At Home Plate: Trout the rightful AL MVP

Just because the voting is done doesn’t mean we’ve heard the end of the 2012 AL MVP debate.

In what was expected to be a tight race, Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera received 22 of the 28 first place votes over center fielder Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Let’s start by not taking anything away from Cabrera. The guy won the first Triple Crown in 45 years by hitting .330 with 44 home runs and 139 RBI. He led the league in extra-base hits, and his team made the playoffs.

In any other season, Cabrera’s victory would not be questioned at all. In fact, it probably would have been a unanimous vote.

Mike Trout (Photo by Keith Allison, used under Creative Commons License)

Mike Trout (Photo by Keith Allison, used under Creative Commons License)

But in 2012, Trout had a season for the ages.

Even after missing the first three weeks, Trout hit .326 with 30 home runs, 83 RBIs out of the leadoff spot, 49 steals and 129 runs scored. Of course, these numbers unanimously earned him the AL Rookie of the Year.

However, when judging the “Most Valuable Player,” factors including defense and speed must be taken into account. Trout had 21 runs saved this season, while Cabrera’s defense accounted for four runs.

Maybe the voters saw Trout’s age as a deterrent, thinking the 21-year-old will have many chances to take home an MVP award. Odds are that Cabrera will never win another Triple Crown, so the writers awarded his accomplishment with an MVP.

Again, any other season, Cabrera is hands down the AL MVP. As the season progressed, Cabrera’s numbers actually got better while the team was in a pennant race.

The Angels meanwhile did not make the playoffs, but Trout is the reason they came close. The Angels started the season 6-14, but the culture changed when Trout arrived. The team went 83-59 the rest of the season, finishing 89-73 overall.

Detractors to Trout will say that the Angels missed the playoffs, while Miggy’s Tigers reached the World Series. But actually, the Angels won one more regular season game than Detroit. The Angels just happened to play in a division with two 90-plus-game winners.

It was expected that sabermetrics would have played a greater role in the voting. Wins above replacement (WAR) has become the tell-all metric in determining a player’s value.

Trout led the AL with a 10.7 WAR, while Cabrera finished fourth in the league at 6.2. Since 1969, there have only been eight individual seasons in which a player had a 10-plus WAR, and only in 2000 did a player with a 10-plus WAR not win the MVP: Jason Giambi beat out Alex Rodriguez.

Just because he might have been shafted from the MVP (and most definitely the Gold Glove), Trout is still hands down the best overall, five-tool player in the game.

But now comes the task of repeating this miraculous season to prove that Trout is the real deal and his breakout season wasn’t a “fluke.”

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