4:15 am Jun. 20, 2012
The driving force behind the New York Yankees in 2012 hasn't really been superstar performances, but above-average ones almost across the board.
The offense has received an O.P.S.+ of at least 110 (100 is league average) from its top six players in plate appearances, and at least 92 from its top 11.
The pitching, too, has been a study in depth. The rotation has no members with an E.R.A.+ below 94, and the bullpen has only one member, the rarely used Freddy Garcia, with an E.R.A.+ below 131.
But Robinson Cano is putting up an O.P.S.+ of 141. No other second baseman is higher than 125, and just eight second basemen are even above 100.
On the Yankees, only Curtis Granderson approaches Cano's 141, with 135, and no one else is above 114. Derek Jeter, for his fast start, is at just 111, Alex Rodriguez at 110.
The M.V.P. award is more than just a question of how well a player has performed—it also has much to do with how irreplaceable a player is. Without Cano, the Yankees would probably be starting Jayson Nix and his career O.P.S.+ of 74 at second base.
Cano finished third in the M.V.P. voting in 2010, sixth in 2011. If he is clearly the best player on the American League's best team, he'll have his best chance yet at taking home that award for the first time.
And perhaps that will be the moment the fans acknowledge that the Yankee universe no longer revolves around Derek Jeter or Alex Rodriguez. Robinson Cano may not be the captain, but the Yankees are his team.