> I think they’re messing with me.

I’ve been doing these awards analyses the days before the awards themselves have been released.  For manager of the year, I figured Bruce Bochy would lose, but at least the writers would give Buck Schowalter his due.  They didn’t.  Yesterday, I knew R.A. Dickey was going to get the nod over the clearly better Clayton Kershaw, but at least the writers would give Justin Verlander his due.  They didn’t.

But they won’t get me this time.  This time, I’m betting on them to screw up both leagues.

Earlier in the year, I argued that Yadier Molina is the most valuable player in the National League since he’s got MVP-comparable numbers that combine with best-of defense and an ability to call and coach a game on the field better than any in recent memory.

However, I obviously don’t want these buffoons voting for these awards to have a license to kill with “intangibles” in the future, so to avoid an unstoppable snowball, I’d go with Ryan Braun.  But, since we live in a fantasy world where only a dozen guys are using PEDs, Buster Posey is next in line.  And he’ll win tomorrow.

But the real conflict is in the AL.  Some of the world’s greatest minds have made the case for the Angels’ Mike Trout, but unfortunately, none of them get an MVP vote.  So, without further ado, here’s why they’ll be wrong when they announce tomorrow that Miguel Cabrera was the Most Valuable Player this year.


I understand the initial sentiment of giving the award to Cabrera.  He had a better hitting season than anyone in the Majors this year; and for years now, “best hitter” has translated into “most valuable player”.  That’s one of the Hard Steroid Era’s lasting effects: hitting’s value is still placed too far above the other critical parts of a player’s job: defense and speed.  And anyone whose opinion carries a grain of salt knows that productive basestealing and run-saving defense partner with good offense to win games.

Trout annihilates the heavy-set Cabrera when it comes to speed.  No one contests this, but too many dismiss it.  Trout had 49 stolen bases this year, more than everybody else.  But speed’s only useful if it’s productive, and Trout’s was.  He only got caught five times.  He led the league in stolen bases (91%) and you could count the number of failed attempts on one hand.  Just think of how many extra runs and even wins Trout got for his team by making it even easier for Torii Hunter,Albert PujolsMark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales to drive him in.

And that speed doesn’t stop on the base paths.  Cabrera has been surprisingly adequate at his new position at third base, but he ended the year with no net gain or loss of runs saved or lost.  Meanwhile, Trout saved 23 when he was in centerfield.  Only three other outfielders saved more runs, and barely so.  Trout annihilates Cabrera when it comes to defense.  No one contests this, but too many dismiss it.


Then there’s the case of Cabrera being a better hitter.  He is, but triple crown stats are no way to prove that.

Cabrera: .330, 44 HR, 139 RBI
Trout: .326, 30 HR, 83 RBI

You’re insane if you hold RBI count against Trout.  He is a leadoff man. A leadoff man!  The bottom of the order is hitting in front of him, while the best on-base guys Jim Leyland can find are going in front of Cabrera.  If Trout hit the way he did in the third spot of the lineup, he would have given Cabrera a run for his money in the RBI race.  Besides, it’s not Trout’s job to drive guys in, it’s to get driven in.  He led the League in runs with 129 compared to Cabrera’s 109 in 22 fewer games.

That’s yet another tally for Trout: He played in 22 fewer games than Cabrera and still had comparable numbers.  Let’s remember that Cabrera barely won his Crown.  Had he gone 0-4 and Trout 4-4 on the last day of the season, Trout would have been the batting champion.  Had Trout been able to play in at least one of the 20 games he missed down in the minors while the Angels left him there for extra team control years, it’s reasonable to assume he could have beaten out Cabrera in batting average.  Not to mention that if Curtis Granderson or Josh Hamilton had hit just two more homers or Cabrera had hit just two fewer homers,there’s no Triple Crown and no de facto MVP.

Then there’s the fact that Trout had to hit against the AL West most of the time (3.74) and Cabrera got to face the crapsack Central (4.47).

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s a wrap.


So Trout was the best overall player in the American League this year; and the second line of defense in the Cabrera MVP case is that he got his team to the playoffs and Mike Trout didn’t.

I have two problems with that.  The first is that Cabrera got a whole season to get his team to the playoffs and did so just barely.  Yet, even if the White Sox had beaten out his Tigers, everyone would still be saying, “He won the Triple Crown!  He has to win MVP.”  Trout missed his team’s first 20 games, but after his call-up, the Angels had the best record in the American League through the end of the year.  Again, it’s reasonable to assume that if he’d been there for the whole season, Anaheim closes the four-game gap in the standings, the MVP debate returns to the merits of the individual players, and Trout wins out.  In any case, it’s stupid to say Cabrera was more valuable to his team because he got them to the playoffs while simultaneously saying Trout failed to accomplish the same mission in a much tougher division with 20 games in which he didn’t have a say in the matter.  And even after all that, the Angels still ended up with a better record than Detroit.

Of course, this “Most valuable to his particular team” nonsense is irrelevant anyway and should never be a factor in choosing the Most Valuable Player.

Think of the MVP as trying to determine which diamond in the store is the most valuable.  Here we have one diamond that could be sold at a higher rate than any diamond in the shop, but it’s a part of a so-so necklace.  But over here is a diamond you could’t sell for as much, but it’s a part of a nice necklace.  Wouldn’t logic tell us that, if you replaced the second diamond with the more expensive one, it would make the nice necklace even nicer?  If Matt Kemp had played for the 2011 Brewers, wouldn’t they have been a nicer necklace than if Ryan Braun was there?

