The debate over the true nature of the Most Valuable Player Award rages every year. What precisely, constitutes “most valuable”? Is it the player with the best statistics at year’s end? Should the winning candidate come from a playoff-bound team?

Further questions cloud the issue even more so. Can pitchers, although they play in less than half their team’s games, be considered for the award? What about designated hitters that only contribute offensive production and are otherwise nearly non-factors?

Throughout the 2010 Major League Baseball season, we have seen fantastic seasons from a wide variety of players across the American League, helping to interject their names in the MVP discussion. Perennial favorites return year-after-year, emerging superstars turn the corner into a new era of greatness, a sudden blast from nowhere out of an unlikely source in Toronto, and even a long-time veteran who only seems to enter this conversation when he’s playing for a new contract.

For the purpose of this discussion, I’m going to exclude pitchers, not because I feel they are undeserving, but because the realistic probability of a pitcher winning the honor is low. Of course, it has happened numerous times throughout the history of the game, but in the last 25 years, we have only witnessed the occurrence twice.

Besides, this is a crowded enough field of potential candidates as it is, we can leave the discussion over the AL’s best pitcher for another day. That figures to be another spirited debate regarding that category.

In this piece, in addition to the familiar statistical analysis, I’ve also incorporated information from Fangraphs, utilizing their estimated WAR(Wins Above Replacement) statistic, in order to help gauge a player’s value to his team. Additionally, I also used their UZR(Ultimate Zone Rating) in order to help understand each player’s general defensive contribution as well. Of course, Fangraphs is not the only authority on such player assessments, but nevertheless, these two tools are useful and when viewed in conjunction with additional analysis, provide critical evaluations of a player’s performance.

Without further adieu, let’s take a look at ten of the leading candidates that will surely garner votes in the election to honor the American League’s Most Valuable Player. If you feel I have made any egregious omissions, please feel free to share your thoughts on the matter.

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