Advantage: Adrian Gonzalez. The power numbers fit the profile (35 homers, 100 RBI, both third in the American League), but Mark Teixeira is having -- by his high standard -- a down season. His batting average is .251, 31 points below his career total, and his on-base percentage is .346, lowest since his rookie season and 28 points below his career number. This is the second straight season his OPS is below .900 (before 2010, he had one season below .900) and he's been nowhere near Gonzalez as a hitter this season. OK, Teixeira has 12 more homers. That's not an insignificant total. But if I'm the Sox I'll trade those 12 home runs for a 94-point edge in batting average, a 60-point lead in OBP and a 48-point advantage in slugging. Teixeira -- even in a down year -- has been one of the top two dozen hitters in the league this season, but Gonzalez has been one of the top two or three hitters in the league.
Advantage: Push. I know, I know. But it's really that close. Pedroia is hitting .308, Cano .304. OBP? Pedroia .398, Cano .348 (Pedroia has an 80-28 edge in walks.) That's a huge edge, 50 points, as is Cano's 55 lead in slugging percentage (.529 - .474.) If I'm picking a second baseman for the next six weeks I guess I'd take Pedroia, but if I'm looking at the next decade I'm going with Cano. But both are terrific players and could get back in the MVP mix with a monster September.
Advantage: Derek Jeter. As Christian Lopez melts into the deep hole of obscurity (with Minka Kelly about to join him), Jeter has put together a hugely productive second half, posting a .344/.401./.444 line since the All-Star Break. As for Scutaro, if you take away his 2009 season (easily the best of his career -- his .789 OPS that season is 42 points higher than any other season) he's pretty much been exactly what you would expect from Marco Scutaro. His career line is .267/.336/.384, and his line in 235 games with the Sox is .274/.333/.383. Is he worth $6 million a year? Probably not, but he's been nowhere near a disaster (and remains the top everyday option at the position for this club right now.)
Advantage: Kevin Youkilis. I know he's on the DL -- and Alex Rodriguez is day-to-day with a left thumb injury -- but Youkilis is expected to back in the next week so I decided to leave him in. And I give Youkilis a slight edge with a 19-point edge in OBP and 22-point lead in OPS. Think A-Rod (who hasn't played 140 games since 2007 and his now 35 years old) will be worth the $20 million he's due in 2017?
Advantage: Brett Gardner. We all figured this wasn't going to be a close battle heading into the season, and we were all exactly right and exactly wrong at the same time. One of Carl Crawford's paychecks is more than Gardner's 2011 salary ($529,000) but that is Crawford's only advantage over Gardner this season. Gardner has a higher batting average, a 92-point lead in OBP, 19 more stolen bases and his OPS is 52 points clear of Crawford's.
Advantage: Curtis Granderson. No different than second base, really, two of the best in the league this season. Take your pick. For the next half-decade it's Ellsbury, easy. But Granderson has had a better season. No shame in that -- Ellsbury has been superb. But push comes to shove I'll take Granderson and his 77-point edge in OPS, 32 more runs scored, 15 more home runs and 25-RBI lead. Granderson is on pace for 47 homers, 131 RBI and 150 runs and is still my pick for MVP.
Advantage: Nick Swisher. This is what the journey to the middle looks like: -- The last time the Red Sox and Yankees played (August 7) Josh Reddick's season line was .338/.385/.554. Now? .283/.332/.471. You read it here first: J.D. Drew will be the Game 1 starter in right field.
Advantage: David Ortiz. I thought Ortiz would have a better season than Posada (who I still think is a very real Hall of Fame candidate) but never expected this: A 263-point edge in OPS and 70-point difference in batting average? Ortiz has 27 home runs this season, Posada has 26 extra-base hits.