If Not Justin Verlander, it’s Tigers Teammate that Makes Best Case for MVP


This morning, Mickey Brignall of Call to the Pen wondered if Jacoby Ellsbury‘s extra-inning home run last night might have done more than save the season for the Boston Red Sox. He wondered, as did I when watching the game, if Ellsbury’s blast might have won him the league MVP award.

Brignall points to Justin Verlander‘s no-decision on Saturday as a possible crack that voters could use to justify casting their ballots for a position player instead of the most dominant pitcher since Pedro Martinez. What Brignall fails to do, however, is note that another Tiger, Miguel Cabrera, has been doing his best to put his name among those favored to win the award.

Cabrera has been baseball’s hottest hitter since late August. Over the past 30 days, the big fella has raked at a .427 clip with a marvelous 1.280 OPS. No one has been better. As the season has drawn to an end, Cabrera has passed fellow MVP candidate Adrian Gonzalez for the lead in the AL batting race, resting at a cool .341 this morning. He clubbed three long balls over the weekend to pull within one of 30 and surpassed 100 RBI as well.

For all the talk about the outlandish offensive season that Toronto’s Jose Bautista has had, Cabrera’s big weekend also pulled him into a tie for the lead in On Base Percentage, a category that Bautista has dominated all season long.

In addition to leading the league in hitting and OBP, Cabrera ranks second in slugging and second in OPS, joining Bautista as the only two hitters to post an OPS of at least 1.000. His 46 doubles is one behind Jeff Francoeur for the league lead and he’s the only player in the league to reach base at least 300 times this year. You prefer wOBA? Cabrera ranks second there as well, just behind Bautista and well ahead of Gonzalez. In fact, across the board, the gap between Bautista’s season and Cabrera’s is very small. The gap between Cabrera’s and anyone else’s is much larger.

If you are among those that don’t care whether or not a player’s team has had success in voting for MVP, then Bautista is probably your man. But if team success matter at all, even the slightest bit, then it’s Cabrera, not Ellsbury, or Gonzalez, or Curtis Granderson that deserves the award. You can look sideways at that if you so choose. You can say that Cabrera has had help with Victor Martinez hitting behind him. But Ellsbury has Gonzalez and vise versa (and they both have David Ortiz as well), Granderson has Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira to help him score all those runs. Every good team has multiple good players.

Cabrera has been overshadowed all season long by the man on the mound, but no one in the league has played in more games than Cabrera, no player on a good team has been more integral to the success of that team than Cabrera. He has been, in my humble opinion, the most valuable player in the league this year.