Blue Jays’ Josh Donaldson: Early AL MVP?

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The Blue Jays are on a roll. And, while he’s been having a consistent year, it seems that Josh Donaldson is a huge reason why. There are still two months left in the 2015 season, but at this point, Josh Donaldson is stating his case as an early favorite to be named 2015 American League MVP. Over the past few days, fans at the Rogers Centre have been chanting “M-V-P! M-V-P!”. Do they have a point? Let’s look at his case.

Firstly, in order to get a frame of reference, here, let’s look at the criteria to get a vote as an MVP. According to the BBWAA, here is the explanation of how players receive votes as it appears on the ballot:

“Dear Voter:

There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931:
1. Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.
2. Number of games played.
3. General character, disposition, loyalty and effort.
4. Former winners are eligible.
5. Members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.

You are also urged to give serious consideration to all your selections, from 1 to 10. A 10th-place vote can influence the outcome of an election. You must fill in all 10 places on your ballot. Only regular-season performances are to be taken into consideration. Keep in mind that all players are eligible for MVP, including pitchers and designated hitters.”

So, let’s break it down.

Value to his team (hitting and fielding):
According to Fangraphs.com, Donaldson is hitting: .293/.358/.558 with 27 HR (T-6th in AL) and 77 RBI (1st in AL). Some will say that there is more to offensive numbers than that, and I’ll get to it, but we all know that voters love those traditional numbers. But, for more proof, let’s look at the following: wOBA of .391 (6th in AL), wRC+of 150 (6th in AL), 5.5 WAR (2nd in AL).

While these numbers may not jump out as league leading, there is more to them. Let’s think about the clutch hits that we’ve been witness to, the walk offs. He’s 2nd in the AL in +WPA at 10.86. His value to the club has been more about timing than anything else.

Exhibit A:

Donaldson carries the Blue Jays vs the Royals.

This video from the Royals game probably best highlights the offensive impact Donaldson brings to the Blue Jays. Whether it be walk off home runs or big hits to tie a game or to regain a lead, the Bringer of Rain has been the guy to carry his team forward. He might be the most consistent reason for the Blue Jays success thus far. So, while it is tempting to vote for players who are ranked higher in offensive categories, voters must remember the impact said players have had on their team. Donaldson is right up there.

The other aspect of impact is defense. Donaldson ranks 3rd among AL 3B with a DRS of 8 and 4th in UZR/150 of 9.9. He’s made 14 errors, which is 5th most in the AL. So, some will point to that as a deterrent of votes. But, if you go a bit deeper, you see a guy who makes 18.2% of plays considered “Remote” by Inside Edge Fielding standards. That is good for 8th in the AL. Oddly, Russell Martin is ranked first at  42.1%

But when you think of his defense, Donaldson gets to those bunts and little squibs up the line with ease. As well, he is a highlight waiting to happen when he ventures into foul territory. Remember this:

The play, by itself, was important. But, it had a major impact on his team as he was protecting a no hitter from Marco Estrada. So, again, the value of his defense can be said to have a huge impact on his team. 

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  • Number of games played:
    Aside from clutch hitting and great defense, Blue Jays fans re also getting something else they are not used to: a third baseman who is healthy and playing every day. Donaldson has played in 105 games this season. With a playoff race going on, it is safe to say that he will come close to, or surpass his 158 games played in each of the last two seasons. That is a welcome sight around these parts after watching Brett Lawrie miss countless games (OK, yes, you can count them) due to various injuries and bad decisions (camera bay). Because of the impact he brings with his bat and glove, Donaldson is improving his team just by being in the lineup every day.

    Disposition, loyalty and effort:
    Donaldson is known throughout the game as being a fierce competitor. You can see that on display in the way his game plays out on the field. It may rub some the wrong way as they get into a shouting match across dugouts, but it is a sign of fire. Some might take exception to it, though. The same fire that rubs people the wrong way is what leads to him putting in max effort in everything he does. Perhaps, he makes more errors because he is trying to make plays that most people can’t get to. You can’t question is effort. Donaldson is the kind of guy you want to have on your team and would hate to face. That says MVP.

    Also from Jays Journal: LaTroy Hawkins: Old Reliable

    In the past, Donaldson has finished 4th in MVP voting in 2013 and 8th in 2015. He has not won the award yet. He’s always been looking up at guys like Mike Trout. And, perhaps, he just might be again this year. But, from the perspective of a Blue Jays fan, Josh Donaldson should be getting some early consideration!

    Next: Jays' Nest Podcast Ep.31- The Tigers' POV on the David Price Trade

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