BY PETER HOUSTON – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
Most of the MLB awards hardware has already been handed out. We know the Gold Glovers, the Silver Sluggers, managers of the year, Cy Youngs and the rookies of the year. It’s no surprise that Mike Trout was unanimously voted AL rookie of the year (only the eighth player ever do so). It wasn’t surprising because his season was so great, it was not only the best by a rookie, but the best by anyone in baseball. With the MVP awards set to be dished out Thursday night here’s why there’s no doubt Mike Trout should win it over Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.
First of all, this is not a saber metric vs. old school stats argument. Most people in favour of Trout like to point to his much higher WAR (10.7 to 6.9 on baseballreference.com and 10.0 to 7.1 on fangraphs.com), but really Trout also had a far better “old school” type of season than Cabrera. He ran the bases well, he played hard, he played gritty, he played defence. So anyone trying to discount Trout because “he’s only better if you look at those new fangled stats some nerd came up with in his basement that only someone with a PhD could understand”, is wrong.
Trout’s season was simply much better all around than Cabrera’s. By all around, I mean all facets of the game: Offence, defence and on the base paths. As much as Cabrera supporters will point to his Triple Crown to end the argument, half of the game is actually played on the defensive side of the ball. Chose any relevant defensive metric you want, and it’s not even close. dWAR? Trout: 2.1 Cabrera: -0.2 (which means that Cabrera was worse than an average triple-A replacement player defensively, really screams Most Valuable Player, doesn’t it?). UZR? Trout: 11.4 Cabrera: -10.0.
On the base paths, it’s another case closed argument for Trout. He had a league leading 49 stolen bases (only caught five times) to Cabrera’s four. His speed also allowed him to score another league leading 129 runs to Cabrera’s 109. While Trout’s speed on the base paths was an asset (he contributed an extra 12 runs to his team compared to the average runner according to Fan Graphs) Cabrera’s lack thereof was a liability (he cost his team three runs).
In terms of offensive production, the stats are obviously quite a bit tighter. Cabrera supporters start their argument with “He won the Triple Crown, something no one has done for 45 years” and end with “TRIPLECROWN! TRIPLECROWN! TRIPLECROWN!” while plugging their ears and stomping their feet. While it is no doubt an impressive feat, it relies too much on coincidence and luck. In order to win the Triple Crown, your average, home run and RBI numbers either have to blow the rest of the league out of the water, or like in Cabrera’s case, have other players coincidentally not do as well in those categories. For example, Cabrera’s league leading .330 average would have led the AL just twice in the past 21 years.
The Triple Crown argument also fails to recognize how much RBIs have been discredited as a stat to measure offensive performance over the past few years. RBIs rely too heavily on what other players are doing, not you. Say for example you have two players who are equally good hitters. But if one has teammates batting in front of them that get on base far more often, they are going to have far more RBI. Are they the better hitter? Not necessarily. Cabrera’s RBI totals are much higher because Austin Jackson/Andy Dirks/Omar Infante hit in front of him instead of Alberto Callaspo/Maicer Izturis/Chris Iannetta for Trout. Does it make Cabrera a better hitter? Probably not.
One final thing that Cabrera supporters often point to is that Detroit made the playoffs and the Angels didn’t. So what? To me the MVP should just be the best player, playoff team or not. But for sake of argument let’s say it has to be from a playoff team or at least playoff contender. First of all, Detroit is in a terrible division. They got to beat up on the Royals, Indians and Twins all year while the Angels played had to play two playoff teams (Oakland and Texas) all year. More importantly, who cares if Detroit made the playoffs, the Angels still had a better record. If the Angels were in the AL Central, Detroit would have missed the playoffs entirely.
As you can see, the case for Trout is sound on new, old and even irrelevant statistical grounds. The Baseball Writers Association will chose tonight between the two, and if they end up choosing Cabrera, there’s going to be a lot of explaining to do.
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