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They feed us the innings, we eat them up!

The American League MVP race is a rather tight one with several deserving players. Houston Astros’ second baseman Jose Altuve is one of the guys we’re all rooting to see take the award with the only exception being family and friends of the other guys fighting for it.

Those other contenders for the MVP include the usual suspect Mike Trout, Boston Red Sox teammates Mookie Betts and David Ortiz, and last year’s winner Josh Donaldson. Honorable mentions should go out to Edwin Encarnacion and Manny Machado although they’ll need really strong Septembers to join the guys I believe are ahead of them right now.

Altuve is probably winning a batting title with a 38 point lead over Betts coming into Saturday. These two are very similar as they can hit leadoff or cleanup. The only edge I give to Betts over Altuve is that his team is winning a lot more. If the Astros miss the postseason completely, could this cost Altuve the AL MVP?

If the Houston Astros fail to reach the playoffs, will Jose Altuve get spurned in the MVP voting?
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It has happened before in sports. It’s really not fair either, but who ever said life was?

Based on how things are going for Houston, currently in third place over in the AL West and behind several teams in the Wild Card race, I don’t see October baseball in their future. Betts and the Red Sox, meanwhile, are getting there by some means even if the end result is getting bounced in one game.

The term Most Valuable Player is a strange one in itself. Does it mean most valuable to their team? To the league? The best player overall? Usually it’s the last one. It really should just be awarded to the best player in baseball. Thanks to the WAR statistic, we actually know specifically who this is as it measures actual value. Whatever it really is supposed to represent, Altuve does not deserve to be shortchanged (no pun intended) because of the team he plays for. If he somehow is, expect a bigger (no pun intended, again) year next season until the scrappy second baseman finally gets his due.

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It’s a shame the New York Yankees took so long to call Gary Sanchez up to the big leagues. The catcher with the monster debut probably won’t have enough time to win the Rookie of the Year Award because the franchise he plays for committed too much attention toward big free agent signings. Brian McCann’s presence on the roster delayed Sanchez’s place as the everyday catcher. Still, without any clear winner for the award, there is a chance Sanchez manages to slip by the other qualifiers.

Another home run for Gary Sanchez today gives him 11 in his first 21 games this season. A batting average over .400 coming into action on Saturday, Sanchez is hitting at a rate where he’d break multiple records. His 162 game average before Saturday’s game (which includes 2 hitless at-bats in 2015) amounts to 228 hits, 52 doubles, 74 home runs, 147 RBIs, and 501 total bases. Sanchez will obviously not continue to hit at this rate since it would make Ted Williams look irrelevant by comparison.

Outside of Sanchez, Michael Fulmer would be my favorite to win Rookie of the Year. The Detroit Tigers’ pitcher is 10-4 with a 2.58 ERA at the moment and a serious contender for a Cy Young Award. After him, Cleveland Indians’ outfielder Tyler Naquin is my number two. Sanchez can catch up with Naquin very quickly in several offensive categories. Just give him a week and a few more at-bats and suddenly the exciting young Cleveland outfielder will be forgotten.

There is a weak possibility Sanchez doesn’t reach the 130 at-bats needed to qualify for Rookie of the Year. It’s going to come pretty close and as a catcher, the Yankees could rest him regularly. I wouldn’t put it past them to be sneaky about this although they also know Sanchez is selling a few extra tickets and merchandise right now.

What kid in New York doesn't want a Gary Sanchez jersey?
Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

The season Sanchez is having reminds me of Ryan Howard back in 2005. Howard only played 88 games for the Philadelphia Phillies and won Rookie of the Year. The half season was enough for the Big Piece to topple the competition. Sanchez will unfortunately not have nearly enough at-bats to come close to the games Howard logged.

Nevertheless, Sanchez should get at least a little consideration. For all we know a slump is around the corner. The plus with this is Sanchez falls out of contention and the “snub” tag doesn’t get thrown out there.

Winner of the award or not, Sanchez is the Rookie of the Year. He has caught the most attention and is a core member of a franchise usually built around big dollars.

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One of the stranger trades at the deadline last month was Hector Santiago going from the Los Angeles Angels to the Minnesota Twins. He went from one bottom feeder to another when he was pitching really well in Los Angeles (well, Anaheim). At the time of the deal he was 10-4 with a descending 4.25 ERA. Not his best season, Santiago should have been a great trade candidate to a contender. Instead he went to Minnesota and I wonder if he completely gave up.

The numbers would suggest Santiago has. Through 4 starts with the Twins he’s 0-4 with a 10.89 ERA. He is giving up 3.3 home runs per 9 and only striking out 5.7 in the same span. Basically he is allowing more than 1 home run for every strikeout.

At the same time he is not issuing walks. Santiago has only 3 walks with the Twins over 19 innings of work for a rate of 1.4 per 9. As a member of the Angels this season he was at 4.3 per 9.

Did Hector Santiago lose his motivation to pitch after the trade to the Minnesota Twins?
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

My conclusion from this is Santiago has stopped pitching. He is now throwing the ball instead.

The teams who have beat up on Santiago are all contenders so there is that consideration. The more alarming statistic is how progressively worse he has gotten. His starts have included 4, 5, 7, and 8 runs allowed in order. Over his last two starts he has 4 strikeouts and 4 home runs allowed over 8.2 innings. Both of these came against the Kansas City Royals who in Santiago’s defense are one of the game’s hottest franchises. I still have a tough time crediting a praying mantis for how poorly Santiago has pitched….err thrown.

One of my initial thoughts when the trade first occurred was the Twins were hoping to flip Santiago in the offseason. He pitched great in July, going from 4-4 to 10-4 and lowering his ERA from 4.93 to 4.25. This may have been the original plan. Now, the Twins are probably stuck hoping to deal him at the deadline. 

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