The debate is over. Or at least the debate over who will win the American League Most Valuable Player is over. Miguel Cabrera won the intense competition with a landslide victory over my personal choice, Mike Trout. Not much more can be said about the cases for each candidate, as both camps have exhausted all resources trying to garner support for their cause. Cabrera followers have repeatedly cited his accomplishment of the prestigious (or meaningless, depending on your viewpoint) Triple Crown, his production down the stretch, and his team's ability to get into the postseason (notice I said "team's ability"). However, the Mike Trout faction has used analytical methodology to show that defense and baserunning do matter, and that Trout's offensive gap to Cabrera was marginal. Heck, even some of Trout's most ardent supporters have presented evidence that he was actually better offensively than Cabrera. Yet, while I personally do not agree with the decision, I understand why the voters voted the way they did. Simply, voters tend to reward players for being on postseason teams and historical accomplishment. Just looking at the past 21 American League MVP Award winners, 20 of them came from playoff teams. Clearly, playoff teams have a huge amount of weight when it comes to this honor. Then, of course, Cabrera went out and completed the first triple crown in 45 years. There's no debate the Miguel Cabrera had an excellent season, and if you would have asked me 10 years ago the triple crown winner did not deserve to win the MVP, I would have called you crazy. I'm not going to further delve into why Trout was better than Cabrera. The vote is over and there has been enough argument over the subject.
However, one point I would like to tackle and debate is the hypocrisy involved in arguments for many so called experts. Many of them hold the notion that Mike Trout is indeed the best baseball player on the planet, but somehow, inexplicably, he is not the league's Most Valuable Player. I have been as much of a spectator to this debate as anyone, and I have seen or heard numerous debates for each side. Yet, when esteemed analysts such as MLB Network's Tom Verducci, Larry Bowa, and Mitch Williams all say Trout was the best player, but not as deserving as Cabrera, I am left scratching my head. Even BBWAA AL MVP voter, Tim Kurkjian, stated that although Trout was the best player he has seen this year, Cabrera received his vote for the league's highest honor. Huh? These writers and analysts keep pointing out that Cabrera was more "valuable" than Trout. According to Merriam-Webster's, valuable is defined as "having monetary value" or "having desirable or esteemed characteristics or qualities." In other words, something that is the MOST valuable has the greatest monetary value and/or has the best traits and skills of a particular group. Why wouldn't the player who is considered the best in the entire sport, have the most monetary value or the most desirable abilities? Why wouldn't the best player have the most value, which in turn, makes his team as successful as possible? Why wouldn't the best player have the most impact on all phases of the game? This argument just continues to baffle me. To automatically assume that a player from a playoff team has more "value" than someone from a non-playoff team is lazy and flat-out ignorant. This assumption gives credit to a player for something he himself did not accomplish. The Tigers made the playoffs, not just Miguel Cabrera. What about Justin Verlander? What about Max Scherzer? What about Prince Fielder? Did they have no influence at all on the Tigers postseason run? According to many of the voters, their impact was dwarfed by Cabrera's seemingly godlike effort. Additionally, I suppose that they also feel that Cabrera had the power to manipulate the White Sox into losing 10 of their last fourteen games, consequently pissing away the division. If the White Sox win the Central, Cabrera does not make the playoffs, making the "value to team" argument moot.
Once again, this is no knock on Cabrera's season, his historic performance, and him as an individual. I absolutely feel Cabrera was the best hitter in baseball this year. But, even the most zealous followers to Cabrera's case would realize that he was vastly inferior to Trout's defense and baserunning prowess. Baseball is more than just hitting a round ball with a round bat. If you want to argue Cabrera's candidacy with pure logic and detailed supporting information, that is what makes this debate so much fun. Yet, the cop out taken by many writers seems to contradict what they consider to be valuable. My personal opinion on the matter is that many writers, analysts, and fans cannot separate what they know is right and what they want to believe is right. They still hold onto nostalgic things that they want to remain relevant (Triple Crown, Playoffs importance) despite knowledge of the contrary. Also, many of these people claim that only statistics support Trout's argument, yet they reverse their stance instantly and end up quoting Cabrera's Triple Crown (Stats!), clutchness (Stats!), and performance down the stretch (Stats!) to validate their vote. You cannot argue against statistics and then use it for evidence as part of your of argument, just like the whole "valuable" over best argument should be nonexistent. This hypocrisy needs to end. The line in the sand has been drawn. Pick a side and stick to it. - Aidan Flynn
After experiencing one of the most gruesome collisions
at home plate in the history of the baseball, just staying healthy would have been considered an acceptable season for Buster Posey. However, not only has Posey stayed remarkably durable this year, but also he has produced like an MVP. A triple slash of .332/.405/.541 would be considered extremely productive for any player, but doing so as a catcher makes it all the more impressive. The daily wear and tear accumulation from catching makes it difficult to produce offensively in addition to handling the pitching staff and taking innumerable beatings from balls in the dirt and home plate collisions. For instance, the average major league catcher produces at an abysmal .249/.320/.400, a far cry from Posey's production this year.
Additionally, this is coming from a player who was drafted as a pitcher out of high school, became an All-American shortstop at Florida State, and someone who once played all nine positions in one game
. His near flawless transition to behind the plate is incredible, considering he only picked the position up in his sophomore year of college. A position that often takes years to learn and even longer to master, Posey was a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award (awarded to the best catcher in college baseball) after just one season playing the position. Lauded by scouts for his off-the-charts makeup and leadership ability, the San Francisco Giants had enough faith in him to be their future behind the plate. Then just two years after being drafted, Buster rewarded their faith by winning the 2010 National League Rookie of the Year and a World Series Championship.
Now, Posey stands above the rest as one of the best players in the game today. His 168 OPS+ is best in the Senior Circuit and also boasts a top ten WAR (6.4) and WPA (4.4). Also, as previously mentioned, Posey's health after a near-catastrophic injury has been impeccable while playing in 109 games as a catcher. This durability has allowed him to log a good number of games behind the plate in addition to saving his legs with the occasional start at first base. Of catchers with at least 800 innings caught (arbitrary number that denotes roughly 100 games caught), Posey ranks ninth highest in caught stealing percentage (30%) as well as having the sixth highest range factor among backstops. Also, Posey guides a staff that has the seventh lowest ERA in all of baseball and is frequently praised for his keen ability to call a game
Add in the fact that Posey has been the driving offensive force for a team that lost its leadoff hitter and sparkplug (Melky Cabrera) and lacked much firepower to begin with, Posey's numbers continue to impress. To further prove his worth, he has hit an incredible .383/.455/.639 in the second half, helping his team dust the "improved" Dodgers in a previously tight NL West divisional race. And just last week, the Giants clinched their first division title since Posey's last full season. Coincidence? I think not. Clearly, Posey is a extraordinary athlete who not only lived up to the hype but has exceeded it faster than anyone could have predicted with a shiny MVP award staring him right in the face in just his third season. Then again, why should we be surprised?
Who will win this year's American League MVP? Rookie superstar Mike Trout, or Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera?
As the hunt for October reaches its final weeks, so to does the hunt for the hardware. Arguably the most highly debated and controversial award race is between the "Millville Meteor" and the "Motown Monster." Of course these nicknames belong to Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera respectively, and both players are experiencing a season for the ages. Trout, a baby-faced rookie from the Northeast, has revitalized and rejuvenated a then slumping Angels team upon being called up in late April. He has only hit a cool .324/.392/.551 (AVG/OBP/SLG) and is leading the league in runs, stolen bases, and wins above replacement (WAR). In addition, he has played an outstanding center field while also making plays like this
On the other hand, Miguel Cabrera is also at the heels of a record setting season as he continues his chase for the hitting triple crown, a feat not accomplished since Carl Yastrzemski in his 1967 campaign. Cabrera leads the league in AVG, RBI, SLG, OPS, total bases, OPS+, runs created, and adj. batting wins. However, Cabrera also leads the league in double plays grounded into (28) while being below average defensively in terms of fielding percentage, ultimate zone rating (UZR), and defensive runs saved. Immediately, Cabrera's league leading numbers in several offensive categories along with good separation in traditionally important categories such as home runs (Cabrera's 41 to Trout's 27) and RBI (Cabrera's 130 to Trout's 77) point to Cabrera as the clear winner. Foxs Sports writer Jon Paul Morosi has even gone so far to say that the decision was "obvious"
to name Cabrera as the rightful winner. Yet, the competition between the two talents is hardly as cut and dry as some may think and more digging and research is necessary before awarding the league's most valuable player simply to whomever has the most runs batted in.
To start, Trout has roughly 62 less plate appearances than Cabrera and also has 123 less plate appearances than Cabrera with runners on base. If we predict how many home runs and RBI Trout would have if had a similar opportunities as Cabrera and one sees that Trout would have roughly 31 Home runs (HR every 19 AB) and 40 more RBI or 117 overall (28% of total base runners driven in). Obviously, this method is flawed as it only predicts the current pace Trout is on and does not account for anything he actually did. However, these added opportunities for Cabrera have also lead to a negative effect in addition to cushioning his HR and RBI lead. Cabrera leads the league with 28 double plays ('the ultimate rally killer") and has made 54 more outs than Trout. Once again, this data is flawed as a three hole hitter will come up more often than a lead off guy with runners on base. This argument essentially forces one to give Cabrera credit for both the RBIs and all the additional outs or by throwing both numbers out since it is dependent on opportunities and not anything the player can control. Also, another potential argument for Cabrera is his lead in total bases, or all bases accumulated via base hits. Cabrera's 361-290 advantage seems to heavily favor the Detroit slugger. However, when walks, hit by pitches, stolen bases, caught stealing, extra bases (example extra base taken when going from first to third), and grounded into double plays are accounted for, Trout actually takes the advantage. Trout's 435 "total" bases beats Cabrera out by 11 when observing the whole story instead of what strictly happens inside the batter's box. Then with the RBI and the total base gap greatly diminished, the offensive difference between Trout and Cabrera becomes much smaller with only marginal leads for Cabrera in AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS+.
After evaluating the offense, Cabrera relinquishes any sort of advantage he had on Trout. Trout has 42 more stolen bases, a higher SB% (91% compared to 75%), as well as taking the extra base from first to third and second to home an extra eighteen times. In addition, Trout has scored 45% of the time compared to Cabrera's below average 28% (league average around 31%). Lastly, factor in Trout's superior defense while playing a more difficult position compared to Cabrera's its clear who should be the front runner in this contested race. To those that argue that Cabrera switched positions to sign fellow slugger Prince Fielder, remember that Cabrera could have went to DH instead. In addtion, Cabrera was playing a position he had previously played, so its not as if he was playing at a spot completely foreign to him. Even in the face of a possible triple crown, Cabrera still simply does not match up with the all-time historic season authored by Mike Trout.
Statistics as of 9/20/12