Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Who Is The MVP? It Is Time To Make A Hard Decision

One thing is for certain, if Mike Trout or Miguel Cabrera played in any other year they would be unanimous MVPs.  Unfortunately for voters they both play in 2012 American League.  So how do you pick between two players with such outstanding seasons?  You have the rookie.  The guy who is loved by the new school people.  Leading the league in WAR and most of the other sabermetric stats.  The moneyball player that we all want on our team.  Then there is the old school player.  He isn't fast, but he hits the ball far enough that he doesn't have to be.  He is leading the league in all triple crown categories.  He is the guys that everyone in the league would least like to face in a big situation.  So how do you choose?

Well we can have an old-fashioned break down.  This is the AL MVP pros and cons list.  Why should you vote for the guy and why shouldn't you?  Upon further review we will see who the better man is.

Miguel Cabrera
Pro: He is leading the majors in home runs and RBIs and also leading the AL in average.  There hasn't been a batting triple crown winner when Carl Yastrzemski did it with the Red Sox.  That is almost fifty years since that feat has been accomplished.  Not even during the vaulted stats of the steroid era could one player lead the league in all three stats. 

The Detroit Tigers went out and made some big moves signing Prince Fielder and trading for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.  Still, Cabrera was the man on this team.  He was the guy who carried them through the later months of the season to guarantee them an AL Central crown.  He has hit nineteen home runs since August first.  He also has fifty-three RBIs in that time.  He has been great when it matters most.  He is the sole reason why the offense has done enough to push the Tigers into the playoffs.  The White Sox are no longer in a playoff race because of Cabrera.

Cabrera has shown that he is the most feared player in the majors.  He is hitting .353 with runners in scoring position.  He is hitting an astronomical .420 with runners in scoring position and two outs.  You cannot find another player in the majors who is as clutch as Cabrera.  He is the most dangerous man with a bat in his hands.

Con: You can look at some of the intangibles of Cabrera and see some holes.  Nobody is going to say that he is the best third baseman in the world.  His defense leaves something to be desired.  This usually isn't something that gets brought up in most MVP races, but Mike Trout is such a great defender it becomes glaring in this race.  Cabrera is a beast at the plate, but he is a borderline liability in the field.

His speed isn't anything that is going to wow spectators.  He has four stolen bases on the year (even though he only made the attempt five times), those numbers look like garbage next to Trout's.  He has huge power, but is missing the speed to make him that coveted five tool player. 

He also grounds into way too many double plays.  He has twenty-eight double plays on the season.  He leads the league in quite possibly the worst stat in baseball.  Double plays are killers to all teams.  Can the MVP of the league be the same guy who leads the league in getting himself and a fellow teammate out?  That doesn't sound very valuable to me.

Mike Trout
Pro:  He has been electric for this Angels team coming down the stretch.  He was called up on April 28th and has been a monster ever since.  At this moment he hitting .324 with 30 home runs, 129 runs scored, and 83 RBIs.  Those are numbers most people can only dream of.  The fact that this kid is only twenty-one years old is even better.  This is the start of a career we may have never seen before. 

Trout is the essential five tool player meets the new style sabermetrics player.  He has speed, hitting for average and power, great defense, and is an exceptional base runner.  He leads the league in steals with forty-nine yet he still hit thirty home runs (while basically missing the entire month of April).  He has shown some of the best defensive plays, his most memorable being the home run robbery he performed against JJ Hardy on Baltimore.  Added to that, he has by far the highest WAR (wins above replacement player) in the major leagues with a 10.7.  Stats he is currently in the top ten in: WAR, OWAR, DWAR, AVG, SB, OBP, Slugging, OPS, Runs, Hits, Total Bases, Triples, Runs Created, Power-Speed #, trust me I could go on but I am pretty sure you skipped half of that.  The point is he is the perfect old school new school combination we've seen since money ball came into our lives.

His team started winning as soon as he came around.  The Angels had an abysmal start, winning six games and losing fourteen before Trout made his debut.  Since that day the Angels have gone 83 and 58.  That's a .588 winning percentage compared to .272 without Trout.  Think about it, if the Angels never called up Trout to give them the spark that they needed they were on pace to win 44 games.  After signing Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson, that would have been the biggest disappointment in the history of sports.  Trout saved a lot of jobs for the job he did (Mike Scioscia says thank you).

Cons: In June and July, Trout hit .372 and .392 respectively.  In August and September they went down to .284 and .257.  Trout seems to have become worse when it matters most.  Is it because he is getting tired through his first major league season?  Are pitchers starting to figure him out?  Is he starting to feel the pressure of being a major league star?  Whatever the case is, Trout has not been the same firecracker that he was earlier this summer.

He strikes out too much.  This is something you expect from a twenty-one year old kid, but we are talking about the MVP, age doesn't factor into the discussion.  139 strikeouts for the season when you missed the entire first month is something you need to look into.  Again the stat seems to be getting worse as the season goes on.  In July, Trout had 21 strikeouts.  In both August and September, he recorded 32 strikeouts.  Again, this is to be expected with young budding superstars, but it has to be considered when it comes to picking an MVP.

When Trout had his worst month of the season (September) the Angels went 19-10.  When he had his best month (July) his team went 14-12.  Is it a coincidence or is Trout's importance to the Angels a little overzealous?  It is probably a combination of both.  Either way, to be the most valuable player in the league, you need to be head and shoulders above everyone else on your team.  Miguel Cabrera made everyone forget about Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander, not a small task.  Trout hasn't made us forget that Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, Jered Weaver and Zack Greinke. 

Conclusion: It is definitely one of the closer MVP races we have had in a while.  Trout has the advantage in intangibles (speed, fielding) and Cabrera is the better power hitter and more clutch.  The deciding factor is the fact that Cabrera has become better as the AL Central race came down to the wire, Trout has regressed.  If Trout had come together when the rest of his team did towards the end of the season there is a good chance that the Angels would be playoff bound over the Athletics, instead they are going home after tomorrow.  Cabrera and Detroit will be enjoying playing in October.  That is what it means to be MVP, to be the man when it matters to your team most.  And that is why Miguel Cabrera is you American League Most Valuable Player.

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