• Cabrera vs. Trout: The MVP Debate for the Ages

    Over the weekend, the Twins got a first-hand look at one of the front-runners for the American League Most Valuable Player Award. Miguel Cabrera is trying his best to be the first Triple Crown winner in the American League since Carl Yastrzemski won it back in 1967. There are other deserving candidates in the American League and it looks like the main competition for Cabrera will come in the form of standout rookie Mike Trout. The debate has been swirling over the last couple of weeks as the end of the season is closing in and voters are going to have to decide between the outstanding seasons put together by the top two players in the American League.
    It seems to be a debate between fans that like the old-school statistics such as home runs and RBI versus new-school fans that turn to Sabermetrics for much of their statistical analysis. There have been plenty of opinions circling from writers, coaches, and other players. For voters in the Baseball Writers Association of America, the choice will be up to them and there are plenty of things for them to consider before they make their final choice.

    What weight do the Triple Crown categories hold?
    For Cabrera, it has been arguably his best offensive season in his outstanding career that has spanned the last decade. He sits at the top of all three Triple Crown categories with a .331 batting average, 42 home runs, and 133 RBI. If Cabrera ends up winning the first Triple Crown since the 1960s, there is a good chance the vote could swing his way. There are still plenty of older voters composing the electorate in the BBWAA and a push by these elder statesmen could put the trophy in the hands of Cabrera.

    A couple of weeks ago, it looked like Trout was going to run away with the batting title in the American League. The month of September hasn't been the best for the young Trout as he reaches the end of his rookie campaign. His recent late-season slump has dropped him from the top of the leader-board in batting average and it might be hard for him to reclaim the lead. He also isn't sitting high in the other Triple Crown categories because he missed the first month of the year while he was toiling in the minor leagues.

    Should defensive value be considered?
    When the Tigers signed Prince Fielder in the offseason, it meant Cabrera would need to move from first base back to his previous position at third base. There were many that thought his transition to third base would make for some terrible defensive line-ups for the Tigers but it hasn't been as bad as some thought it would be. He has 13 errors in 363 chances at third but when you look a little deeper things can get more dicey for his defense. By looking at the defensive runs saved statistic, he has cost the Tigers four runs over the course of the year and this translates to a negative defensive WAR for him.

    Trout is one of the best defensive players in the game with his ability to take away hits in center field. If you take a look at the numbers, his defensive runs saved total is an eye-popping 25 so far this year. According to Baseball Reference, this translates to a 2.6 WAR on the defensive side of the ball. His ability to take away home runs has been well chronicled in highlight reels across the country. He also plays a premium defensive position so his team can rely on him to track down balls in parks across the country.

    Does the MVP have to be in the playoffs?
    When the Tigers made the playoffs last year, their ace pitcher Justin Verlander was named MVP of the American League. There were other candidates for this award but Verlander put together a very good year on a team that would be competing in October. At this point, it seems the Tigers have a shot to make the playoffs out of the AL Central since they trail the White Sox by one game with a week and a half to go in the season. Some of the voters might consider the Tigers getting into the playoffs as their deciding factor in the vote for the MVP award.

    Jacoby Ellsbury had an outstanding final month of the season last year but his team was in the midst of one of the worst collapses in baseball history. When the last month of the season started, he looked like a clear-cut favorite for the MVP award. His team didn't make the playoffs and he didn't win the hardware so it's possible the same thing will happen to Trout. The Angels are currently 2.5 games out of the final Wild Card spot so they are left on the outside looking in at the Orioles and the A's playing in the new Wild Card game. His team's poor play in the first month of the year might cost him the MVP and he wasn't even on the team at that point.

    WAR, What is it good for?
    According to Wins Above Replacement (WAR), Cabrera is in the midst of one of the best seasons of his professional career. He currently sits at 6.6 rWAR and 6.9 fWAR depending on which site you turn to for your statistical analysis. The only season he had a higher WAR was last year and he would need to put together a decent final week to reach his total from last year. Obviously, his defensive numbers take away from his total WAR so this hurts him in the long run. His totals are still hard to ignore on a team fighting to get into postseason play.

