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 


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