by 10. The Brewers will have to virtually win out and hope the Cubs lose the majority of their remaining games if they want to get in the playoffs. However, that is looking highly unlikely right now.

Player of the Day: Carlos Silva, Twins: 7.2 innings, 6 hits, no runs in a 2-0 win over Detroit.

Categories
MLB General

The Full Count: Two postseason slots officially filled


1. Lock it Up, Part 1: The Indians, who have the best record in baseball by a half-game, became one of the first two teams to clinch their division on Sunday. They beat the A’s 6-2, keeping their 7.5 game lead in the division with only seven games left to play. Grady Sizemore went 4-4 and Jake Westbrook had nine strikeouts as the Indians rolled once again. The Indians are one of three teams in baseball to rank in the top ten in runs scored and ERA–Boston and Atlanta are the others. This is the balance that has led the team to such success this season. Though slugger Travis Hafner has had a down year, Victor Martinez has established himself as perhaps the game’s best-hitting catcher. The rotation, with aces Fausto Carmona and CC Sabathia in addition to the resurgent Westbrook, rivals that of Los Angeles and Boston. Though the other AL playoff teams have received more attention, the Indians will be just as much of a force in the playoffs.

2. Lock it Up, Part 2: On the same day the Indians clinched the AL Central, the Angels locked up the AL West with their 92nd win. Fittingly, ace John Lackey picked up the win. It was the 18th victory of the year for Lackey, as he struck out 7 and allowed 2 runs in 7 innings. He is part of an Angels’ rotation that is just as balanced as the Indians’. With Kelvim Escobar and Jered Weaver joining Lackey, along with a superb bullpen, the Angels have one of the league’s best overall pitching staffs. They have had the lead in their division basically from the start of the season, holding off Seattle despite numerous charges by the pesky Mariners. Their division-clinching win on Sunday was in fact over the Mariners, who have put together a great season but are no match for Los Angeles. The Angels will now be vying for the top overall seed in the American League playoffs, though it doesn’t really matter considering every AL playoff team is a force to be reckoned with.

3. It’s (Almost) Over: Barring a spectacular collapse, the Cubs will be playoff-bound for the first time since 2003. They swept the Pirates over the weekend while the Brewers struggled with the Braves. This gave Chicago a 3.5 game lead, which will likely be impossible to pass for the near-cinderella Brewers. The Cubs are the only team even nearly deserving of a playoff spot from the NL Central. Their `big three’ in the lineup is one of the best in the NL with Aramis Ramirez, Derrek Lee, and Alfonso Soriano. More impressive is their pitching, which has five solid starters. Though many will likely write off the Cubs once they reach the playoffs, they actually have the tools to win the pennant. In a year where no team is even close to dominant in the NL, the Cubs could surprise everyone.

Player of the Day: Mike Mussina, Yankees: 7 innings, 3 runs, 5 strikeouts in a 7-5 win over Toronto. Mussina, who won his 250th career game, is 3-0 since returning to the rotation after temporary demotion. The Yanks are now 1.5 games back of Boston, though it doesn’t really matter who wins the division as both will make the playoffs.

Categories
MLB General

The Full Count: The real magic number is 1.5


1. One and a Half Games: Half of the MLB division leaders have a slim 1.5 games lead right now. The Cubs, Mets, and Red Sox are all holding on by this narrow margin. The Yankees and Red Sox didn’t play Thursday, but some of the other teams did. The Brewers lost a half-game to the Cubs as they fell 3-1 to Atlanta. Braves starter Jeff Bennett won in his first major league appearance since 2004. The Braves are virtually out of the playoff race, though with five straight wins they are ending their season on a good note. The NL East is between the Mets and Phillies. The Mets lost again, in a 10-inning contest with the Marlins. They had a three-run lead going into the bottom of the ninth, but Jorge Sosa blew the save. The Marlins piled up 21 hits, and 8 players in their lineup had at least two hits. The Phillies pulled out another victory, this one coming 7-6 over the Nationals. Ryan Howard and Jayson Werth both homered for Philadelphia, who is 10-3 since September 8. These division races, which all seemed over at one point this year, are providing for an exciting end to the season.

