Sep 6, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) hits a single against the Houston Astros during the fourth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Why Josh Donaldson is the Oakland Athletics' MVP

Sep 6, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson (20) hits a single against the Houston Astros during the fourth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody expected Josh Donaldson to hit like this. Donaldson is in the midst of a breakout year, a year in which he has become the Oakland Athletics’ most valuable player.

At the beginning of the 2012 Major League Baseball season, Donaldson struggled. It did not seem as though he would ever become a solid, consistent, big-league hitter. After a stint with the Sacramento Rivercats in Triple-A, Donaldson returned to the Athletics for the latter end of the season. He was better. He showed flashes of hitting quality but never really found much consistency.

Donaldson took that step this year, becoming the Athletics most consistent hitter and all-around MVP. His offense as well as his defense have been key to the A’s success this year.

Since opening day, Josh Donaldson has hit magnificently. He has a season batting average sitting at .297, as well as 21 home runs and 82 runs batted in. He has been the anchor in the batting order that puts runs on the board for the Athletics. On the defensive side of the ball, Donaldson has been masterful. He has developed into one of the top defensive third basemen in the league.

Going into the 2013 season, expectations for Yoenis Cespedes were blown out of proportion. People thought he would hit over .300 with 30-plus home runs and 100-plus RBI’s. Of course, these expectations were a bit unrealistic, but nobody could have predicted that Cespy’s average would be at .236 in the month of September. He has contributed with home runs, but has just not hit consistently enough to be the anchor of the lineup.

Expectations were also sky high for Josh Reddick, coming off a season in which he hit 32 home runs. With the exception of his three home run game, Reddick has not produced at all this season. He is batting just .213 and has barely gotten his home run total to double digits. If, at the beginning of the season, we had known Cespedes and Reddick were going to hit like this, we would have said that the A’s would have a miserable year hitting the ball.

That’s where Josh Donaldson comes in. He is the biggest reason why the A’s have not had a miserable season hitting the ball. He has taken the spot formerly held by Cespedes and Reddick as the lineup’s anchor.

The thing that makes Donaldson the team MVP isn’t his .297 batting average; Jed Lowrie is hitting .290. It isn’t his 21 home runs; both Cespedes and Brandon Moss have hit more than he has. It is his ability to drive runners in.

Donaldson has hit .336 with runners in scoring position this season. In turn, he has driven in 82 runs.

On a team like the Athletics who have often been unable to drive in runs when the situation presents itself, Donaldson’s ability to hit with runners on has been incredibly important. When there are men on base, Donaldson capitalizes on the opportunity, putting runs on the board.

This makes Donaldson the most significant offensive asset for the A’s.

Donaldson’s defensive ability also makes him an asset in the field. He makes big plays at third base, limiting base runners and runs for opposition.

He creates runs for the A’s and takes runs away from the opposing team. You can’t ask for more than that.

One stat that puts Donaldson’s contributions in perspective is wins above replacement (WAR). His WAR is currently hovering around 6.5. This essentially means that Donaldson is worth 6.5 wins for his team this season. He ranks sixth in the Major Leagues in this statistic, only behind the likes of Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Miguel Cabrera, Robinson Cano, and Carlos Gomez. Pretty good company. One could argue that he is the sixth most valuable player in the MLB.

Josh Donaldson has been nothing less than extraordinary for the Oakland Athletics this year. A playoff berth now looks inevitable and a division win is very much in the cards.

Magical occurrences are taking place in Oakland, California.

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