AL MVP Race: Mike Trout vs. Miguel Cabrera

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Mike Trout leads the American League in batting average with a .340 mark. Cabrera is no slouch in that department either, hitting at a .327 clip. Trout hit his 22nd home run today, not to be outdone by Cabrera hitting his 30th. While that difference seems significant, Trout has played in 23 less games than Cabrera, which would put him around 26 homers at his current pace if they played the same amount of games. Where Cabrera beats Trout handily is in RBI’s. Cabrera has driven in 103 runs, while Trout has 66. Not necessarily a fair comparison given where they hit in the order. Same is true for runs scored, which is largely in favor of Mike Trout. Trout leads the league there with 93 runs scored to Cabrera’s 77.

They essentially break even on the traditional stats. How about advanced metrics?

This is where we see Mike Trout excel, even if his numbers are driven by an unusually high BABIP of .391, Trout’s numbers show that like Cabrera he is not just a slap hitting speedster. Trout is actually slugging better than Cabrera, though it is close at .591 to .581. His wOBA is .436 compared to .407 for Miguel Cabrera. Trout’s wRC+ is 180, whereas Cabrera’s is 158. The big difference comes in fWAR, where Trout leads all position players in baseball with 6.9 wins. Cabrera is a full 2 wins behind at 4.9, which could be potentially larger if Trout had played those 23 games more that Cabrera has. The biggest reasons for the 2 win difference? Defense and base running.

Trout, as well as hitting a home run tonight, stole his 38th base. He has only been caught just 3 times, adding a dimension as a player that Cabrera can’t add. Defensively, he plays one of the most premium positions in center field, and does it at a well above average level. We have all seen his highlight reel, fence jumping, catches. Cabrera, while playing a better 3B than many of us expected, still isn’t a plus defender by any stretch. He can be most described as adequate, and is hurt by a lack of range.

As much as Tigers fans don’t want to believe it, Mike Trout’s candidacy for MVP in 2012 isn’t driven by hype. It’s driven by results. He is having a fantastic year, offensively AND defensively. And there is the rub my Tigers friends. It’s the most valuable PLAYER award, meaning that being an all around performer should count. I have no doubt that ‘Miggy’ as he is so affectionately is called in Detroit is one of, if not the best hitter in the game going right now. But again, this isn’t a lifetime achievement award, and Mike Trout is just flat out having the better year. It’s his MVP to lose right now.

Often when I am writing an article like this, I seek out opinions from around the baseball world, and I came across a poll on ESPN which suggested I am on the right track. In this poll, it clearly shows the rest of the country believes that Mike Trout should win the MVP. The only state that believes Cabrera is MVP is Michigan of course. There is nothing wrong with that, we love and revere our star players in Detroit. It’s one of the reasons this is a great place to play. In fact, our fans love our players so much, I wouldn’t be surprised to get some nasty comments from Tigers fans regarding this article.

All the same, I stand by it. Mike Trout is the MVP if the season ended today. The factor that could change it? A triple crown victory by Miguel Cabrera, which is entirely conceivable at this point. Short of that though, the amazing rookie looks like the favorite at this point.

And that’s okay, Miguel Cabrera is still one hell of a player, and quite possibly the best hitter on the planet.