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 MLB.com 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.