AL MVP Debate: Mike Trout Will Not Win…And That’s Wrong

[Editor's note: Be sure to check the end of this post for an exciting new MSF feature, The Debate Zone, where YOU can chime in on one of the most intense AL MVP debates of all time.]

Let me establish a few things right off the bat:

  1. Nate Silver is a friggen’ genius.
  2. Mike Trout will not win the AL MVP.

The first fact should come as no surprise. Read anything from Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog at the New York Times, and you will come away a wiser person for doing so.

Silver became an overnight phenomenon last week, but baseball fans have known about Silver’s passion for baseball for quite sometime. He’s nothing short of brilliant, and because of this fact people tend to listen what he has to say.

I was fully prepared to write this post before reading this article, which was released yesterday. So thanks, Nate, for stealing my thunder.

Which brings me to point No. 2.

Despite all of the statistical evidence that leans in Mike Trout’s favor, I can’t see how he wins the AL MVP when the award winners are announced Thursday.

And that’s wrong.

[Commentary: Cabrera's Triple Crown Trumps Trouts Unprecedented Rookie Success]

A Superlative Season For Cabrera…

Miguel Cabrera had a heck of a regular season for the Detroit Tigers. And remember, the MVP is a regular season award.

Cabrera will win MVP, even though he was only the second most valuable player in the AL.

A .330 average, 139 RBI, and 44 home runs made Cabrera the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

It’s those two words – Triple Crown – that will sway enough writers from the BBWAA to vote Cabrera in as the MVP.

I’ll be the first to say that his season was remarkable, but to say that he was the Most Valuable Player in the American League is a disservice to Mike Trout.

…Just Not As Valuable as Trout’s

The guidelines for winning the MVP are ambiguous at best.

The BBWAA website describes the voting process as such: “There is no clear-cut definition of what Most Valuable means. It is up to the individual voter to decide who was the Most Valuable Player in each league to his team. The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifier.”

Tigers Were Not “Better” Than Angels

It’s a fact that the Tigers advanced farther than the Los Angeles Angels this season. That’s easy to do when only one, Detroit, actually makes the playoffs. But that’s not saying that the Tigers are a better team.

One fact that many pundits have overlooked is that the Angels actually had a better record than the Tigers. Don’t believe me? It’s true. Detroit finished first in the AL Central at 88-74 while Los Angeles was 89-73 and third in the AL West.

Los Angeles was unfortunately behind the powerhouse Texas Rangers and upstart Oakland Athletics in the West, while the Tigers’ only real threat in the Central was the White Sox.

So don’t even start with that excuse, that Cabrera is the MVP because his team was better. It’s not going to fly here.

Stats Say Trout’s Season Superior

I could present all of the statistical analysis in the world, but that sort of breakdown is going to come with a lot more credibility from a guy like Nate Silver, and I’m not going to fight that. Like I said before, the guy is brilliant.

So let’s piggyback off his research and show all of the things that Trout did, and that Cabrera didn’t, which made Trout MORE VALUABLE player in the American League this season.

1) Base running

Trout finished with 49 stolen bases in 54 chances, an unreal 91% for that many attempts.

Cabrera? Four stolen bases in five attempts.

2) Defense

Often overlooked in MVP voting, this one is another no-contest that should not be ignored.

Defense is a big reason why Trout should be named MVP.

 

Trout played Gold Glove-caliber defense in centerfield. Granted, Trout and Cabrera play very different positions, but there’s a stat for that. It’s called Ultimate Zone Rating. It’s sabermetric and a little complex, but if Silver uses it as an argument, so will I.

Trout saved his team 11 runs on defense over the course of the season, while Cabrera cost the Tigers 10 runs over the course of the season at first base.

Easy math: That’s a 21-run swing.

3) Triple Crown

The candidacy for Cabrera as AL MVP starts and ends with those three offensive categories.

Cabrera was first in the AL with a .330 batting average, with Trout on his heels in second place at .326.

I’ll admit that there is a bigger gap in the other two categories (RBI: 139 to 83, HR: 44 to 30), but remember this: Trout is a leadoff hitter. His job was to get on base and allow the heart of the order to drive him in. He did that better than Cabrera (On-base percentage: .399 to .393), good for third in the AL behind singles machine Joe Mauer (.419) and the guy giving Cabrera protection in the line-up, Prince Fielder (.412).

Let’s go back to the criteria for MVP. The first thing mentioned in the guidelines set by the BBWAA when voting for MVP is this: Actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense.

Both were undeniably valuable to their teams. But what Trout did on offense, defense, and on the basepaths made him more valuable to the Angels than Cabrera is to the Tigers.

And that’s what the award comes down to.

Mike Trout deserves to win the AL MVP, yet he will likely not do so because of the allure of the “Triple Crown,” and I think that’s plain wrong.

I guarantee this will be one of those awards that baseball folk will look back on and say, how was Mike Trout not voted MVP?

Oh yeah, by the way. Trout was only a rookie. #MikeTrout4MVP

[Commentary: Settling The Mike Trout v Miguel Cabrera AL MVP Debate: One Has Clearly Been More “Valuable” Than The Other]

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The Debate Zone

You’ve heard what Daniel has to say in defense of Cabrera. You’ve also heard from Chris has to say. Now it’s your turn.

Check out our new feature here at MSF: The Debate Zone. Just click and record your 30-second argument, and readers, as well as our team of writers, will vote on whose argument is the best.

The AL MVP will be announced later today; we’ll announce the debate winner in three days.

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About Chris Callaway

Chris lives and works in La Crosse, Wisconsin, working primarily on-air while doing some writing as well. He is a part-owner of the Green Bay Packers, a Milwaukee Brewers die-hard, learning hockey while supporting the Minnesota Wild, and is also a fan of the Wisconsin Badgers and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow him on twitter @ccallaway33.

Comments

  1. Cabrera won because he was more valuable in helping his team win, not because of better stats. Trout was surrounded by supposedly better talent in LA.

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