A’S SEMIEN IS AL MVL FI­NAL­IST

Lodi News-Sentinel - - SPORTS - By Shayna Ru­bin

Oak­land Athletics short­stop Mar­cus Semien was sit­ting on the couch with his fam­ily when MLB Net­work be­gan an­nounc­ing the game’s ma­jor award fi­nal­ists on Mon­day af­ter­noon.

He’d need to wait un­til the show’s last seg­ment to hear the news, and there it was: sand­wiched be­tween Hous­ton’s Alex Breg­man and Los An­ge­les’ Mike Trout, Semien was named an American League Most Valu­able Player fi­nal­ist.

His first thought: Pretty cool. Sec­ond thought: What a trio to be in­cluded in.

“I was just sit­ting there with my fam­ily on the couch and just hop­ing,” Semien said on a con­fer­ence call. “It’s go­ing to be tough to win it, but just to be top three and see your name in be­tween those guys. It’s re­ally cool.”

Semien, 29, is the A’s first MVP fi­nal­ist since Miguel Te­jada was nom­i­nated and won the award in 2002.

The field, com­prised en­tirely from play­ers in the A.L. West, is strong. Trout, the An­gels out­fielder, is a peren­nial fi­nal­ist and two-time win­ner. Breg­man, the Astros’ third base­man, has the high­est Wins Above Re­place­ment (8.5 per Fan­graphs) on a team that won 107 games and went to the World Series.

“We played some good base­ball in the AL West,” Semien said.

But Trout fell to in­jury late in the sea­son. And even though Breg­man’s num­bers, over­all, edge Semien’s — such as Breg­man’s .418 weighted on base av­er­age to Semien’s .373, or his 1.015 OPS over Semien’s .892 — Semien has some things in his fa­vor.

Semien’s 343 to­tal bases ranked sec­ond in the league. His 123 runs — ty­ing Oak­land’s record set by Reg­gie Jack­son in 1969 — were third-most in the A.L. So were his 83 ex­tra-base hits and 43 dou­bles. He hit 33 home runs and was a Gold Glove fi­nal­ist at short­stop.

But per­haps his most valu­able stat was the 162 games he played and 747 plate ap­pear­ances he made. His ev­ery­day pres­ence and steady pro­duc­tion set a stan­dard for the 97-win team.

“These are things that help us win, from lead­off spot just get­ting on base,” he said.

The lit­tle things go a bit deeper for Semien. His con­sis­tency was a prod­uct of his com­plete con­trol of the strike zone through­out. While in 2018 and be­fore, Semien was prone to bit­ing the chase pitch and ex­pand­ing the zone, he honed his ap­proach in or­der shrink the zone back to his ad­van­tage. He didn’t swing at the first pitch as much and had a .500 OBP in full counts.

Semien low­ered his crouch and al­tered his pre-game rou­tine. Hit­ting coach Dar­ren Bush would feed him un­der­hand pitches to sim­u­late two-seam­ers, over­hand to sim­u­late the four-seam. Sim­ply chang­ing his bat, even, made Semien all the more con­fi­dent at the plate.

De­spite the com­pe­ti­tion, the lit­tle things made Semien an in­dis­putable MVP can­di­date — in the­ory and now of­fi­cially.

Semien’s 7.6 WAR ranks third in base­ball be­hind Breg­man and Dodgers out­fielder Cody Bellinger (7.6), per Fan­graphs. Semien fin­ished the sea­son with 92 RBI, bat­ting .285 with a .892 OPS.

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Texas Rangers' Delino DeShields (3) slides safely into sec­ond base on his steal against Oak­land Athletics' Mar­cus Semien (10) on Sept. 9, 2018 in Oak­land.

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