The winner of the Most Valuable Oriole award, determined now that the media votes are calculated, is going to be deserving of the honor without the glowing statistics.
They weren’t going to illuminate in 2020. A shortened season has left us in the dark in so many ways.
I’m not going to reveal my ballot until the victor is announced on Friday. However, it seems apparent that four players are under consideration, though the order and exclusion vary, according to an informal poll taken of the beat crew.
So informal that the scientific approach consists of asking, “So, who did you vote for?”
There are plenty of ballots coming from outside the core group, which makes it impossible to declare a winner before it’s official. But the four contenders appear to be Anthony Santander, José Iglesias, Ryan Mountcastle and Hanser Alberto.
All of them worthy of debate, all of them flawed.
The most prevalent argument against three is the scarcity of games played. It always comes up first. Iglesias at 36 due to quadriceps, shin and wrist injuries. Santander at 37 due to a strained oblique muscle that ended his season on Sept. 4. Mountcastle at 31 due to the organization’s cautious and financially prudent approach to promoting him, a move delayed until Aug. 21.
Mountcastle is going to lose first-place votes based on his late arrival, but he’ll fall only two games short of Santander, who’s going to receive first-place votes - and most likely with a less impressive slash line.
A player’s value also is illustrated through his absences. The Orioles haven’t been the same since Santander left the lineup and right field. No one can adequately replace Iglesias at shortstop and he’s having a career year at the plate while batting third or second.
The word “valuable” is included in MVO. The V doesn’t stand for “versatile” or “vigorous” or “victorious.”
The vanishing shows just how much they meant to the club.
Alberto has appeared in 50 games. He’s the biggest energy source on the team, an especially important trait with no fans in the seats, and he still tortures left-handed pitching. But Alberto has a .309 on-base percentage and .397 slugging percentage, with only three home runs and 17 RBIs, and is 13-for-63 (.206) this month.
Numbers won’t necessarily explain his value, but the bad ones can’t be ignored.
Santander is going to receive more votes than Alberto and he had a .261 average and .315 on-base percentage. But he also slugged .575 with 13 doubles, 11 home runs and 32 RBIs and registered a career-high 1.5 WAR.
The work in right field also is a factor.
Iglesias has been put on hold again, though he took batting practice yesterday at Fenway Park, while slashing .377/.406/.515 with 15 doubles in 138 plate appearances. I can’t explain the career-worst minus-.02 dWAR, except that he was a bit shaky early in the season - leading to “all hit, no field” quips.
Mountcastle is an intriguing case. Late to the party, but the life of it.
You can argue that he’s the best player on the team. I don’t think you’d get much pushback.
An 0-for-5 night in the series opener in Boston lowered Mountcastle’s average to .314 with an .878 OPS. He was slashing .330/.389/.530 before the game. But he collected three hits last night and was robbed of a fourth on a diving catch by Alex Verdugo to leave his average at .330 again with an .899 OPS.
No one on the club has more RBIs than Mountcastle’s 21 since his arrival.
Catcher Pedro Severino no longer is in the discussion after his latest September swoon. Reliever Tanner Scott deserves mention with his 1.33 ERA, 0.984 WHIP and streak of 12 consecutive scoreless appearances.
There’s also reliever César Valdez with two earned runs allowed in 13 1/3 innings and provider of the most enjoyable storyline of 2020, but he’s appeared in only eight games - 16 fewer than Scott.
Santander would have been a runaway winner prior to his injury. Now it’s unclear who’s going to receive the award - however it’s passed along this summer. I won’t have the privilege. No pre-game, on-field ceremony like the one last year with Trey Mancini.
Manager Brandon Hyde didn’t want to pick “his favorite child” in a public forum, but he mentioned Santander and Iglesias. I’d be shocked if they were excluded from the top three.
Give me yours.