Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and the AL MVP debate

An exciting afternoon of baseball – featuring the Oakland A’s improbable AL West title – was capped by a pretty dull night. The New York Yankees won the AL East, keeping the Baltimore Orioles in the AL wild card game.

When compared to last year’s final day of the season, this one couldn’t and didn’t measure up.

Even Miguel Cabrera‘s pursuit of the AL Triple Crown is lacking in drama. How did he become the first player in 45 years to win the batting average, homer and RBI titles, and accomplish it without even needing a big hit on the season’s final day?

There are some great arguments to be made for many of Major League Baseball’s regular-season awards (Can R.A. Dickey win the NL Cy Young?). But how about Cabrera vs. Mike Trout for the AL MVP award.

Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout shouldn’t be dismissed too quickly from the AL MVP race, even though Miguel Cabrera (not pictured) won the AL Triple Crown. Associated Press photo

Cabrera’s accomplishments seem to make it a foregone conclusion that he will win the  award. Heck, I was in the Trout MVP camp for most the year, but the Triple Crown has swayed me. How can a Triple Crown winner not be named MVP? And yes, I realize Ted Williams many decades ago didn’t win the MVP after a Triple Crown season. But that was then. Much has changed.

So what about Trout? He opened the year in the minor leagues and didn’t debut with the Los Angeles Angels this season until April 28. And since then, he has also done things that we have never seen before. Combine an average in the .320s with 30 homers and nearly 50 steals plus Gold Glove-caliber defense in the outfield, and you have the total package.

No player in history has ever had at least 30 homers, 45 steals and 125 runs in a season. That is, until Trout did it this year. Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times argues that type of historic season is why Trout SHOULD be the MVP, not Cabrera. 

If you’re a sabermetric-type of fan, Trout blows Cabrera out of the water in WAR (wins above replacement). Trout leads all of baseball at 10.1, with Cabrera ranking sixth at 7.3.

Why is that? Because of defense. Cabrera ranks very poorly among MLB third basemen, though I think some credit should be given to Cabrera for attempting to make the difficult transition back to third base from first base. That’s not exactly a normal defensive progression as a player ages.

Trout, though, ranks among the best outfielders – according to FanGraphs – in all sorts of defensive metrics.

It’s a difficult decision. I just don’t think either player should be robbed of it. I imagine I’ll get lambasted in the comments section for saying it, but if there was ever a year to name co-MVPs, this is it. I know, I know. I’m taking the easy way out.

Both players did remarkable things on the diamond in 2012, and they should both be considered the AL’s best.

3 thoughts on “Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and the AL MVP debate

  1. MVP ? For years the criteria for the award was how important the player was to his team’s sucesss. Trout ? yes superlative year! On a star studded team he shines over the big name stars BUT down the stretch his team could not win it’s division .OAKLAND for heavens sakes pulls it out.( Aint there a MVP candidate on Oakland?)
    Cabrera was on a star studded team too. But in a dog fight with Chicago Detriot prevailed in the end primarily due to Cabrera.
    THAT was how so many of the past MVPs were selected. Did they carry their team to the finish line. Hence the Dimaggio/ Williams controversy (and it didn’t help that New Yawkers hated Ted). Sometimes without a superstar not having a steller year on a winning team , a player with eye popping stats will win the award, Carew. But the history of the award has been that, would they have been champs without him?
    I don’t always agree with that. Awards like this are always given only to the winner who dominates the ‘opinion’ of that voting bloc. In this case sportswriters . Players will have a different view . The Oscars for instance, are the same way , awards given to the ones who garner the most winning opinions.
    bottom line ??? Trout Cabera Cano…etc who is the winner ? I don’t know! No Goethe , you should not get lambasted for saying what you did. There is no right (perfect) answer.

  2. To add to noblindersonme – When Trout was called up, the Angels had the worst record in all of baseball. From the time he was called up until the end of season the Angels had the best record in the American League. Also, the Tigers actually finished the season with a worse record than the Angels. You cannot control what division you in.

    It just furthers the point that they should be co-MVP’s because any argument that one player’s team making the playoffs and the other’s not is not as cut and dry as it appears.

  3. Great article and great points! What a season from Mike Trout and a well deserved Rookie of the Year Award! If it wasn’t for Cabrera’s Triple Crown Season we would have definitely seen an MVP awarded as well. Trout’s season was certainly one to remember. Very fun to watch as he plays the game the right way with hustle!

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