Why Mike Trout should’ve won the MVP …
And now, at last, it’s over.
That heated MVP debate — which saw countless bloggers, reporters, columnists, broadcasters, analysts, fans, executives, players and even Nate Silver take hard stances — can be put to rest. Miguel Cabrera edged out Mike Trout for the American League Most Valuable Player Award, in a vote that was nowhere near as close as many expected, and the argument has been settled for good. Turn on the lights, settle your bar tab, stop the music and drive home safely, everyone.
Nah, probably not. This is a debate that will probably continue for a long, long time.
And in my mind — with the risk of coming off as a complete homer — Trout was the AL MVP in 2012.
It has nothing to do with WAR. I just think Trout was a better all-around player who did more for his team this year. Simple as that. Cabrera’s season — .330 batting average, 44 homers, 139 RBIs; 1.081 OPS in the final two months — was outstanding. He was clearly the better hitter — but only slightly. Trout was far better on the bases, far better on the field and, in many ways, his season was unprecedented (Cabrera can’t say that).
The fact Trout did most of it at age 20, and all of it despite spending the first month in the Minors, shouldn’t help him in this argument; just like track record shouldn’t help Cabrera. But to vote for Cabrera over Trout, in my mind, is to almost ignore the importance of baserunning and defense in this game. And I thought we had evolved from that.
I don’t really fault those who voted Cabrera, but I find fault in the way some may have reached those conclusions. See, if you’re going to vote for Cabrera, vote for him because he’s the best hitter on the planet, which he is. Don’t vote for him due to things that were in many ways out of his control.
The Triple Crown
An incredibly rare achievement — only 15 others have done it, and none since 1967 — but also one that’s dependent on how others do.
Those batting-average, home-run and RBI totals Cabrera used to win the honor would’ve won him the Triple Crown only one other time since 2000 (in ’08). In all the other years, he’d be short in batting average, or homers, or RBIs — and in several cases, more than one. I’m not dismissing it, just trying to point out how arbitrary it can be.
On four occasions — twice with Ted Williams, once each with Lou Gehrig and Chuck Klein — the Triple Crown winner and MVP were different.
Here’s one reason why 2012 should’ve made it five: As rare as the Triple Crown is, Trout notched an even rarer feat. He topped 125 runs, 45 steals and 30 homers in the same season. No other player in history has done all three of those in one season. And on top of that, he hit over .320.
Yes, the Tigers made the playoffs, but they did so by winning one less game than the Angels (89-88) because they had the benefit of playing in the much-weaker AL Central.
And then there’s how they performed down the stretch, a big sticking point for Cabrera supporters. After Aug. 31, Cabrera posted a .344/.411/.670 slash line. Trout: .289/.400/.500. But who’s to say September is any more important than, say, June or July? (Heck, if you ask the Angels, the vast majority will say a run-starved, Trout-less April is the reason they ultimately didn’t make the playoffs.) Don’t they all count towards the aggregate number of wins that decide whether or not you play on?
“I think if I don’t win the Triple Crown, if we don’t get into the playoffs, I think there’s no question Trout would be the MVP,” said Cabrera, who, to his credit, was very complimentary and respectful of Trout in a conference call. “I think winning the Triple Crown helped me a lot to win this. I think [getting to the playoffs] helped me a lot.”
There were many reasons to like Cabrera, but those two shouldn’t have been major factors.
Most importantly, though, I simply can’t ignore how much better Trout was than Cabrera in every other aspect besides standing in a batter’s box, and how important that was to his team.
Here are some stats courtesy of Silver’s blog post (the same one he used to pick 99 of 100 states accurately in the last two presidential elections) …
Trout gave the Angels 12 additional runs on the bases when compared to an average runner, while Cabrera cost the Tigers three.
Trout saved 11 runs on defense according to UZR, while Cabrera (who, granted, played a better third base than I expected) cost them 10.
Again, no disrespect to Cabrera, who I’ve enjoyed watching since he was a much slimmer shortstop coming up in the Marlins’ system. I just think Trout did more for his team, and I think a lot of voters got caught up in the hollow luster of a Triple Crown and a playoff berth.
Trout should’ve won the MVP — and you don’t need to cite a 10.7 WAR to believe it.