There has been a hot debate recently over who should win the American League Most Valuable Player award – Mike Trout, the rookie center fielder of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or Miguel Cabrera, the Detroit Tigers’ third baseman.
Following Wednesday night’s Tigers game in which the Tigers beat the Oakland A’s 6-2 behind six innings of shutout ball from Verlander and Cabrera’s 41st home run of the year, Verlander was asked his opinion of some analysts saying they would pick Trout as the MVP even if Cabrera wins the AL Triple Crown (league leader in batting average, home runs and RBIs). His response was pretty clear-cut:
“Bull (expletive). That would be a joke in my opinion. Come on. Even the fact he’s one home run away (from a Triple Crown) is just absolutely absurd. Just watch him. And watch him when we need him, down this home stretch. Oh my god. You want to talk about MVP. Compare their numbers the last two months of the season. Big difference.”
The numbers back up Verlander’s argument. Cabrera has gone on a tear over the last two months. In August he hit .357 with eight home runs and 24 RBIs. And his current September pace has him surpassing August’s tallies. He’s hitting .371 with eight home runs and 21 RBIs. He’s homered each of the last two games, as the Tigers have taken the first two games of the series with the Athletics.
Cabby’s current Triple Crown numbers sit at .333, 41 home runs and 130 RBIs. Trout is hitting .327 with 27 home runs and 77 RBIs. He hits lead off for the Angels (less RBI opportunities) and played the month of April in in the minor leagues.
Mike Trout defenders will point to the sabremetrics stats that measure a player’s worth beyond the Triple Crown statistics. If you include those, Trout, who plays a Gold Glove center field and has stolen 46 stolen bases. Baseball fans know that running isn’t one of Cabrera’s strengths and while he hasn’t been terrible at third base (only nine errors), he isn’t Gold Glove caliber (yet).
The biggest nerd/advanced metrics stat in Trout’s favor is WAR (wins above replacement player plugged into his team’s lineup). According to fangraphs.com, Trout leads baseball with a 9.4 whereas Cabrera is at 6.8.
So while the Triple Crown numbers favor Cabrera, the nerd stats favor Trout. Verlander, who knows his baseball history, cited Joe DiMaggio’s MVP win in 1947 over a Triple Crown-winning Ted Williams as “one of the worst MVP votings of all time.”
Another factor is whether their respective team makes the playoffs. The Angels sit 7.5 games back in the AL West and 3.5 back of the Wild Card spot. The Tigers are two games back of the White Sox in the AL Central, but five back in the Wild Card race.
It’s anyone’s guess who will win the AL MVP. But if Verlander had a vote (only baseball writers do), the guessing game wouldn’t exist. And my Tigers allegiance aside, I happen to agree with Verlander.