The votes are in, and the winner is… Miguel Cabrera. The vote I am talking about is the American League MVP vote, in which 22 of 28 ballots had Cabrera voted first. And the fact that this surprises some people, simply amazes me.
In the days and weeks leading up to the unveiling of the MVP, there was a fierce debate in the baseball world. Who should the MVP be? Mike Trout, the rookie phenom, or Miguel Cabrera, the Triple Crown winner? I never had a single doubt in my mind who should have been the MVP.
Both players clearly had statistically dominant seasons. Trout, rightfully, was the unanimous Rookie of the Year and he rightfully finished second in the MVP race. Let’s take a quick look at their lines:
* indicates league leader
Clearly, both players deserve to be in the conversation, but call me old school when I say that there is no question that Cabrera was the right choice. In fact, old school vs new school was a major theme of the debate. Keith Law, a notable ESPN Insider writer, wrote at the end of September that “Mike Trout is the only rational choice for American League MVP.” The basis of his and many other peoples’ arguements was a relatively new statistic Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
What exactly is WAR? According to Fangraphs, “Wins Above Replacement (WAR) is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic.” Many “new school” stats people say that since Trout posted a near record WAR of 10.7, it wasn’t even a debate. He was worth almost 11 extra wins to his team and that defines the Most Valuable Player. I disagree. Player of the year? Maybe
Let me start, by clearly stating that I am in no way a WAR hater. But WAR is not the entire picture of a players value. FanGraphs gives a context in its definition of WAR, stating that a WAR of 6+ is MVP level while a solid starter would have a WAR of 2-3. Using this scale, both Cabrera and Trout are MVP level. I agree, both players clearly are MVP level. But, I like to look at the big picture (the old school approach). If I removed Trout from the Angels, they would still have finished in third place. If I remove Cabrera from the Tigers, they do not come in first and therefore they do not make the playoffs. Who was more valuable now?
I do not use this argument in a vacuum. In 2003, Alex Rodriguez won the MVP while on the last place Texas Rangers team, and I don’t really have a problem with that. Here is why: in 2003, there was no clear cut MVP behind A-Rod. The second place vote getter was Carlos Delgado (didn’t make the playoffs) and in third place was Jorge Posada (lost in the World Series). Do I think Posada deserved that MVP simply because he made the playoffs and A-Rod didn’t? Nope. Well then how come that is a foundation of my argument for Cabrera? Here is why: Triple Crown. Miguel Cabrera clearly had an MVP caliber season. He was clearly the best player on his team and he clearly made an impact on the Tigers making the playoffs. All of this equates to value in my mind.
Now, let me stop you from taking this argument to the fact that the Angels actually had a better record than the Tigers (by one game). There are two things no player has any control of in a given year – the team’s schedule and the division in which the team plays. I will not factor this into my decision because there is nothing the player can do about it, except go out and perform each and every day to try and win the game, which is exactly what Cabrera did.
I don’t discount anything Mike Trout did this season. Almost going 30-50 (HR-SB) is amazing, and I have no doubt he will win an MVP at some point in his career, but rightfully this was not his year. You can call me old school, but Cabrera is without question the 2012 American League Most Valuable Player.
[Photo Credit: AP Photo/Orlin Wagner via ESPN.com]