Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown and made the playoffs. He’s an easy choice for American League Most Valuable Player over Millville’s Mike Trout, right?
Ask yourself two questions: First, are the statistical criteria for MVP limited to home runs, RBIs and batting average?
And second, did the Detroit Tigers make the playoffs over the Los Angeles Angels because they were a better team?
The answer to both those questions is no.
And once you look deeper, nearly every other edge goes to Trout.
To automatically give Cabrera the MVP award based on the Triple Crown — leading the AL in homers, RBIs and batting average — is to ignore two of Trout’s biggest strengths — base-running and defense. That’s simply unacceptable.
Trout led the majors in steals (49) and runs (129) and was a human highlight reel in the outfield.
While Trout’s Triple Crown numbers — .326 average, 30 homers, 83 RBIs — are strong, Cabrera stole just four bases and is an average defensive third baseman at best.
When it comes to team success, the Tigers’ division title and playoff appearance should give Cabrera an edge over someone on, say, the Cleveland Indians.
It should not give him an edge over Trout, whose team won more games than Detroit in a tougher division.
To simply say, “The Tigers made the playoffs and the Angels did not, and that’s all that matters” is ignorant. That’s all that matters toward winning the World Series, and if the Tigers do that, then nobody should discredit them for playing in a weak division.
But making the playoffs shouldn’t be all that matters when deciding which single player was most valuable to his team. It’s lazy to ignore the fact that the Angels actually were a better team in the regular season.
Trout’s Angels won 89 games, one more than Detroit. But they played in the competitive AL West and finished behind the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers. The Tigers’ 88 wins would have put them in fourth place in the AL West.
Even those 88 wins were inflated: Detroit played a huge portion of its games against the bottom-feeding Indians, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins, each of whom lost at least 90 games. No team in the Angels’ division lost even 87 games.
When it comes impact on the team’s success, Trout actually should have the clear edge. While it’s difficult to say how the Tigers would have done without Cabrera, we know exactly how the Angels were without Trout because he spent the first 20 games of the season in the minors. L.A. went 6-14 (.300) without him, compared to 83-59 (.585) after calling him up.
Trout put up his ridiculous numbers as a rookie and was not even old enough to drink alcohol until late in the season. And his sabermetrics — advanced statistics meant to take into account dozens of complex variables that traditionally were ignored — are off the charts, indicating that he is worth a whopping 10.7 wins over a replacement (WAR) vs. Cabrera’s 6.9.
There’s a reason I waited this long to bring those facts up, though — because they’re unnecessary. The argument for Trout is strong enough without considering age (which is irrelevant in the MVP vote) and sabermetrics (which many baseball purists loathe).
What matters is that Cabrera did something that has been done only 15 times before. Trout did something — 129 runs, 49 steals, 30 homers — that never has been done. Trout did it all: Hitting for average and power, running the bases well and excelling in the field. Cabrera hit for average and power, but that’s it.
And Trout’s team won more games than Cabrera’s.
The MVP is about more than three statistical categories and making the playoffs. After all, winning the Triple Crown and playing for a shot at the World Series are rewards themselves.
When you take into account all aspects of the game to determine who was most valuable to his team, the answer is not easy.
But the answer is Trout.
Contact Jason Mazda: