On the A.L. MVP question

At the outset, let’s just establish that I really don’t care about the triple crown. Like, at all. It’s a neat curiosity, I suppose, and Cabrera certainly had a great season as a hitter, but declaring that leading your league in three particular statistical categories automatically qualifies you for the MVP is silly, and that’s before we consider that one of those statistics is batting average, a metric so goofy that no one would take it seriously but for the fact that the guy who invented the box score thought that taking a walk was unmanly. I’m not trying to take away from what Cabrera did at the plate, but Trout is simply the best player in baseball right now, without question, and had far and away the best season in 2012 That he’s an elite base runner and defender while Miggy is…not…is more or less without contention, but the much overlooked fact of the matter is that Trout is also the better offensive player of the two. For as good as Cabrera’s season was, for example, Trout had a higher wOBA and wRC+ than he did, and if those stats are too “advanced” for you, he also had a higher on base percentage, and his OPS was a mere 0.036 points lower than Miggy’s. With a gap so small, the vast difference in base running (which is absolutely a part of run creation) more than makes up the gap in Trout’s favor.

What I find most amusing about the “debate,” however, is how incredibly shrill the reactionaries are getting, and how much they dispute their own ostensible arguments. Note, for example, that for as much as the “traditionalists” rant about “stat geeks” who ruin the game with their “spreadsheets” and need to “watch an actual baseball game” sometime, they’re now the ones arguing that the MVP should be handed out on the basis of a slavish desire to statistics, while the supposed basement dwellers are imploring them to use their eyes and see that no baseball player on the planet has held a candle to Trout in 2012. I would say that’s a fun recent development, but truth be told it’s always been the case. The old-guard isn’t actually “anti-stats,” they’re merely dogmatically devoted to the handful of stats that were relevant to the public ~50 years ago, and their real complaint is that the vernacular of the game is changing, a fairly big problem for an aging professional writer. And don’t even get me started on the idea that Cabrera deserves extra points because, after 160 games and with fewer wins than six other A.L. teams, the Tigers managed to put away the worst division in all of baseball.

That said, I mostly expect Miggy to win the award, because I’m sort of pessimistic about these things and because I think the novelty of the accomplishment will win out, sort of like Verlander winning it last year. Unfortunately the only reaction I’ll be abe to muster to that is a flippant “whatever” because, again, I really can’t bring myself to care about it that much. It’s not that I’m taking the conciliatory pose I’ve seen elsewhere that it wouldn’t be a travesty if Cabrera won it or anything, because it very much will be, but because I’m quite confident that history will ultimately pass judgment in Trout’s favor no matter the outcome. The traditionalists are simply dying off these days, so no matter whether or not they manage to make a last stand here or on some other award vote, some time in the not so distant future baseball fans will look back on a Cabrera victory and laugh at the decision in much the same way we already laugh at Juan Gonzalez winning the MVP.

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

34 thoughts on “On the A.L. MVP question

  1. Wrong. Cabrera did something no one has done since 1967. His team is going to the playoffs. Without him they wouldn't be. Trout is not going to the postseason and if you take him off the Angels, obviously they still don't make the playoffs. There is no way what Trout did this year erases the first triple crown in 45 years. Think about that, 45 years. And Cabrera has arguably been the best hitter in baseball for the past several seasons.

  2. My favorite part about the Verlander comment is that he had just about as incredible a season this year as last year. Courtesy of Jonah Keri on Grantland:

    2011: 251 IP, 9.0 K/2.0 BB/0.9 HR per 9 innings, 2.40 ERA, 2.99 FIP
    2012: 238⅓ IP, 9.0 K/2.3 BB/0.7 HR per 9 innings, 2.64 ERA, 2.95 FIP

    Yet he's nowhere near this debate because he didn't "win" 24 games. Not that I think he really deserves to be in the conversation with these guys anyway, but if he was 25-4 this year you better believe he'd be getting votes. It's really just embarassing.

    On the other hand, Cabrera is incredible so it wouldn't exactly be the worst MVP decision. See Cochrane, Mickey over Gehrig, Lou; 1934 (okay maybe there are worst ones but I'm just a homer I guess).

