Miguel Cabrera has won the Triple Crown, leading the American League in batting average, home runs and runs batted in.
In almost any given year, that would be enough to win the AL MVP award.
With all due respect, this year is not one of those years.
Mike Trout had the best season of any player in the American League. For any player in baseball, for that matter. I’m sorry if many people, and probably many MVP voters, disagree.
The Triple Crown is a tremendous achievement, one we haven't seen in baseball in 45 years, and I offer a hearty kudos to Cabrera for his outstanding season.
Cabrera is one of the best hitters of his generation and in my opinion, the best Venezuelan-born hitter in MLB history.
Still just 29 years old, Cabrera has certainly played at an MVP-caliber level for far longer than Trout has. When Cabrera broke into the big leagues in 2003, Trout had not yet turned 12 years old.
Cabrera has paid his dues. I can’t argue with that. But frankly, I don’t think the 2012 AL MVP should be based on anything but 2012 performance. It's a seasonal award for a reason.
Trout finished his rookie season with 49 stolen bases in 54 attempts, 30 home runs in 559 at-bats, and an MLB-best 129 runs scored, which were 20 more than the next closest player.
In fact, Trout became the first player to hit at least 30 home runs, steal at least 45 bases, and score at least 125 runs in the same season in MLB history. Not first rookie. First player, period.
He also became the first player in MLB history to hit .320 or above with at least 30 HR and 45 SB in a single season. Again, not first rookie. First player. Ever.
I don’t want to sound dismissive of Cabrera’s stat line, I really don't. It's nothing against him. I just think it’s fair to say that Trout’s season made more history than Cabrera’s.
Yes, it’s an incredible achievement to win a batting title. Cabrera earned it with a strong finish to finish at .330, just four points ahead of Trout who finished second at .326.
I could go off onto a lengthy tangent and explain why having a higher average is not any more impressive than Trout having a higher OBP than Cabrera, (.399 to .393) but I’ll spare you.
Cabrera powered his way to the home run title, winning it by a single homer over two other players.
No argument here. Cabrera’s power is the one baseball tool that he has a clear advantage over Trout.
I would opine that Trout has the advantage at baserunning and defense, not to mention at a far more crucial defensive position, in more of a pitcher’s park than Cabrera’s. But I digress.
RBI. Yes, RBI is a nice, clean stat.
Cabrera won the RBI title more easily than his other two crowns, and it’s understandable that he’d have more RBI batting in the middle of the lineup than Trout would.
Trout is a leadoff hitter, who did not play in the Majors the first 23 games of the year. RBI is a stat based on opportunities, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best run producer in the league.
If you want to go by OPS+, Trout led the American League with a 171 OPS+, compared to Cabrera's 166 OPS+. Their offensive production was all but even, and even that might be generous.
I know WAR is not the most popular stat in the world, but when you see Trout lapping the field so substantially, it has to have some measure of significance.
Trout's MLB-best 10.7 WAR (via Baseball-Reference) was literally 2.5 wins higher than the next closest player, (Robinson Cano, 8.2) and almost 4 full wins better than Cabrera's 6.9 WAR.
Not bad for a kid who did not play in the Majors for nearly the entire first month of the season.
Furthermore, while Cabrera deserves a ton of kudos for winning the Triple Crown, it’s flat-out silly to blindly say that because he won the Triple Crown, he should automatically win the MVP.
Four times in MLB history, a player won the Triple Crown and did not win the MVP. It happened to Chuck Klein in 1933, to Lou Gehrig in 1934, and to Ted Williams twice, in both 1942 and 1947.
Cabrera deserves to be the next member of that club. It's exceedingly rare that a player could win the Triple Crown and still be outplayed by a peer, but it's happened before, and it happened again here in 2012.
One final thing. The whole narrative of “Cabrera led his team to the postseason, therefore he is more valuable.” This is laughable for several reasons, but I’ll keep it somewhat brief.
First of all, I find it hard to penalize Trout for his team missing the postseason considering the Angels had the best record in baseball from the day of his call-up to the end of the year.
The Angels were 9 games out of first place when Trout got called up on April 28, and despite that, they still finished the 2012 season with a better record than the division champion Tigers.
I’m sorry. Miguel Cabrera does not get bonus points for “leading his team” to the seventh-best overall record in the American League, and a division title in a bad division.
The Tigers did not make the playoffs on the back of Miguel Cabrera and no one else. Last time I checked, he had an MVP-caliber player protecting him in the lineup, not to mention last year’s AL MVP on his team as well.
Both of the candidates have talented teammates, but nobody was more valuable than Mike Trout.
If a 10.7 WAR makes you scoff, I will allow you to bask in your ignorance and pretend that defense and baserunning don't matter, when they most certainly do.
Now, maybe the actual voters won’t see it that way.
I disagreed with their choices last year and I expect to disagree again.
I do not expect the voters to give Trout the AL MVP, perhaps because of the allure of the Triple Crown, or because of Cabrera’s veteran status, or because of some other fallacy.
But if the MVP goes to the best player in the league, the most valuable player in the league, then the answer is clear. Mike Trout, without question.
Miguel Cabrera most likely will win the MVP, but 21-year-old Mike Trout deserves to. He earned it, regardless of Cabrera's outdated novelty stat line.