On Robbie Cano's 2013 MVP Candidacy

Cano HR vs BAL (Syndicated from An A-Blog for A-Rod.  Numbers have been updated to reflect the last 2 games)

Robinson Cano has finished in the top 6 of the American League MVP voting in each of the last 3 seasons.  With a high of 3rd in 2010 and a low of 6th the next year, Cano has never been a true leading contender for MVP despite consistently being the best player at a premium position on a perennial playoff team.  Part of this is due to the ever-present MSM bias against the Yankees when it comes to awards and part of it is because there were always clear cut better candidates.  Overall, I'd say Cano has finished about where he should each year, with the general ranking maybe coming in a tick low.

Which brings us to 2013.  Cano is once again not the leading candidate and not seriously in the discussion as the best or most valuable player in the league, but he's right in the mix.  He's also not part of the traditional Yankee regular season machine that steamrolls everybody.  He's been the linchpin holding a borderline terrible baseball team together, a team that is somehow still mathematically in the playoff race with 9 games to go despite a -20 run differential.  If ever there was a time where his contributions were more valuable to his team, it's this season.  That being what it is, and his stats being what they are, where does Robbie fit into the AL MVP race?

It's hard to make a case for him based on just the raw stats, traditional or sabermetrics.  Robbie is top 10 in the AL in most key categories (OPS+, wOBA, wRC+, H, TB, OPS, fWAR) but top 5 in few (BA, RBI, bWAR).  He doesn't rank higher than 4th in any offensive category and while his defense does rate as a positive, he's not near the league lead in runs saved.  Robbie's counting stats have taken a hit due to the weak surrounding lineup he's had for the majority of the season, especially runs scored (just 80).  His 27 HR, 104 RBI, and .312 batting average aren't eye-popping enough to overcome that when compared to the same stats of guys like Miggy, Trout, and Chris Davis.

Which brings us to the situational argument.  For once, Cano has his status as a Yankee working to his advantage in this part of the evaluation.  He's been one of only 2 above-average bats in the lineup for the entirety of this season, and the only one of those bats that's a real run producer.  On a team that ranks in the bottom third of MLB in positional player fWAR (10.5), 28th in w RC+ (86), and in the bottom half of team FIP (3.95), he's been responsible for more than half of that fWAR (5.9).  The Yankees as a team don't hit at all and they don't pitch all that well.  Cano's presence and production is the sole reason they are even still mentioned as part of the AL playoff race and, oh by the way, he's played in all but 1 game this year.

Miggy has more support in his lineup and the best rotation in the AL backing him.  Davis plays on one of the deepest offensive teams in the league and still might not make the playoffs himself.  And Mike Trout is stuck again on a crappy ballclub nowhere near the postseason conversation.  If cases are being made based on who meant the most to his team, that's a case that Robbie can win.

In the end, I don't expect Robbie to pull off the improbable and win the award.  I don't even expect him to do much better than the top 5 finish he's been averaging since 2010.  Cabrera, Trout, and Davis will all finish above him based on the enormity of their numbers, and it wouldn't be a shock to see guys like Josh Donaldson and Evan Longoria sneak ahead of Cano based on their team's success.  But what Robbie has done this year - replicating his always outstanding production without any support - shouldn't be discounted, and in all honesty should be worth at least another top 3 finish.

(Photo courtesy of the AP)