Should Mike Trout Win the MVP?

September 26, 2012

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 Angels rookie sensation Mike Trout has been a trendy pick for the American League MVP for a few months now.  Recently, however, Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers has picked up steam as he has a shot at winning the triple crown (batting average, home runs, RBI).  Here are how the players stack up in those categories (note: Cabrera has 66 more at bats).

  Trout Cabrera
Average .324 .329
Homers 28 42
RBI 78 133


ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 21:  Mike Trout #27 of th...

Mike Trout

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 21:   Miguel Cabre...

Miguel Cabrera

Supporters of Cabrera point out the fact that Cabrera is leading Trout in all three categories, while Trout “just” leads in WAR (wins above replacement) – which he leads by a dominating margin.  While certainly WAR is not the perfect statistic, it’s a far better indicator of a player’s value than the triple crown stats are.  Cabrera has 50 more RBI than Trout.  Well, yeah.  He’s batting #3 in the lineup and Trout is batting leadoff.  There will be more players on base for Cabrera to drive in.  There have been 427 runners on base for Cabrera and 284 on base for Trout.  Trout has driven in 50/284 (17.6%) and Cabrera has driven in 91/427 (21.3%).  Still an edge to Cabrera, but much smaller.  RBI is as much a factor of the other players on your team as your own ability.  Throw me into the middle of the Rangers lineup and I could probably drive in 75 runs.

There are a couple of big factors that WAR accounts for and the triple crown numbers don’t:

  • Trout has 47 steals (caught 4 times) compared to 4 for Cabrera (1 caught).
  • Trout plays a premium defensive position (center field) and plays it well.  Cabrera players a corner infield position (less defensive value) and plays it poorly – so poorly that is defense costs his team wins.  There’s a huge difference between Trout’s defensive value and Cabrera’s.

The triple crown is indeed rare, but so is a 10+ WAR season.  Only two players since 1960 have posted a 10+ WAR season and failed to win the MVP that year.  Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle. Just give the award to Trout.

National League Update:

The Nationals, Braves, Reds, and Giants have all clinched playoff berths.  The Reds and Giants have clinched the division, while the Nationals have a four game lead on the Braves.  The Cardinals have a 4.5 game lead on the Brewers and Dodgers in the wild card – probably a safe lead at this point in the season.

American League Update 

In the American league, zero teams have clinched a playoff spot.  In the Central, the White Sox and Tigers and tied, with the loser almost certainly left out of the playoffs.  The Yankees are 1.5 games up on Baltimore in the East.  In the West, all 8 remaining games for the Rangers are against the A’s (5 games) and Angels (3 games).  The lead the A’s by 4 games and the Angels by six games.  Any of those three teams could end up as the division champion, wild card team, or left completely out of the playoffs.  The Devil Rays are just 3 games back of the final playoff spot.  In total, eight American League teams remain in serious playoff contention in the final week of the season.

New playoff format

The playoffs are very different this year.  There is a second wild card team, and those two teams face off in a one game playoff to advance to the next round. This is commonly being referred to as the “coin flip round”.  The next round will be a five game series.  Instead of a typical 2-2-1 format (with the first two games and final game hosted by the better team) this is a 2-3 format, with the first two games hosted by the worse team.  The #1 seed in each league will actually have to wait until the end of the wild card game to know their first round opponent – and then need to jump on a plane and start the playoffs on the road, against a team that had some time off after winning the coin flip game.  The 2-3 format will only be used this year (because it’s a horrible idea) due to scheduling constraints.  MLB added the coin flip game after the regular season schedule had already been set.

World Baseball Classic

Canada and Spain won their qualifiers and advanced to the main tournament.  Canada romped through their games 11-1, 16-7, and 11-1.  Spain actually lose their second round game against Israel, but then advanced out of the loser’s bracket to face Israel in the finals.  They won that game and advanced.  The qualifiers are not true double elimination tournaments, so Israel was bounced despite only having one loss.  The other two qualifying tournaments are in November.


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