    Some of the Sabermetric categories are in love with Trout and his magical season. His numbers at the plate combined with outstanding defense and his threatening speed on the base paths have him off the charts. He is the first player to compile a WAR of over 10 since Barry Bonds did it back in his heyday. The last center fielder to reach this mark was Willie Mays so Trout is in some good company with the season he has put together.

    Will recent play make a difference in the vote?
    The month of September has been very good for Cabrera as his team gets closer to the playoffs. He is hitting .356 since the calendar turned from August and he has nine home runs during that time. The voters can sometimes have long-term memory loss and they might look with favor at the hot streak by Cabrera over the last month. This could push the vote towards the Tigers slugger.

    It would be hard for any player to continue to perform at the level Trout was at earlier this year. So it's not too hard to believe he has come back down to earth for the final month of the season. His batting average has dipped to .256 in September but he has still shown good defensive ability and speed on the bases. If he could put together a good last week and a half of the season, voters might remember all of the good things he accomplished in 2012

    Who should win versus who will win?
    In my opinion, the best player in the American League this season has been Mike Trout. His overall season is something baseball hasn't seen in quite awhile and it would be a shame if he wasn't honored for his historic year. His offense, defense, and speed make him one of the most exciting players in the game and he should win the award no matter how his team finishes the year.

    Cabrera has a shot to win the first Triple Crown in a long time and this might be hard for some of the older voters to ignore. It also helps for the Tigers to be so close to making the playoffs. There seems to be a late-season push for Cabrera to come out on top and it seems more likely for him to end up with his first MVP award in his very good career. Cabrera has been close in the past so it might be his turn to win and Trout could be left to win the award in another season.
    This article was originally published in blog: Cabrera vs. Trout: The MVP Debate for the Ages started by Cody Christie
    Comments 48 Comments
    1. TK10's Avatar
      TK10 -
      "Cabrera has a shot to win the first Triple Crown in a long time and this might be hard for some of the older voters to ignore."

      Because only the young and hip will vote for Trout thanks to the All Powerful And All Knowing And Entirely Irrefutable Sabermetrics. If Cabrera wins the first triple crown in 45 years and doesn't win the MVP the
      All Powerful And All Knowing And Entirely Irrefutable Sabermetrics crowd will have officially won.
    1. mnjon's Avatar
      mnjon -
      Quote Originally Posted by TK10 View Post
      "Cabrera has a shot to win the first Triple Crown in a long time and this might be hard for some of the older voters to ignore."

      Because only the young and hip will vote for Trout thanks to the All Powerful And All Knowing And Entirely Irrefutable Sabermetrics. If Cabrera wins the first triple crown in 45 years and doesn't win the MVP the
      All Powerful And All Knowing And Entirely Irrefutable Sabermetrics crowd will have officially won.
      I'm not gonna lie and say that I believe Cabrera should have a strong chance to win the MVP, but your argument doesn't really stand up. As Cody said,
      He (Trout) is the first player to compile a WAR of over 10 since Barry Bonds did it back in his heyday. The last center fielder to reach this mark was Willie Mays so Trout is in some good company with the season he has put together.
      Considering Willie Mays won his final MVP in '65, it's been even longer since a center fielder has been this good, according to WAR. Cabrera's statistics should definitely be praised and he does deserve the triple crown, but Trout has been a much better all-around player than Cabrera, which I'm guessing most teams would rather have than an offensive machine who plays mediocre defense at third with average speed at best.

