With the regular season ending and playoff baseball under way, it’s about that time to start discussing who will win the end-of-season awards. Cy Young, rookie of the year and, of course, the most valuable player awards are always topics of discussion when the playoffs start.

This year offers a unique matchup in the American League, though. On one hand you have Angels outfielder Mike Trout.

This speedy 21-year-old captivated fans with his acrobatic catches in the outfield and his powerful swing at the plate. Thirty home runs, 83 RBIs, 49 stolen bases — a league-leading mark — and a .326 batting average highlight his fabulous rookie season.

And had it not been for Miguel Cabrera, he probably would win the MVP award. But before we go into Cabrera’s stats this season, let’s take a look at what the award is all about.

An MVP should be a player your team absolutely could not live without, a player who got your team through the trials and tribulations of the 162-game season like no one else could.

It is also important to note during the last 20 years the American League MVP hasn’t been awarded to a player whose team didn’t make the playoffs.

Trout had an unbelievable year in 2012 — regardless of his MLB experience — but his team still couldn’t make the playoffs even with the added wild card slot and slugger Albert Pujols.

That brings us to the man of the hour.

Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera should and will be the 2012 American League Most Valuable Player.

We can’t guarantee it will be unanimous, and odds are it will not be — there have only been eight unanimous decisions in 81 years of voting — but Cabrera had a regular season for the ages in 2012.

The Venezuelan not only led the Tigers — who advanced to the first round of the playoffs — but led the American League with his .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs to become the first player in 45 years to win the MLB Triple Crown.

To boot, first baseman Prince Fielder was next on the list in each of Cabrera’s Triple Crown categories for the Tigers. Despite an All-Star season from Fielder, even he couldn’t come close to Cabrera’s numbers as he hit 14 fewer home runs with 31 fewer RBIs.

Not only does that make him the most ideal MVP candidate of the last 40 years, it also begs the argument to make him the MVP since there hasn't been a Triple Crown winner since 1967.

Before Cabrera, Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski did it 45 years ago. It’s been a milestone several MLB stars have come close to reaching many times, but Cabrera joins an elite club of those who were able to close it out.

On a side note, when Yaz won the Triple Crown in ’67, he won the MVP that year, as well.

So let’s wrap this up.

Cabrera led his team and the American League in home runs, RBIs and batting average; Trout did not.

Cabrera won an award that hasn’t had a winner since 1967; Trout did not.

Cabrera did all of this at the age of 29 while playing all but one regular season game; Trout is 21 and missed 23 games.

And finally, Cabrera helped the Tigers advance to the playoffs for the second consecutive year; Trout did not.

It’s pretty obvious to see where we stand on who should be crowned the American League's MVP. What you think might be an entirely different story, but just keep in mind, you can’t dispute the facts.

(1) comment

Timothy Kearns

Your reasoning is specious at best.

First, "An MVP should be a player your team absolutely could not live without, a player who got your team through the trials and tribulations of the 162-game season like no one else could". This is touchy-feely and has nothing to do with the numbers you cite later, but when Miguel Cabrera was in the lineup, the Tigers went 87-74.

Mike Trout was called up when the Angels were 6-14. The Angels finished the season 89-73 (one game BETTER than the Tigers -- even though the Angels played in a much better division and had to play the A's and Rangers 19 times instead of, say, the Royals, Indians, and Twins).

In other words, when Trout was on the roster, they went 83-59 -- the best record in baseball. When Trout was not on the roster, 6-14, the second-worst record in baseball at that point. While he certainly didn't do it all himself, he was clearly a season-altering player.

Second, if the Angels played in the AL Central, they would have won the division. To the extent "leading your team to the playoffs" is key, Cabrera is being rewarded for playing in a bad division.

Third, Cabrera's triple crown numbers came as a result of playing against terrible pitching staffs in an unbalanced schedule. Consider that Cabrera got to play 18 games against the Royals, Twins, and Indians -- three of the worst pitching staffs in the AL. In fact, the BEST pitching staff in Cabrera's division (besides his own team) was the White Sox, which would have been the WORST team in Trout's division. In other words, despite playing better competition, Trout managed to achieve statistical parity with Cabrera.

If you want to say that the MVP is determined by home runs and RBIs, fine. I heartily disagree, but that's a calculus where Trout can't match Cabrera. But I can cherry pick statistics too. Who was the last player to lead the AL in stolen bases, on-base percentage, and runs? Rickey Henderson in 1990. He won the MVP. The only other player to ever do it? Ty Cobb in 1909. He didn't win the MVP because it didn't exist yet.

If you go any deeper than home runs and RBIs (or maybe grounded into double plays, in which Cabrera also led the league), if you assess whether defense matters at all (where Trout is one of the best players in the league at a premium position and Cabrera is generously characterized as sort of adequate), if you consider whether base running made a difference, or look at the competition they faced and the support they had to get to the finish line, it's not a close contest. By every statistical calculation from team W-L%, win shares, WAR, OBP, OPS, OPS+, Trout had a greater impact on his team over a span of 139 games than Cabrera mustered over 161. Miguel Cabrera is a great player, and any team would be lucky to have him as a DH; he will win the MVP (as he arguably ought to have last year when the award was given to his teammate, Justin Verlander) and any other year, he'd have no real rival. But this year, it takes an obsession with three numbers (and Cabrera's ability to hit one more home run than Josh Hamilton) to reach this conclusion.


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