AL MVP: Angels Mike Trout Deserving Over Tigers Miguel Cabrera

Posted: October 2, 2012 in MLB
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If Mike Trout does not win the American League MVP, I lose all faith in humanity.

Okay, maybe that’s a stretch. The Most Valuable Player in the AL has been one of the hottest topics in baseball with the subject becoming scorching hot over the past few weeks.

For the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, you have the phenom and without a doubt choice for this year’s Rookie of the Year award winner in Mike Trout. The Center fielder who at 21 years of age is setting himself up to be the winner of MVP awards for years to come.

On the other side, Detroit Tigers slugger and Miguel Cabrera has the opportunity to accomplish something on a baseball diamond that fans haven’t seen since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967. Win the Triple Crown.

Before going into my reasoning on why Trout should come out on top, I want to give full and complete disclosure that I believe both have had season’s deserving of such an award. Please, do not take my higher admiration for Trout’s season as a knock on Cabrera’s accomplishments in 2012. Both are incredible.

This is, however, an article over the most valuable player, not players. A decision must be made. And although I don’t have a vote, if I did I would select Trout. While the numbers speak volumes, the “numbers” themselves aren’t the basis of my entire argument. It’s still a good place to start.

Cabrera leads in all three major batting categories (Batting Average, Home Runs, Runs Batted In) over Trout with just two games left in the season. Cabrera’s stats would earn him the first Triple Crown in 45 years and is nothing to just brush off.

Cabrera has a stat line of .329/44/137 and helped earn the Detroit Tigers their first consecutive Division Titles in 77 years. At .325/30/83, Trout’s season will end on Wednesday with the Angels failing to make it to October baseball.

These numbers are a tad deceiving for a variety of reasons.

Again, no knock on Cabrera. Any GM in baseball would love to have a guy who put up those types of numbers playing for their team. Just as I’m sure the Angels would have loved to have Mike Trout for an entire season as opposed to calling him up in late April, when the team was 6-14. Hindsight is 20/20 but for those who value the “did (player) lead his team to the playoffs” argument you do have to wonder what type of impact could have been made by Trout on the standings in those 20 games he missed.

Even without those extra 20 games, Trout has still managed to do something no rookie has ever accomplished. Hitting 30+ home runs while stealing 40+ bases in the same season. Currently sitting at 48 steals, if Trout were to swipe two more bags by the end of his season Wednesday he would join Eric Davis and Barry Bonds as the only players in MLB history with a 30 HR/50 SB season.

Trout has 8 triples this season compared to none by Cabrera, and has also scored 129 runs compared to Cabrera’s 109.

Where they bat in the lineup plays a decent sized role here. Trout is a leadoff guy so it is assumed he would score more runs than someone like Cabrera who bats in the middle of the order. On the other side, Cabrera typically bats with runners on base more frequently than Trout that gives him an advantage in the RBI count. Looking at these type of numbers, the case for Cabrera to win MVP is not huge in my opinion, but from the basic stats alone he would get my vote.

This isn’t your grandfather’s game anymore. The entire hierarchy from ownership, to general managers, to fans like ourselves have new stats and tools to evaluate talent in a much more accurate basis than in the past.

Because of this I believe the Triple Crown is overhyped.

Since 1909 the award has been won 12 times, including both leagues in 1933 (Jimmie Foxx and Chuck Klein) having a Triple Crown winner. Yes, it was a different era back then, but the whole “once in a lifetime” argument is a bit tired in my opinion. Let’s save that phrase for a Cubs World Series title.

On that same thought, I am not a huge sabermetrics guy. I believe the game has done an excellent job at integrating technology (okay, minus the replays) and bringing the game along while still holding on to the romanticism of the good old days of baseball. When determining an MVP, I believe the old school stats/sabermetrics should be mixed in with watching the games themselves.

This is where Trout takes over the vote in my opinion. As mentioned earlier, Trout is much quicker than Cabrera as seen by stats such as stolen bases (48 to 4). What doesn’t show up in the cookie cut stat sheet of is how frequently Trout has advanced from first to third on a shallow fly ball. How often he is able to score from second on a ball that routinely wouldn’t allow a run.

By watching Trout play, you are able to realize just how much of an effect he has on the game that a pen and paper could never tell you.

Sure in the box score it may just say “F-8”, but in reality Trout has made numerous plays this season that should have been singles, doubles in the gap, or even home runs and turned them into outs.

Cabrera is not too great of a defender. And while the move to third (where he is an average/slightly below average fielder in my opinion) was done in order to accommodate Prince Fielder’s arrival in Detroit, the defensive aspect has me swaying heavily towards Trout.

Miguel Cabrera is one of the most dangerous hitters in baseball. If you disagree with that, I am not entirely sure why you are still reading this. When that guy has a bat in his hand, the game could change at any moment.

Mike Trout on the other hand is the ultimate five-tool player. He combines hitting for average with power, can field outstandingly with solid arm strength as well as change the dynamic of the game with his speed.

