Over the last few days, I’ve seen multiple articles about how Miguel Cabrera should receive serious consideration for the AL MVP award, in light of the fact that he has a decent shot at becoming baseball’s first Triple Crown winner in 40+ years.
This comes after a summer of Mike Trout fever, wherein baseball minds across the country agreed that we were seeing something special, someone more deserving of hype than Bryce Harper, someone carrying a team more than Josh Hamilton, someone more valuable to his lineup than the greatest hitter on earth, Albert Pujols.
Then, finally, on today’s Pardon The Interruption, Tony Kornheiser and Chris Broussard intimated that if Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, or even finishes first in average and RBIs and second in homers, it would be a travesty if he did not win.
That’s utterly insane.
Trout’s Overall Value Trumps (Potential) Triple Crown
First of all, and this cannot be stressed enough: the Triple Crown is dumb.
It’s a completely arbitrary grouping of statistics that anyone who made it even halfway through Moneyball knows is not representative of someone’s overall value.
Batting average is a weak substitute for on base percentage, RBIs are completely random in many cases, and there are a million better ways to measure value know that we have finally broken free of the baseball dogma of the last 100 years.
Kornheiser finished his point by saying the only way that Trout should win is if he is having an all-time great season – and said, “Is he?” As if he isn’t.
This is not news to anyone that has been paying a modicum of attention.
Watching Trout fly around the bases and rob home runs should be proof enough to old-school baseball fans who need to see it to believe it. Reading his stat lines is enough for anyone statistically inclined. By Baseball Reference‘s count, he’s having the best Wins Above Replacement season since Barry Bonds in 2003, and the best non-steroid season by a position player since Cal Ripken in 1991.
He’s also 20 years old, and by some accounts already a Hall of Fame lock.
So, who is more valuable – Trout or Cabrera?
For two teams that are looking like they will miss the playoffs, it may be easier to compare. If the Tigers and Angels both spend October at home, it’s hard to give that winning boost to either hitter.
Their slash lines are basically even – Cabrera has an edge in slugging thanks to more homers and doubles. But Trout has the edge in runs scored, a huge advantage in stolen bases (46, with only four caught stealing), and an enormous, game-changing edge in the field. BR says his fielding has been worth two and a half wins this year, while Cabrera has cost his team a half-win in the field.
WAR is not the end all and be all. It’s a great way to gauge overall value of a player, in conjunction with other old-school counting stats. But 10.3 WAR is an all-time number, whereas Cabrera’s 6.3 is not even as good as last season’s 7.3 WAR.
Just because Cabrera finishes tops in three different counting stats that haven’t changed since the 1890s doesn’t mean he’s the best player in the AL this year – that would be Trout, no doubt.