Miguel Cabrera is on the verge of a triple crown, the first in baseball since 1967. That alone, should be enough to win the MVP. Well, it would be enough in almost any year except this one. Mike Trout, a lock for rookie of the year, leads MLB in runs and stolen bases.
This might be the most hotly contested MVP in history.
Cabrera’s line: .331, 44 HR, 139 RBI, 109 runs, 4 SB
Trout’s line: .324, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 129 runs, 49 SB
One notable difference; Cabrera played 160 games to Trout’s 138 with the rookie not being called up until April 28.
The easy thing to do would be to give it to Cabrera. He is about to accomplish something that hasn’t been done statistically in 45 years. He is a 7-time all-star, and has finished in the top 5 of MVP voting 5 times without winning it. He clearly has earned it. Plus, Mike Trout is just a rookie, and will have many more opportunities, right?
Not so fast.
If you want to argue that the Tigers made the playoffs and the Angels didn’t, well then you probably should consider that Detroit has 87 wins to the Angels 89. Further more, that the Angels were 6-14 when Trout was called up, and are 83-58 since, the best record in the American League over that time.
As far as rookies go, Mike Trout goes down in history with Albert Pujols, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Ichiro, Frank Robinson, Mark McGwire, Wally Berger, Mike Piazza, Carlos Beltran, and Nomar Garciaparra as having one of the best freshman seasons ever. He is close to establishing rookie records in batting average, HR, runs, and stolen bases. Quite the broad-based achievement in a world of specialists.
This wasn’t just a unique season for a rookie, it was unique and special across the history of baseball. The sabermetrics support Trout’s cause, with a WAR (wins above replacement) at 10.7 Being over 10, that puts him in the company of 6 current Hall of Famers and Barry Bonds to ever achieve such a high mark. Cabrera is 6.9.
And not to poke at Cabrera’s amazing season, but a statistical anomaly shouldn’t be the primary reason for voting for him. After all, winning a triple crown doesn’t alone speak to a player’s greatness, it also tells a tale of good fortune and luck within that particular season. You have to avoid other players putting up numbers too strong in just one of the categories. There have been many years where a MVP or candidate won 2/3 categories but was largely outclassed by a player in another. Some of those seasons are statistically stronger than Cabrera’s 2012 season.
It’s also worth pointing out Ted Williams did NOT win MVP either of his two Triple Crown-winning seasons.
So I will take Mike Trout by the slimmest of margins in what was in my eyes a slightly more productive season as AL MVP.
NL MVP- Buster Posey, San Francisco
AL CY YOUNG- David Price, Tampa Bay
NL CY YOUNG- RA Dickey, New York
AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR– Mike Trout, Los Angeles
NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR– Bryce Harper, Washington
AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR- Buck Showalter, Baltimore
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR- Davey Johnson, Washington