WAR, or Wins Above Replacement is a great way to calculate just how a player effects a game based on everything they do on the diamond.  To simply a rather complex formula, it assigns a numerical value to how many wins that player earns a team compared to a “replacement level” fielder at the same position.

Mike Trout has a WAR of 10.3 while Miguel Cabrera is at 7.1. Trout has led in AL WAR ranking every full month of this year with the exception of September where he is second behind Adrian Beltre. As I’ve stated, I’m not a huge fan of sabermetrics, but that stat is very impressive.

There is value in leading your team to the post season. There is value in the Triple Crown award. There is also value to an outstanding member of a team who virtually carried the organization on his shoulders starting in late April and fell just short of October.

You can’t take a team to the promise land all alone. It takes the entire roster. Mike Trout didn’t single handedly fail by not getting the Angels in just as Miguel Cabrera was not the sole contributor to Detroit’s division title.  For what it’s worth, the Angels have a better record.

At the end of the day, both guys are deserving.  Had the rest of the Angels lived up to expectations and made the playoffs like Detroit has done, I feel like the conversation would be much closer. When I eliminate the thought of the team and consider who is the Most Valuable Player?

Mike Trout. Hands Down.

  1. uoduckfan33 says:

    Good read! It turns out that what “doesn’t show up in the cookie cut stat sheet of” does, in fact, show up in Baseball-Reference’s electronic pages. I summarized some of that information here:

  2. idahospud44 says:

    You made an interesting and valid case for Trout. His stellar defense has to be included but it is still a close call. “Because of this I believe the Triple Crown is overhyped.” I have to call you out on that statement, however. In the last 134 years only fifteen players have ever accomplished this incredible hitting feat. Look at the names—

    • Thank you for the kind words and the feedback! Very much appreciated.

      I respect everything Cabrera is doing, I’m amazed by it. It’s a difficult thing to do.

      I say it’s “overhyped” because the triple crown title is regularly flirted with every year. Not to take anything away from actually achieving it, it’s extremely difficult.

      Think of it this way, and yes this is simply a hypothetical. Had Hamilton not had health issues and hit a couple more home runs. And had Trout been just a tad more successful with the bat, the TC wouldn’t even be a discussion.

      Again, not to take anything away from Cabrera. That’s just why I view the award as an overhyped thing. It’s not a “once in a lifetime thing” when someone’s grandfather has seen it three or four times if not more.

      Trout on the other hand is the FIRST rookie ever with 30 HR and 40 SB. Maybe he wouldn’t have, but there’s a chance he could have got to 50 steals if he played all year. That’s only been done twice.

      Triple Crown can be aided by players around you underperforming, your spot in a lineup, the talent of your teammates and more.

      Trout’s numbers are quite impressive for a leadoff guy. And swiping all those bags and great D is something you can only do by yourself. I’d vote Trout.

      Again, thanks so much for your feedback! Willing to talk baseball anytime!

      • uoduckfan33 says:

        I like your point that the triple crown can be aided by players around you–the RBI obviously. Homeruns and average are, however, almost completely determined by the player’s skill. The counter argument has to come from that fact that average and homeruns, while meaningful, can’t capture a number of things that Trout does well–baserunning and defense being two of those things, for example.

      • Very true. You wouldn’t happen to have a twitter would you? Really enjoy talking baseball with you. Do you happen follow any other sports closely?

  3. knowhitter says:

    I agree with you on the defensive front in the MVP discussion, but think about this, Trout has struck out 139 times in 138 games. I know he’s a rookie and he will struggle at times, but that seems an astronomical number for a leadoff hitter who is supposed to get the team going and set the table offensively.
    Cabrera meanwhile has struck out only 97 times.
    You might just lose all faith in humanity.

    • uoduckfan33 says:

      This is a pretty ridiculous non-point. A strikeout is an out just like a flyout is an out. We’re not trying to project future performance here…we’re measuring what the players did. And here’s what the players did in terms of outs (counting baserunning errors and double plays):

      In 639 plate appearances, Trout made 413 outs (64.6%)
      In 697 plate appearances, Cabrera made 463 outs (66.4%).

      Cabrera made outs more often. If you’re concerned about the quality of the outs, then let’s look at the ratio of productive outs.

      Trout’s outs were productive in 13 of 42 chances (31.0%).
      Cabrera’s outs were productive in 22 of 63 chances (34.9%).

      The difference in productive outs in Cabrera’s favor is, at the very least, balanced out by the difference in total outs. And on top of that, a productive out only serves to advance a runner. Trout advanced himself 49 times on stolen bases, eclipsing any advantage Cabrera gained from his productive outs.

      Summary: Trout makes outs slightly less often than Cabrera. Trout’s outs are productive slightly less often than Cabrera’s. Trout more than makes up for any small lack of productive outs with a massive steals advantage.

      Strikeouts by themselves no longer matter in this conversation.

    • uoduckfan33 says:

      Trout’s on-base percentage was .399. Third in the American league. He led the American league in steals with 49. How much better can he set the table?

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