2. Watch Out in `08: The Rockies, an underappreciated surprise story this season, will be a dark horse contender next year if they can get some pitching. They are 81-72 and in third place after sweeping the Dodgers in a four game series, knocking LA out of the playoff picture. Their offense has been second in the NL only to the Phillies, with nearly 800 runs. Matt Holliday is showing he can be a franchise player with a .339 average, 36 homers, and 131 RBIs. He has been unstoppable in the month of September, with 12 homers and 26 RBIs. 11 of those homers have come in the last 12 games, with the Rockies winning 8 of them. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki would be an easy choice for Rookie of the Year if Ryan Braun wasn’t playing so well. Tulowitzki has 22 homers and 90 RBIs, and has hit around .290. That dynamic duo along with Brad Hawpe (101 RBIs), Garrett Atkins (23-103), and Todd Helton provide for an incredibly deep offense that will be a force for years to come.

3. The New Best Team: It’s official: the Red Sox no longer have the league’s best record. That honor now goes to the Angels, who have quietly been crushing every team in their path this month. The 91-62 Angels have gone 17-8 since August 26, and will become the first team to clinch their division with one more win. They beat the second-place Mariners 9-5 on Thursday as superstar Vlad Guerrero hit his 26th homerun of the season. Guerrero also has a .326 average and 122 RBIs, good enough to place him third in the AL MVP voting behind A-Rod and Magglio Ordonez. The Angels, who are rolling into the postseason with momentum, will be a force to be reckoned with in the playoffs.

Player of the Day: JR Towles, Astros: 4-4, 3 runs, HR (1st career), 8 RBI in an 18-1 win over the Cardinals. Playing in only his sixth career game, Towles set a Houston record for single-game RBIs.

Categories
MLB General

The Full Count: Fighting it out atop the AL


1. Becoming the Best: The Red Sox’s recent struggles mean two things. First, the Yankees are closing in on them (more on that later). Also, two other teams have caught up to them for the league’s best record. The Indians and Angels, both at 90-62, have the same number of wins as Boston with one less loss. They both have huge leads in their respective divisions and are on three game winning streaks. The Indians just swept the Tigers to virtually lock up their division. The Tigers, who could have closed the gap in the division with a sweep themselves, instead find themselves 7.5 games back. Cleveland’s 4-2 victory on Wednesday included CC Sabathia’s 18th win of the season. The Angels completed a sweep of the Devil Rays, who on Thursday lost their 90th game for the 10th straight season, an MLB record. The Angels, who improved to 52-25 at home this season, also have a commanding lead in their division. They are up by 8.5 games on the Mariners despite Seattle’s three-game winning streak. Both of these teams, though they get less attention than the Yankees or Red Sox, have a solid shot at winning the World Series.

2. The Yankees Draw Closer: This AL East division race, one-sided for most of this season, is finally getting interesting. The Yankees, with four straight wins, have climbed to 1.5 games back of the once-untouchable Red Sox. They beat the Orioles 2-1 thanks to Andy Pettitte’s strong pitching, completing a sweep of lowly Baltimore. The Red Sox, meanwhile, were swept by the Blue Jays, giving them their fifth loss of their last six games. The Yankees, who were 14.5 games back at one point this season, could make the largest divisional comeback since 1969 if they win it. Even if they don’t, they are guaranteed the wild card anyway.

3. Another Day, Another Win: The Padres are the hottest team in baseball right now, with six straight wins. They are still 1 game back of the Diamondbacks for the division lead. They beat the Pirates 5-3 on Thursday thanks to a walk-off three run homerun by Scott Hariston. If they win on Thursday it will be their second straight sweep. The D-backs are still holding on, as won a series against the Giants; however, the Padres are playing better right now. This is yet another divisional race that is going down to the wire.

Player of the Day: Matt Holliday, Rockies: 2-3, 2 HRs (35), 2 RBIs in a 6-5 win over the Dodgers. Holliday would be the easy choice for MVP if he played on a first place team. He is leading the league in batting average (.340) and RBIs (128), and has 11 homeruns in the month of September.