Flash Gordon


It’s award season, I suppose, and I started the discussion off with a look at the campaign of Eric Hosmer for the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award a couple weeks ago. Since we’re talking about Royals that could at least garner votes for awards, we have to consider Alex Gordon. As Kevin Scobee will attest, Gordon is the greatest thing since sliced bread…and one of the greatest candidates the Royals have had for the AL Most Valuable Player in quite a while.

Where does he stand? Well, let’s figure that out.

Perhaps we’re all a little biased. I mean, really, Gordon can’t stand in there that well, can he?

The answer is yes and no. And that’s purely because it depends on how you look at it. Will Gordon win? Not a chance. Should he garner votes? Absolutely! What makes me so certain? All of what he’s done.

Gordon has hit .303/.377/.501 so far this season. For those counting at home, his career line before this season was .244/.328/.405. It was .215/.325/.355 last season (74 games). He had 45 home runs, 87 doubles, and five triples before 2011. He has 22, 45, and four so far this season. That’s right, in 1000 fewer plate appearances this season than over his career before 2011 he’s had only one fewer triple. He has a chance to pass that mark.

As we all know, this has been a defining season for Gordon. He said he would dominate. Well, I think it’s fair to call this domination, if only relatively.

Where does he rank on the Royals right now? Well, he’s first in WAR, batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, home runs, runs scored, walks, total bases, and OPS+. He’s second in doubles (by one), plate appearances (by two), and hits (by eight). His WAR of 6.0 or 6.3, depending on where you look, is far and above the rest of the team. I think it’s easy to say he paces the Royals.

But what about the league? Gordon ranks in the top five (among batters) in at bats, hits, total bases, doubles, extra base hits, WPA, outfield assists, range factor, and fielding percentage. He’s in the top ten in WAR, OBP, plate appearances, runs, runs created, OPS+, win percentage, and a few other complicated statistics. It’s definitely fair to say he stands in with the competitors.

So, that’s a lot of dense statistical information. The point is that Gordon will get votes. He should get votes. But how many?

Looking through the MVP lists from 2000-2010 shows us one thing: results are all over the board. Sometimes it’s a clear answer and the player that had the most WAR or led in the most categories wins. Sometimes voters get sentimental and give guys credit for being good people or playing on a winning team. And it’s here that I want to make a quick point. People get obsessed with winning teams and such. They want to pick a guy that “carries a team to the postseason” or some nonsense. I want to draw your attention to the top ten in AL WPA, or win probability added:

1: Jose Bautista – Toronto:                 0.055 WPA/game;        0.099 WPA/win
2: Miguel Cabrera – Detroit:                0.041 WPA/game;        0.071 WPA/win
3: Jacoby Ellsbury – Boston:              0.036 WPA/game;       0.061 WPA/win
4: Josh Hamilton – Texas:                   0.042 WPA/game;       0.055 WPA/win
5: Alex Gordon – Kansas City:           0.025 WPA/game;      0.055 WPA/win
6: Adrian Gonzalez – Boston:             0.024 WPA/game;       0.041 WPA/win
7: Curtis Granderson – New York:    0.023 WPA/game;       0.036 WPA/win
8: Bobby Abreu – Los Angeles:          0.024 WPA/game;       0.040 WPA/win
9: Alex Avila – Detroit:                           0.022 WPA/game;       0.032 WPA/win
10: Evan Longoria – Tampa Bay:       0.024 WPA/game;        0.034 WPA/win

Gordon is fifth in WPA. The rest of the players in the top ten play for winning teams. Shown to the right is the WPA per game on average over the season. Next to that is the WPA per team win. I realize this is perfect based on sitting out games and such, but most of these guys have played almost all of the season. And Alex contributes more to his team per team win than some other contenders for MVP, including Gonzalez and Granderson. He stands up there well with Hamilton and Ellsbury. Like I’ve said, he won’t win, but Alex stands in there well with the contenders.

And that’s the key. Looking at past seasons, Alex is similar to a few players that should give us some predictive value as to his results in the MVP race. These players, including the 2010 Shin-Soo Choo, 2009 Evan Longoria, 2008 Milton Bradley, etc., garnered anywhere from 3 to 18 points in their polls, which is about 2-5% of the vote. That doesn’t sound like much, I know, but it’s something. Considering that Gordon has the best WAR for a Royal batter since Carlos Beltran in 2003 (who received 77 points in the poll for a winning team), it’s a great accomplishment to even be considered.

So, we may end the season without a Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, and MVP. But that’s okay. We have a contender who will at least stand in the MVP race to represent the club well. Until Hosmer gets his shot someday, I’m happy with this.

And Gordon wasn’t even the team’s All-Star representative this season. Figures.

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