Today’s narrative: MVP, Mike Trout vs Miguel Cabrera. "Trout has a better WAR." "Miggy will be MVP if he wins the Triple Crown." This debate is everywhere. I’d almost like to see more chatter on the NL MVP race, which is turning into a photo finish; Buster and his Giants, Ryan Braun’s emergence from the PED cloud, showing he can carry the offense without Prince Fielder (though Aramis Ramirez is strongly holding his own right behind Braun in the lineup); and "Cutch," Andrew McCutchen and the almost-Pittsburgh Pirates. This was the feel-good story of the 1st half until the headline after the All-Star Break became Billy Beane trading away most of his pitching staff and somehow getting his Oakland A’s in contention for the wild-card, negating the naysayers and validating everything we thought about Brad Pitt. The real narrative of right now is Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout and this award.
I’m pretty conflicted about this. The Triple Crown has been gathering dust up on the back closet shelf alongside my Evel Knievel playset and my uncle’s Redd Foxx party albums. Like a Facebook friend request from a long-forgotten middle school buddy, it’s nice to see it again, thrust into modern sports relevance, forcing memories of yesterday’s icons and nostalgia doesn’t escape me very easily. In my calculations as of this morning, Mike Trout is the most Valuable Player in the American League this season. What’s funny, you will have many, many statistical analysts politely watering down their affection for Wins Above Replacement (WAR), and yet the numbers very often completely back up their arguments. “Well, you shouldn’t use WAR as an end-all be-all,” “It’s not the only tool in the box,” yada yada yada. If you believe In WAR, you should and it is. It’s as if they are afraid to offend old-school fans and readers by broaching the subject. You created it, it works quite well, use it proudly.
In any case, let these be the final words on today’s narrative. Your opinion on who should receive the award probably correlates to how important you weigh defense. At this stage, Mike Trout has close to a 30% advantage in basic total WAR when you average the Fangraphs & Baseball-Reference.com figures together. In our calculations, we also add/subtract a small amount for team standings. Either way, Trout is clearly the more valuable player.
Here’s where the arguments begin. Trout and Miggy, as everyone knows, service two different roles in the lineup. Trout’s a leadoff guy, a table-setter of sorts. In addition to his stellar batting average, Cabrera is also a power hitter – he drives in guys like Trout at the top of the order. As Joe Posnanski states in his AL MVP piece this morning, Cabrera's RBI Percentage (which will be the next BIG thing in terms of baseball stats that you’ll be hearing about A LOT next year) is 14% better than Trout. That’s a significant number, although both are well-above average. So, if you want to, you can say that Cabrera is AS VALUABLE with the bat as Trout. What’s makes me so sure? The race for the HANK AARON AWARD, that’s what. This will be tomorrow’s narrative.
The Hank Aaron Award, according to the MLB.Com website, “is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in both the American League & the National League.” The winners are selected by Baseball fans as well as the media. It’s a great idea that I believe would be well-served to be taken a step further. It should be adopted by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) and esteemed as the batters’ version of the Cy Young Award. Last season, the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista complained when Detroit Tigers Ace Justin Verlander received the 2011 AL MVP, that pitchers should NOT be considered in the MVP race, that they “have the Cy Young.” He has a point in so far as hurlers are recognized with a trophy solely for their efforts on the mound. The same should exist for batters.
And this shouldn’t be the MVP.
According to our calculations, we see Mike Trout only slightly ahead of Cabrera for designation as the top Batter in the American League (INSTREAM determines this taking the average of B-R’s offensive WAR -not total WAR-& Fangraphs WAR, then subtracting the defensive element from the Fangraphs portion.) The takeaway here is that Miggy can still move past Trout and be the top offensive player in the American League in terms of sabermetrics. How can he do this? By winning the Triple Crown. Right now, Cabrera is nine RBIs ahead of the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton and one HR behind, with Edwin Enarnacion & Adam Dunn right on his heels. Cabrera is in the lead for the batting title, eight points ahead of Trout. In terms of homers, it’s possible that Hamilton slumps in the final four games and allows Miggy to overtake him with a couple dingers. Dunn and Encarnacion could fail to produce as well. Tough to see all three falling by the wayside in the final week. Cabrera will need to maintain a strong pace of production to catch Trout in terms of offensive WAR. To me this is the only way Miggy gets the triple crown. He won’t lead by much, and he’ll need a little slacking off by the Angels’ rookie star, but it’s possible. This will make Cabrera the rightful heir to the 2012 American League Hank Aaron Award. MVP should be out of the question simply because Trout and Cabrera are nearly equal in terms of offensive value, but Trout is the clearly dominant defensive performer, which makes him the 2012 American League Most Valuable Player.
If anything emerges from this Miggy/Trout MVP debate, it should be the importance of defense in the MVP conversation, but also it’s time we legitimized and re-christen the Hank Aaron as a vital component to the November BBWAA awards dialogue.
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The phone rang in my kitchen.
After I see a film, I might read 25 reviews.
Having enjoyed the experience of close to 13 seasons in the Major Leagues, a second life touring
"Oh shit, Johnny, there's a T in the road,” Randy Moffitt yells, beside me in the shotgun seat, l