This past weekend, the Toronto Blue Jays swept the Los Angeles Angels in a three-game series, dominating the Halos by a combined score of 36-10. The series represented a few important points: not only did the three wins vault the Jays over the New York Yankees for sole possession of first place in the AL East, but it also featured a matchup of the current favorites in the AL MVP race, Mike Trout and Josh Donaldson. While Trout went 3-10 during the series (all three hits coming in the series finale), Donaldson showed why he is beginning to be viewed as a possible contender for the league’s MVP, going 8 for 13 with a home run, four doubles and nine RBI.
Up until this season — even up until a month ago, in fact — the idea of Donaldson being a serious front-runner in an MVP race would have been viewed as very optimistic. He’s been in the conversation as one of the best overall position players in baseball since his breakout in 2013 (his 21.2 Wins Above Replacement since the start of the 2013 season is second only to Trout’s 25.2), but a strict comparison with Trout in the past probably would have been seen as a reach. That has little to do with Donaldson: Trout is the best player in baseball, and a normal year for Trout would be the best year of basically anyone else’s career.
Then this past offseason’s trade from Oakland to Toronto occurred, and Donaldson showed that the move to the Rogers Centre was most likely going to pay serious dividends for his statistics. Early on in this season, it became evident he might be tailoring his swing to pull more fly balls when he was playing at home, resulting in an astounding power increase that has showed no signs of slowing down in the ensuing months. His home/road splits are more pronounced than they ever have been, showing the influence of his home park’s friendliness to hitters — and his ability to exploit it:
Owen Watson writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @ohwatson.