  3. There is two bits of perspective of a batting triple crown that I do respect. One, it has happened less times than a perfect game has and is something that has to be done across a whole season as opposed to just one game.

    Two, we didn't have a triple crown winner in the steriods era despite having someone as talented and putting up monster numbers like Bonds did.

    With that said, Trout has a fairly compelling argument for MVP given the fact of how much better the Angels were with him than without him. And they were playing in 4 team division that has two teams that made the playoffs.

  4. Mmmmmm, I take a slightly more nuanced view than thehawkishowling above; we already have examples (two? three?) of players who won the Triple Crown and not the MVP, so that's not a valid argument, per se. On the other hand, I do put (personally) weight on the "valuable" portion of the MVP argument — which is a notoriously wiggle-able term in this case — than simply "the best player." If it were that simple, all of the time that Alex Rodriguez was clearly the best player in the league by a wide, wide margin he'd just be winning every year.

    So I don't take the view necessarily that the PTI guys, for example, take but I also don't accept WAR (even a 4 point variation) necessarily determines the overall MVP by iteself, simply because while Mike Trout is obviously the best all-around player in the AL (and MLB) — how does that measure his overall value to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim? And how does that measure Miggy's contributions to the Detroit Tigers? Even if you take the simplistic view of the Angels – 10 wins is still where they are and Detroit – 6 wins is out of the playoffs (which I don't, by the by), that's still an argument, isn't it?

    Personally, I think that overall Mike Trout was probably the MVP — but I don't view it as cut and dried as Brien does.

  5. This is tough for me. I am a Tigers fan therefore I want Miguel Cabrera to win. Deep down I know Trout should win. Of course I have to hope for the guy on my team, but part I can't say I would be outraged as a Tigers fan if Trout wins, since I know he does deserve it. Also I don't feel like getting murdered by my fellow Tigers fans if I were to even mention the word WAR or something.

  6. I actually don't have a problem with the MVP not being purely about WAR or the stats. Either one of these fellas could win the award and I'd be OK with it. The parameters for the MVP are so hazy and subjective that it leaves a ton of room for a wide variety of seasons to be deserving, and I like that.

    That said: Go Team Trout! I just love the way he plays the game. It's going to be fun to watch him play over the next (hopefully) 15-20 years.

  7. Don't ever wrestle with a pig, Brien. You both get dirty, only the pig's enjoying it. Plus a bystander might mistake you for the pig.

    The guy's trolling for a fight. Why are you obliging?

  8. Sabr was not compelling enough to keep the al mvp from Verlander. Sabr will not be enough to keep the al mvp from Cabrera. Truth is cruel and unrelenting. And the truth is the LAA's champion could not do what Detroit's champion did – deliver his team into the playoffs. Nothing will ever change this simple fact. The game is played with one single goal, to win a championship. Writers have no claim to offer why the game is played, b/c if they did they wouldn't be writers.

  9. I'll throw another component in, which is that Cabrera is playing out of position at third base, to open up first base for Prince. Cabrera's terrible fielding would not look quite so bad if he were playing at first.

    Yes, I still think Trout is the most valuable, as I translate "most valuable" to be the same as "most runs produced on offense + most runs saved on defense".

    BTW, I don't care if the guy plays on a team that wins 120 games or 40. I get the argument that Cabrera's team is in the post-season and Trout's is not. But that same argument disqualifies a guy like Buster Posey, because his team won the NL West by 8 games, more than the margin of wins that Posey was (probably) worth to the Giants. (This is the same argument that usually precludes any Yankee from being "most valuable".) So you end up in the box that the NL MVP must be the Cardinals' team MVP, because the Cards are the only team that made the NL playoffs by a small enough margin so that any of their players could be said to have "delivered his team into the playoffs". To avoid this, I think that Braun, McCutchen, even David Wright, deserve NL MVP consideration

  10. I really dislike this site and the patronizing tone taken by the writing staff. So I think I'm deleting you from my bookmarks and sticking with RAB, a site that's run by far less dickheads. Bye!