Another example: Say you put Albert Pujols in Little League.  There’s a player that clearly puts up better numbers than everyone in the league, but because his team’s pitching staff is so terrible, they lose every game in spite of getting four homers from their star hitter every single game.  By “Most valuable to his team” logic, you give the MVP Award to some kid on a winning team whose stats aren’t as goo because Albert didn’t get his team to the playoffs.

It would be stupid, wouldn’t it?  Albert hits 1.000 with a homerun every time up, but because he’s stuck on a crappy necklace, that should be counted against him?  No way.  He doesn’t control how the rest of his team performs.  Neither does Trout, and neither did Cabrera.  It’s the Most Valuable Player Award, not the Most Valuable Player Who Happens To Have More Talented Teammates And/Or An Easier Playoff Window.

There’s no defense for Cabrera other than a romanticized title.  Mike Trout was the best player in the AL this year, and deserves this win even if the voters are too stupid to realize it.


  1. Corey Rudd of says :

    I hate to respectfully disagree with you, but I must…

    You point out the common argument of Cabrera leading the Tigers to the playoffs. Think of it this way. If Cabrera would not have pro-actively volunteered to move himself to 3B to make room for Prince Fielder, would Detroit have even made the playoffs?

    Cabrera’s unselfish gesture gave him a head start out of spring training. The move to 3b combined with his Triple Crown production make him the MVP.

    You also compare Trout’s numbers with Cabrera’s and point out that Trout played in 22 fewer games. You fail to point out that Trout struck out an eye-popping 139 times. Compare that to Cabrera’s 98 K’s while keeping in mind that Cabrera put the uniform on 22 more times. Who would you rather have hitting third in your lineup now? My choice is Cabrera every single time.

    Please don’t call Comerica Park a bandbox. 345 to left, 370 to the gap, and 420 to CF. Compare to Angels stadium, which is 330 to left, 387 to the gap, and just 400 to CF. Comerica is actually deeper down the line and to center. Hardly a bandbox.

    Good article though and interesting read, just can’t agree. Miguel Cabrera should win the MVP.

    • elmaquino says :

      > Cabrera led the league in double plays grounded into, which does more damage to a team than a strikeout. While I’ll agree the strikes outs aren’t pretty especially for a leadoff man, it’s only a small part of the story

      > Yeah I’d have Cabrera hit third for my team over Trout. Anyone would. But I would like Trout hitting LEADOFF for my team more than I’d like Cabrera hitting third for it

      > Upon further review, while a ton of runs are scored in Comerica, it’s not the result of homeruns, so I’ll take that part out.

      Thanks for at least thinking it out. I can respect that. The guys I’m blasting here are the guys who hear “Triple Crown” and refuse to hear anything else

  2. Greg says :

    I’m actually a Tigers fan and I actually agree with much of what you say. The only thing I can find fault in with Trout is that he ran out of gas down the stretch. I know you need to look at the full body of work, but Cabrera was more valuable in September during the pennant race. But if you just look at the cold hard numbers, you can certainly make a case for Trout. Of course Cabrera will win with at least 80% of the first place votes.

  3. Jackson says :

    Great article. I don’t even think Cabrera should medal in this MVP race (Trout, then Canó, then Verlander), but obviously he will, and will probably win. Another thing to look at is Trout’s speed on the basepaths, and I don’t mean steals. Trout went 1st-to-3rd on a single at a higher rate, 1st-to-home on a double on a higher rate, and every single baserunning stat is in his favor.

    • elmaquino says :

      I’m really surprised Cano hasn’t even been breathed about in this debate. Obviously he wasn’t the best in the League this year, but it’s interesting how under-the-radar the best Yankee went this year.

      I wouldn’t go so far as to say Cabrera shouldn’t even place. Here’s my tongue-in-cheek ballot:

      1) Trout
      2) Cabrera
      3) Cano
      4) Beltre

      (I wouldn’t put Verlander on there only because I don’t think it’s fair that the pitchers have a legitimate and exclusive award but the hitters don’t.)

  4. Notch says :

    This is an excellent, well-written piece and I applaud you for writing it. I am glad I read it. I am respectfully disagreeing though based on one simple word: Valuable.

    Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera both played excellent baseball. Cabrera was expected to. Trout was not. If the Angels had any expectations about Mike Trout he would not have been sent to the minors to begin the season. For the hypothetical “what would Mike Trout have done if you gave him those 20 games”, the Angels did not place enough value on Trout to give him those 20 games.

    The Angels struggled early not as much because of Mike Trout’s absence but because of Albert Pujols’ struggles. I haven’t looked it up so I cannot vouch for it totally but it seems they rebounded approximately the same time Pujols figured out how to hit American League pitching.

    The Angels undervaluing Trout doesn’t end there. If he would have helped the offense hitting later in the order, why didn’t the Angels move him down? Did they pigeonhole him leadoff because of steals and on-base average? Your defense of Trout’s RBI totals and “what if he had been hitting in the middle of the order” is admirable but at the end of the day Miguel Cabrera isn’t the reason Mike Trout won’t win the MVP.

    The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are. They didn’t consider trout the most valuable player on his own team.

    • elmaquino says :

      Thanks for the kind words. Agree or disagree, that’s good to hear.

      That said, I’m still not clear on if he was in the minors because of future contract issues (ala Bryce Harper, who was called up the same day) or if they really didn’t think he was ready.

      And I don’t think Scioscia had it in him to move Trout back. Managers like him will leave a fast guy there no matter what, kind of like what Leyland did with Curtis Granderson.

      And while I think that Trout’s still better in spite of what you said, you definitely have a great point that the positions his team put him in hindered his case.

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