      And if you think it would be a travesty to not give the triple crown winner MVP, then you may be shocked to find out that not all TC winners have automatically won the MVP, even if it wasn't such a large span of time between the TC winners. Maybe even back then they understood that the TC doesn't automatically make you the best player in the game.
    1. nokomismod's Avatar
      nokomismod -
      This is a tough year to decide, but I give the nod to Cabrera. He is the last guy you want to see in the on deck circle late in the game. Power, hits for average, and clutch. What Trout did for a big chunk of the season was incredible too. Maybe I'm favoring Cabrera because he's been doing it so long.
    1. Twins Twerp's Avatar
      Twins Twerp -
      Baseball writers, who vote for the MVP, are not WAR guys. They are old and remember when Ted Williams and Honis Wagner played. The old school numbers are the most important thing. Wins for pitchers, HR's, RBI's and BA for MVP. Therefore, I think they are going to vote for Cabrera. If he wins the Triple Crown and the Tigers make the playoffs, I think it has to be Cabrera. Trout is good, and has the hype monster going for him. This is going to be a very tight race, with one man, one manchild, both deserving the nod.
    1. tmerrickkeller's Avatar
      tmerrickkeller -
      Where did I read this? Probably here....We all know Miggy could be the first guy since Yaz in '67 to win the Triple Crown. But when was the last time a player hit .325, stole 50 bases, and hit 30 home runs (which Trout might well do, as right now he's at .323, 48, and 28). The answer is "never." No one has ever done it, much less play Gold Glove centerfield, and score 125 runs.

      So after that statement, I still pick Cabrera because he's above Trout in average, homers, and RBI and I value those statistics more than others (blame my baseball card days of the 60s and 70s).
    1. Siehbiscuit's Avatar
      Siehbiscuit -
      I think THE biggest things the writers will look at is the TRADITIONAL offensive numbers. Cabrera's defense is not great and Trout's is amazing. But the criteria for these voters is something like 7 parts offense, 2 part defense and 1 part how much the media likes you.

      Overall, if Cabrera wins a Triple Crown its his rather easily. If he just misses out on the TC, he squeaks it out on the lifetime achievement sympathy vote.
    1. Siehbiscuit's Avatar
      Siehbiscuit -
      Trout, also may be penalized by some voters because he is a rookie. It's not fair, but these writers have shown that objectivity isn't the way they always operate.
    1. Boom Boom's Avatar
      Boom Boom -
      IMO you have to take the Triple Crown thing out of the equation.

      Say Joe Mauer somehow magically nips Cabrera for the batting title by .001. Cabrera still leads in HR and RBI, though. Does your mind change at all because he didn't win the Triple Crown? Because it really shouldn't.
    1. Don't Feed the Greed Guy's Avatar
      Don't Feed the Greed Guy -
      Cabrera wins the MVP if he locks up the Triple Crown and/or the Tigers make the playoffs. Trout wins if the Angels can claim a wild card spot, and the Twins continue to play spoiler, eliminating the Motor City Kitties from the postseason. Still the Tri-Crown is the trump card. One other thing to consider: Trout will already take home some hardwarde as the AL Rookie of the Year. The baseball writers may want to spread the wealth, figuring that Trout has a more time to add to his trophy cabinet. So, my money is on Miggy.
    1. TK10's Avatar
      TK10 -
      I'm fully aware that a handful of former triple crown winners didn't win the MVP, and to me, it's completely idiotic. La Velle E. Neal and the other voters his age didn't see Ted Williams or Honus Wagner play. Or maybe they did, I bet Bill James and the math nerd brigade has a stat proving La Velle saw Teddy Ballgame in person. I admit, fully, to being an idiot because I'm 34-years-old and am still impressed by 133 RBI. I don't care what Trout's WAR is, someone winning the triple crown after 45 years would be remarkable.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      Ironically, Bill James is now back, getting paychecks from the Red Sox organization.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by TK10 View Post
      Because only the young and hip will vote for Trout thanks to the All Powerful And All Knowing And Entirely Irrefutable Sabermetrics. If Cabrera wins the first triple crown in 45 years and doesn't win the MVP the All Powerful And All Knowing And Entirely Irrefutable Sabermetrics crowd will have officially won.
      Quote Originally Posted by TK10 View Post
      I'm fully aware that a handful of former triple crown winners didn't win the MVP, and to me, it's completely idiotic. La Velle E. Neal and the other voters his age didn't see Ted Williams or Honus Wagner play. Or maybe they did, I bet Bill James and the math nerd brigade has a stat proving La Velle saw Teddy Ballgame in person. I admit, fully, to being an idiot because I'm 34-years-old and am still impressed by 133 RBI. I don't care what Trout's WAR is, someone winning the triple crown after 45 years would be remarkable.
      I find being an obnoxious jackass to be much preferable over an objective "nerd."


