It is an understatement to admit that both Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout have had monumental seasons, but in the discussion of who is the AL MVP, it’s a no-brainer to this blogger. ESPN’s Tim Kirkjian calls the Triple Crown baseball’s holy trinity, yet Jonah Keri on TSN690 this morning dismissed it as a random collection of stats. Sure…a revered and relevant achievement, relegated to novelty status by advanced stats snobbery.
If that doesn’t say it all, nothing does.
With the reams of data at our fingertips these days, it is easy and all too tempting to dig deep and find player value where there may, or may not be any. Advanced stats can be helpful, when used in context. What they don’t do, however, is build a case strong enough to downplay what has been an exceedingly rare achievement in baseball, one not seen since the Leafs last won the Cup.
The Triple Crown in horse racing is not simply three wins at three randomly selected race tracks. Similarly, batting average, home runs, and runs batted in are not carefully culled stats designed to prop up one guy in any given season. It’s a gauntlet of statistics that tests hitters in a way that no other drill can, and yes, hitting a fastball at an elite level, while doing it for power, production and frequency is as hard as it gets in pro sports. And I haven’t mentioned that Cabrera also carried his team to a division title, and played his best ball in helping his team overcome a three game deficit in September.
When we talk about MVP, people tend to fall in to one of the following two camps:
1- Best individual statistics
2- Best value to his team
In this discussion, you can make a case for either player carrying superior numbers, but offense has always carried the day in MVP voting. I don’t remember anyone clammoring for Endy Chavez as team MVP. Speed and defense are valuable, but offense sets a player apart, and puts them in another stratosphere. If you look at this through the lens of the second camp, Cabrera wins, hands down. Without him, the Tigers are flirting with the Indians. Without Trout…well the Angels still aren’t a playoff team. The difference in value here is deep, pronouced and relevant.
Mike Trout had a great season, and there’s no doubt about that, especially when you consider his rookie status. But when accomplishing something as impressive and rare as the Triple Crown, and propelling your team to the playoffs in the process, you need not look any further for the MVP.
If you ask me to look to 2013, and beyond, I would bluntly admit that Cabrera has likely had the best season he will ever have, and that he may not win MVP ever again. Mike Trout, on the other hand, is just getting started and may eventually be one of the greats. But for 2012, the Triple Crown winner takes the cake.