AL MVP Race: Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera

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There is much discussion right now in Detroit going on right now about the A.L. MVP race, fueled in part by Tigers manager Jim Leyland coming out in support of his player Miguel Cabrera just a few days ago. Leyland, of course, is just doing what any good manager should be doing…standing behind his guy. Cabrera of course has flirted with this award before and very recently. In 2010, he finished runner up to Josh Hamilton in the voting, despite Hamilton missing a significant amount of time down the stretch.

This was one Detroit guy that was actually in agreement with that decision. Hamilton’s overall play was deserving of the award, and there is no minimum game required for the award, though it’s likely a guy who only plays 100 games isn’t going to win the award. Hamilton dwarfed the rest of the pack in terms of fWAR in 2010, not only posting outstanding offensive numbers, but defensively as well. In effect, the best all around player in the American League.

Still, Tigers fans weren’t happy. Fans shouted to the rafters that Miguel Cabrera is the most dangerous man in baseball in a batter’s box, therefore he should be MVP. Tigers fans might have a point. If you measure the best hitter in baseball as the guy pitchers would like to face the least with the game on the line, Cabrera’s name is going to come up prominently in that discussion. Therein lies some of the problem, the parameters for what the MVP is.

Is it the player that is most important to his ball club? Is it the player that posts the best offensive statistics? And which ones do you use in today’s baseball metrics loving world? Is it just a gut feeling of the writers? As Tigers fans have contended, maybe it’s where you play that matters? Though Detroit got it’s revenge in 2011 when Justin Verlander won the award, so the theory Cabrera loses points because he plays in Detroit is less valid. Should a pitcher even win the MVP award? Whether he should or not, it’s obviously happened. Is the award reserved for a player on a good team? And lastly, is it just an award for the best player period?

To this writer (and I use that term loosely), it’s clearly a combination of things; the problem being is there is no clearly defined criteria, and the results are at the whim of the writers at the moment, lending us to debate the qualifications to no end. Well, at least to the end when the winners are actually announced.

The MVP in most cases is going to go to a player on a good team. However, that is not always the case, as Alex Rodriguez has proved before as a member of a bad Rangers team in 2003. It usually goes to a position player, though we in Detroit are very familiar that isn’t always the case. It rarely is a consensus, and some fan base goes home hanging their heads a little ticked off their guy didn’t win it.

Which brings me to the present day debate. Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera.

I know what some Angels fans might be thinking right off the bat. You know where this is going right? Don’t be so quick to judge. Yes, I am writing for a Detroit Tigers based site, but I pride myself on as much objectivity as possible, even though I get to see the amazing Miguel Cabrera on a daily basis. And he is amazing. Nobody makes hitting look as simple as he does, a veritable Rembrandt with a baseball bat as his brush. What he paints is runs on the scoreboard, and disgust and angst on opposing pitchers faces. Cabrera continues to put up numbers with machine-like precision. Today, he hit his 30th home run, writing his name in the Tigers record book as the only player with 30+ home runs for five consecutive seasons. That’s impressive, but the MVP award unfortunately isn’t about lifetime achievement. It’s about a single season, and it should be.

Enter the rookie sensation Mike Trout. Trout is hands down going to win the A.L. Rookie of the Year award. This much we know. The surprising thing about it is that most didn’t believe there was even room for Trout on the Angels this year. Their outfield was stacked with veterans Vernon Wells, Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter, as well as young upstart himself in Peter Bourjos. Well, Bourjos struggled to start the year, Abreu stunk, and Wells got hurt, lending an opportunity to Trout, who was clearly too good for the minor leagues. What’s happened? Simply put, one of the most amazing seasons you are ever going to find out a player that has been 20 years old for most of the year. To understand Trout’s affect on the Angels, one only has to look at their 6-14 record before he was called up to join the team. Since then, the Angels have posted a 56-42 record, and are vying very closely with Detroit and a few others for a playoff spot.

What we have here is two great players, but who is having the better season? Statistically speaking, it’s Mike Trout, and I am not sure that it is even close. Sorry Tigers fans. I am not being a traitor, just being objective here. Almost no matter the statistic, advanced metric or not, Trout is going to come out on top.