Originally posted on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 8/18/13
The American League MVP race last season became the argument of the summer. Who is more valuable: Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout? The voters went with Cabrera, but to this day, the argument is still up in the air. So, will the race be between Cabrera and Trout again this season or will there be more participants? Let's take a look at the candidates and figure out what kind of race we have on our hands this time around. The Candidates Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles: Davis has come onto the scene strong this season and has not really let off the gas since the season began. His league-leading 44 home runs are an absurdity, but it's his .300 batting average that is keeping him in the thick of the race. Last season was Davis's breakout year, hitting 33 home runs, but his batting average represented a power hitter that was known more for his power than his hitting. He finished the season with a .270 average, which is pretty good for a traditional power hitter, but definitely not MVP-caliber. This season, though, he has well past 33 home runs and his all-around numbers are equally impressive. He ranks in the top-5 in runs, doubles, home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage. Even with all of his statistical accomplishments so far this year, Davis has two things going against him. One, he plays in the same league as Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera. Both players are out-of-this-world talents and, although Davis is definitely very much in the race, he does not own the pedigree that the other two have. Two, the Orioles are in third place in the A.L. East, and although they are in the thick of the Wild Card race, they are going to have to beat out some talented teams for a spot in the playoffs. If Baltimore is unable to make the playoffs, then it will significantly hurt Davis's chances. The MVP usually needs to lead their team to the playoffs and with Davis already fighting from behind with his lesser stats, he can't afford to miss the postseason. I'm not sure if the Orioles will be able to make the playoffs and I'm not sure if Davis can maintain his .300 average. If either of those things go wrong for him, he can kiss the MVP away. Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels: Trout started off the season slow, but he is back in MVP form now and the debate shall go on. He ranks in the top-5 in runs, hits, doubles, triples, walks, average, OBP, and SLG. And although his 21 home runs are significantly less than Davis's 44, he still has totaled 78 RBI, which ranks him sixth in the American League. What separates Trout from the rest of the candidates is his stellar defense. At centerfield, he plays a key defensive position and does it better than pretty much every other player in the league. And what makes this debate so difficult is that Trout provides expertise in statistical areas that other candidates don't, but he is still able to provide power.  The problem is that he does not dominate any statistical category like Davis or Cabrera do. The only significant stats he leads the league in are triples and walks, which aren't even that significant. Instead, he is able to contribute at a high level to more stat categories. But sometimes consistency across the stat sheet is not what gets players an MVP. It is being solid in all stat categories and dominating a few. Also, the fact that the Angels have a losing record is killing Trout, as well.  There is no way they are making the playoffs and you can't give the MVP to a player not in the playoffs unless he is supremely more dominant than the other players in the league. Unfortunately for Trout, that is certainly not the case. The A.L. MVP: Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers: There are three major reasons why Cabrera will win back-to-back MVP awards. First, the Detroit Tigers are one of the best teams in the league. With almost certainty, I can say that Detroit will make an appearance in the postseason and that is huge for Cabrera's case, especially considering Trout has no chance of making the playoffs, and Davis will have to fight for a spot. Second, Miguel Cabrera is in the thick of another Triple Crown bid. He leads the league in batting average and RBI and is only 6 home runs behind Davis for the home run lead. His numbers are almost unbelievable, which brings us to his average. Can we just soak this number in for a second? He is currently hitting .358. For a power hitter like Cabrera it is unfathomable that he is able to maintain that high of an average. How can you not give the MVP to a guy who is currently only seven home runs away from back-to-back Triple Crowns? Third, Cabrera is quickly topping Albert Pujols as the best right-handed hitter I have ever watched play. You need to give the MVP to a guy in the prime of his career when he is in that kind of company. You just have to. Although fans will continue debating, I don't see a scenario, barring severe injuries, where Cabrera does not finish the season with the MVP. He is the best player in the league and will continue to take home MVP's as long as that is the case. After this season, I'm not sure if there will be much of a debate anymore. By: Matt Levine Twitter: @Matt_TFJ
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