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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

September 1, 2009 at 6:46 PM

Kendry Morales: Stealth MVP candidate

kendry.jpg

Here’s Player A, a first baseman:

127 games, 501 at-bats, 81 runs, 142 hits, 35 doubles, 0 triples, 32 homers, 101 RBIs, 71 walks, 90 strikeouts, .283 average, .380 on-base percentage, .545 slugging percentage, .925 OPS, 140 OPS-plus.

Here’s Player B, also a first baseman:

122 games, 458 at-bats, 72 runs, 144 hits, 36 doubles, 2 triples, 30 homers, 94 RBIs, 35 walks, 85 strikeouts, .314 average, .359 on-base percentage, .598 slugging percentage, .957 OPS, 142 OPS-plus.

Pretty similar, right? Both are obviously in the midst of great years, with Player A having the edge in on-base percentage, Player B in slugging percentage (second in the American League only to Joe Mauer’s .615) and batting average. And player B also has the edge in defense if you go by UZR (ultimate zone rating), which rates him as the top fielding first baseman in the American League with a 2.7 mark. Player A is seventh at 1.1.

Now consider this: Player B is earning $600,000 this season. Player A is being paid $20 million.

In case you haven’t figured it out, Player A is Mark Teixeira of the Yankees. As you’ve surely figured out by reading the headline and looking at the accompanying photo, Player B is Kendry Morales of the Angels, who took over first base when Teixeira left Anaheim after last season to sign his eight-year, $180-million megadeal with the Yankees.

Teixeira is getting a lot of MVP buzz, much of it emanating from the New York media. Morales is getting little MVP buzz, but he should. I asked Angels manager Mike Scioscia today whether Morales should be in the MVP conversation, and his answer won’t surprise you.

“No doubt,” Scioscia said. “Absolutely no doubt. If you look at Kendry, look at his individual stats, and also look at what he’s meant to our club, no doubt he’s as much a candidate for MVP as any other names that have been put out there.”

Joe Mauer is unquestionably the man to beat, but Morales is someone I’m going to take a close look at when the season ends. He’s starting to get some national attention, but it’s coming slowly.

“It seems like the word travels west to east a little slower in baseball than east to west,” Scioscia said. “You’re kind of swimming upstream. I think the baseball world knows what Kendry has done. If you talk about what he’s meant to our club as opposed to what some of the other candidates have meant to their club…I think the only guy is probably Joe Mauer, who has had an incredible year with Minnesota. I know Tex (Teixeira) is having a great year with the Yankees. But if you took Kendry out of our lineup, I think you’re looking at a different offense.”

Morales is a Cuban defector who signed with the Angels in December of 2004, signing a six-year, $4.5 million contract. In 127 major-league games prior to this year, he had a .249 average with 12 homers and 45 RBI. Morales’s emergence, at age 26, is one of the great untold stories of 2009, and a huge reason the Angels have persevered through their travails to dominate the AL West.

(Photo by Associated Press)

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