Thus far in 2014, Alex Gordon has easily been the best left fielder in baseball according to Wins Above Replacement, and it is not even close. The Royals team leader in quite a number of categories, Gordon has combined his .284/.364/.454 batting line and nine home runs with his exquisite defense to place fifth in the American League with a 3.8 WAR entering last night. Gordon, if he continues at his present rate of production and the Royals remain in contention for the playoffs, Gordon could well find himself at Target Field for the All-Star Game.
However, there is no reason to stop at the All-Star Game. Typically, unless a player has a truly phenomenal season for a team out of the playoff hunt, candidates for the MVP award are the best players on those teams. Gordon, should the Royals make the playoffs, or even remain in contention for the postseason, may find himself in the conversation for an MVP award himself.
If Alex Gordon is being judged based strictly on the traditional counting statistics, he would not seem to have much of a case at this point of the season. Aside from doubles, where Gordon ranks seventh with 21, Gordon does not rank in the top ten in any ‘traditional’ statistic. However, using the advanced sabermetric statistics, Gordon would appear to have a solid case to be in the discussion.
Gordon’s value for the Royals goes far beyond what the statistics would say. James Loney has a higher batting average than Gordon does, and Chris Carter has more home runs. However, neither player produces close to the same value that Gordon does. Even if Gordon is not a run producer on the same level as perennial MVP candidates Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera, the runs that he saves in the outfield, added to those runs he does actually produce, may put Gordon at approximately the same level.
While Trout V. Cabrera for MVP was a battle of traditional statistics against the sabermetric community, the MVP candidacy of Alex Gordon would take the discussion to a different level. While sabermetrics are becoming more accepted, for lack of a better term, defensive metrics are still seemingly regarded with a degree of skepticism. Gordon, meanwhile, may well find that the majority of his MVP case rests upon those defensive metrics. The stolid BBWAA voters have begun to regard sabermetrics as more than baseball witchcraft; are they read to accept defensive metrics that show how valuable Alex Gordon truly is?
Alex Gordon, thus far, have been the Royals MVP this season. He may find himself with his second All-Star nod in another couple of weeks. And, if the Royals make the playoffs, Gordon may find himself in the discussion for the American League MVP as well.