One of the most interesting debates in sports for the past few years has finally ended as Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner for batting since 1967, edged out rookie phenomenon Mike Trout as the American League’s Most Valuable Player.
For Cabrera, it’s his fourth straight season with over 30 HRs, 100 RBIs and a batting average over .320.
For Trout, he enjoyed arguably the greatest season by a rookie in MLB history. He is the first rookie ever to hit over 30 HRs and steal over 40 bases.
For many, not only was this a battle between two of the game’s most talented players, it was a struggle between two distinct schools of thought in baseball analysis.
Supporting Cabrera were the old school thinkers, who believed the Triple Crown and the fact that the Detroit Tigers went to the playoffs and Los Angeles Angels didn’t were enough to put Miggy over the top.
In the other corner were those who are students in the philosophy of sabremetrics, which showed stats that Trout was the better overall and more valuable player than Cabrera despite the fact that his team missed the playoffs.
No position had won the Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski for the 1967 American League Champion Boston Red Sox. The Tigers ended winning the Pennant this year as well before getting swept by the San Francisco Giants.
The Triple Crown is absolutely nothing to not consider when voting for these awards. It is one of the rarest feats in all of sports, comparable to winning the Triple Crown in horse racing or passing for over 5,000 yards in the NFL.
At the same time, only one player hit over 30 HRs, stole over 45 bases, and score over 125 runs. His name is Mike Trout.
To be fair to Trout when talking about team, he played in a much tougher division and the Angels still won more games than Detroit. The Tigers won the worst division in baseball.
According to fangraphs.com, Trout was easily the most irreplaceable player in baseball, ranking in at 10.0 WAR. In the AL, Robinson Cano also had a higher WAR.
Wins above replacement is one of many attempts at trying to estimate the true value of a player. It factors in everything: Hitting, base-running, and fielding. Trout does all of those very well, stealing 49 bases (leading the majors) and having an 11.0 UZR/150, one of the best among AL OFs.
Trout did this at 20 years old. As a rookie.
Cabrera on the other hand, is a non factor on the base paths and was the worst defensive third baseman in baseball, dead last in UZR/150 at -11.2.
But clearly, the voters decided that the hype surrounding the Triple Crown as well as the Tigers making the playoffs was more than enough to elect Cabrera.
Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. Team success has always played a role in these awards. The Triple Crown really could not have been ignored.
Miguel Cabrera is the American League MVP, and he deserved it. But Trout’s season made a great case for it. In the end, the old school way of thinking in baseball won, for this year.