The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Who Are the MLB's MIPs?

So, your first question probably is, “What’s an MIP?”  Some new baseball statistic or sabermetrics jargon?  Or is this just a typo—was it meant to be MVP instead?

MIP is my acronym for Most Indispensable Player.  It’s similar to the more familiar acronym MVP (Most Valuable Player), but I’m using MIP to identify the player on each MLB team who would most likely impact their ability to get to the upcoming season’s playoffs.  It’s a prospective, forward-looking identification, whereas MVP is usually a post-season determination of impactful players of a team.

MIPs aren’t necessarily the best players on their team.  In many respects, identifying MIPs is a subjective exercise.  However, it’s intended to be the player on a team’s current roster that they can least do without, perhaps due to injury.  Or it’s the player who, if he doesn’t perform as expected, will negatively impact the team’s ability to reach the playoffs.  A player’s intangibles, not just their historical performance stats, are also considered.  A team’s depth of players (or lack thereof) could also be a factor.  I acknowledge that picking MIPs is a largely a subjective process, but that’s what makes this an interesting exercise.

So, who are the MIPs for each MLB team for the upcoming season?

To start with, I’ve selected an MIP for one team in each of the six divisions, providing my rationale for why I’ve picked them.

AL East Division – New York Yankees:  Gary Sanchez.  One might naturally expect newly acquired slugger Giancarlo Stanton or 2017 Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge to be the MIP selection for the Bronx Bombers because of their home run prowess, but I’m going with Sanchez.  As I wrote in my blog a couple of weeks ago, I believe Sanchez is the key to the Yankees returning to their dynasty status.  The catcher is the glue in the multi-talented lineup.  The Yankees have enough big bats to pick up the slack of a Judge or Stanton if they were to post just an average season, but Sanchez would be really hard to replace if the lineup were without him.

AL Central Division – Minnesota Twins:  Brian Dozier.  Dozier provides a lot of pop at the plate for his second base position that normally doesn’t expect a lot of offense.  The gritty player has also developed into a Gold Glove winner.  Besides teammate Joe Mauer, Dozier is the guy who has been the constant factor in a young Twins lineup.  I selected Dozier over pitcher Ervin Santana, who is the ace of the Twins pitching staff.

AL West Division – Houston Astros:  Jose Altuve.  Altuve is a good example where the team MIP also happens to be the MVP.  Perhaps the best testament of Altuve’s importance to the team is the fact the Astros recently signed him to a 5-year, $150M+ contract extension that carries him through 2024.  The athletic Altuve, who was the 2017 American League MVP, is the sparkplug of the team.  His teammates seem to thrive on his clutch hitting ability.  He leads the team in hits and stolen bases, and can also provide power at the plate.  I selected Altuve over other Astros’ impact players, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Justin Verlander.

NL East Division – Atlanta Braves:  Freddie Freeman.  The Braves still have a ways to go to be a contending team, but they’d be much further away if Freeman weren’t around.  The first baseman’s become the cornerstone of a young team in re-building mode.  When the Braves organization shed a number of its players a few years ago to start their rebuilding process, it was Freeman they kept.  Outfielder Ender Inciarte was my second choice for the Braves.

NL Central Division – Milwaukee Brewers:  Chase Anderson.  Anderson had a breakout year in 2017 and now he on the rise to the role of ace on the staff.  He’s still not a household name among the league’s leading players, but then neither are most of the other Brewers players.  Milwaukee got close to reaching the playoffs last season and will contend again this year if Anderson stays healthy and continues to progress.  I gave the nod to Anderson over fellow pitcher Jimmy Nelson.

NL West Division – Los Angeles Dodgers:  Clayton Kershaw:  Perhaps Kershaw is the least surprising of all the MIPs, but indeed the Dodgers team rides on the shoulders of the best pitcher in baseball.  His performances set the tone for the rest of the team.  The Dodgers have won five consecutive division titles, and Kershaw is the main reason for their results.  Third baseman Justin Turner is my second choice for Dodgers MIP, although this teammates Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger get most of the Dodgers’ ink.

Below is a list of MIPs for the rest of the MLB teams in each division:

AL East

Boston Red Sox – Chris Sale

Toronto Blue Jays – Josh Donaldson

Tampa Bay Rays – Chris Archer

Baltimore Orioles – Manny Machado


AL Central

Kansas City Royals – Salvador Perez

Cleveland Indians – Corey Kluber

Chicago White Sox – Jose Abreu

Detroit Tigers – Mike Fulmer


AL West

Oakland A’s -- Kendall Graveman

Texas Rangers – Adrian Beltre

Los Angeles Angels – Mike Trout

Seattle Mariners – Nelson Cruz


NL East

Philadelphia Phillies – Jake Arrieta

Washington Nationals – Bryce Harper

New York Mets – Yoenis Cespedes

Miami Marlins – J.T. Realmuto


NL Central

Cincinnati Reds – Joey Votto

Pittsburgh Pirates – Josh Harrison

St. Louis Cardinals – Carlos Martinez

Chicago Cubs – Anthony Rizzo


NL West

San Francisco Giants – Madison Bumgarner

Colorado Rockies – Nolan Arenado

Arizona Diamondbacks – Paul Goldschmidt

San Diego Padres – Eric Hosmer

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