      You've convinced me.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Defense matters. Base running matters. I am so tired of the "stat nerds" baloney from some posters and managers.....so tired and silly. I would say both are deserving, and either choice would be acceptable.
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      Instead of turning this into a debate about which statistics matter more, maybe we should step back and look at the title of the award - Most Valuable Player.

      Now, that can be understood in a variety of ways, but for me it means the person who has contributed the most to a team's success and who would be missed the most if not there.

      In that respect, I go with Trout. Detroit has other big names (Fielder,Verlander,Jackson) contributing and most would agree they have underperformed all year. On the other hand, if it wasn't for Trout LA wouldn't even be in the race for the wild card. He seems to have added more by his presence.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      I'd rather have Trout on my team but if I had an MVP vote, it'd probably go to Cabrera. I put a lot of weight into play down the stretch and because Cabrera's "production" stat line will include ~140 RBI, I think he deserves the award. Narrowly.

      But I won't cry if it goes to Trout.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I'd vote for Cabrera without a lot of hesitation. It's not a knock on Trout, and it's not a knock on WAR or sabrmetrics. May not seem like a lot, but the 21 Games Played difference is standing out to me the last couple of days. Trout's struggled some in the last month. Is that a hiccup, or is that a wall of sorts that would have been accentuated by another month of games? Of course we don't know, but we do know that Cabrera has played great all year.
    1. JB_Iowa's Avatar
      JB_Iowa -
      45 Years .... for me that says it all.

      I went back and looked at the list of Triple Crown winners -- and was amazed at how closely spaced some of them were before 1967. It wasn't a rarity to see several in your lifetime. Maybe that's why Yaz' TC didn't make that big of impression on me in 1967 -- after all, Frank Robinson had done the same thing a year earlier (plus I was really too young to appreciate its meaning). In a similar way, watching Affirmed in 1978, I never dreamed we'd be waiting for another thoroughbred TC winner in 2012 even though I knew there were 25 years between Citation and Secretariat.

      If Miggy can pull off the Triple Crown, he deserves to be MVP. If Miggy succeeds, he d*mn well is Baseball's "Most Valuable" -- not just for what he is doing for this year but for what he is doing for baseball's history.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      I meant to point out that the Triple Crown thing means nothing to me. It's a great, historical little anomaly.It also makes for a fact that the guy had an incredible season. It does not, however, necessitate the best season.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      Why is RBI part of the "triple crown", but not runs scored or stolen bases? This is a center fielder that might be the best defensive player in baseball, and is surely the best base runner. All I am saying is that three statistics do not show the full story. I find it highly ironic that the triple crown is a stat, made up of three other stats, and people that mock stats ate using it to "prove"something as inarguable.
    1. SweetOne69's Avatar
      SweetOne69 -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      Why is RBI part of the "triple crown", but not runs scored or stolen bases? This is a center fielder that might be the best defensive player in baseball, and is surely the best base runner. All I am saying is that three statistics do not show the full story. I find it highly ironic that the triple crown is a stat, made up of three other stats, and people that mock stats ate using it to "prove"something as inarguable.
      Because the offensive triple crown is all done with the bat. It is the things that the Batter can directly control.
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