AL MVP race: Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera in battle to the finish

Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera are in an MVP battle. Is it really that close?

As we near the end of the regular season, trophy talks are on the rise. This year, another Tiger is in the AL MVP race: Miguel Cabrera. He and Los Angeles Angels rookie Mike Trout are on all voters’ lists as one and two.

What baffles me is this race is considered close. Not only on a numbers standpoint, but also on the importance of team wins, Cabrera should easily walk away with the title. Don’t get me wrong, Trout has had a phenomenal year, but every once in a while when a high-profile rookie makes a splash, everyone automatically assumes he’s the next big star. We start to see comparisons to the legends that have gone before them. Talks near the end of July put Trout in Willie Mays territory — comparing the young outfielder to the Hall of Famer who is arguably the best player ever to play the game. Obviously, the people who say this have never seen the Say Hey Kid play, and were probably born after he retired in 1973. This is a little premature, don’t you think?

Maybe right now, when it’s time to seriously consider what name to write down, they won’t overlook how Cabrera has hit a league-best 105 RBIs to date. Or that for the sixth season in a row he’s hit 30 home runs. Or his average is continuing to climb from its current .327. Maybe, just maybe, they won’t overlook his dominance. Even though he has nearly 80 more at-bats than Trout, he still has more hits, doubles and home runs.

What’s making this MVP race so close is that an interesting, non-standardized sabermetric statistic, Wins Above Replace (WAR), has suddenly emerged. This stat shows how many more wins a player would give a team as opposed to a “replacement level” or bench player at that position. Since Trout has had a stellar season thus far, this stat is now relevant, and is listed with averages, home runs, pitching, etc. Trout leads the league with a 6.7 WAR, and Cabrera is behind him at 5.7. Somehow, someway, on some level, this stat is supposed to mean something. It clearly states that backups can’t pick up the load if they replaced them. Wow, that’s an awful lot of expectation for a backup to endure, especially if you’re the understudy of an MVP candidate. See what I’m getting at here? WAR is meaningless.

If we’re looking at a positions sort of take, then let’s look at this aspect as well. Trout can play all over the outfield. He’s predominately a center fielder, but isn’t a stranger to left and right field. Cabrera came into the league as a shortstop in the Marlins farm system nine years ago. Since then, he’s played left, third, first and designated hitter. I think experience should mean a lot here when it comes down to the wire, as this race will.

Unless a rookie, much like Ichiro was in 2001, is overwhelmingly the best player in his respected league, then Rookie of the Year is a more suitable award — it leaves no questions.

If Cabrera does win the MVP, he will be the 11th player in Tigers history to do so. If Trout does, he’ll be the third player in Angels history.

Trout has become a fan favorite. With players like Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Chipper Jones and Roy Halladay leaving the game in the next five years, Trout leads the next generation of ballplayers. I can see why it’s important to market these youngsters now, but let’s not choose glamour over fact.

When it’s all said and done, the winner will be based on how his team fares. If the Tigers make the playoffs and the Angels don’t, Cabrera will be crowned and Trout will take it home if the Angels are in and the Tigers aren’t. If both teams fail to reach the postseason, that’s where things could get interesting. As of Tuesday, The Tigers (65-57) sit two games out of first, and the Angels (63-60) are third in the West. The Tigers are fourth in the wild card standings, and the Angels are fifth. Can this race be any closer?


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  1. Even though he has nearly 80 more at-bats than Trout, he still has more hits, doubles and home runs. Huh? What in the world is this guy talking about?

  2. Fast forward to an actual faceoff……Miguel Cabrera gets tossed for arguing balls and strikes in the 4th, from the dugout no less. Trout hits a dinger to leadoff the game in his first ever matchup with Verlander, then he robs Prince of a HR to end the game….er huh? Nice try but the East coast bias is reeking homer with this article.

  3. This article makes absolutely no sense. Sure Cabrera has more hits, homers, and RBIs because he’s had 80 more at-bats. He’s also overlooking Trout’s runs, average, and fielding ability. I think if the Tigers make the postseason and the Angels don’t, then it will be close.

  4. I think if I managed a team playing the Tigers, I’d have my speedsters bunt the ball down the third base line at least a half dozen times a game. Listen, I don’t want to knock Cabrera, but his defensive contributions to the Tigers are limited at best. As I am writing this, the team is in second place and playing well below expectations; in large part because their infield defense is atrocious. Trout on the other hand is a human highlight reel. I would shudder to think what would happen to the already bloated ERAs on the Angel staff if he weren’t patrolling the outfield. I also find it amazing that despite missing the first 30 or so games this season he’s already scored 100 runs while nobody else has 90!! Cabrera’s impeccable offensive contributions stand on their own merit; and they should be discussed. But minimizing or dismissing what Trout has done is quite a disservice to the debate over who should be the AL MVP.

  5. You’re ignoring all the other measures where Trout is ahead, including the fact that Trout is a spectacular defensive center fielder and Cabrera is (at best) an ordinary defensive first baseman. Trout is hitting leadoff, so it’s a bit silly to expect him to be competing with Cabrera in RBI (and he’s leading the league in runs scored, which is sort of the definition of a leadoff hitter doing his job). RBI is an overrated stat (the thoroughly mediocre Vinny Castilla once led the NL in RBI). Cabrera might still pump his stats up enough to win (particularly if the Tigers do better in the final standings), but if you really can’t see why people think Trout is the better candidate right now you might want to take a refresher course on baseball stats.

  6. Not sure how you cannot at least believe the race is close. Sure Cabrera has more homers and RBI’s, but that comes along with more at bats. Trout also bats first, behind some average at best hitters, of course his RBI’s will be lower. Not surprising to me that your only other article is about how great the Tigers are.

  7. So your argument is that Cabrera should win the MVP based on his RBI totals and the fact that he had experience at other fielding positions in the past? I didn’t know it was amateur hour here at TTF.

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