With five games left in the Major League Baseball season, the two distinguished candidates for the American League MVP, are the Detroit Tigers‘ third-baseman, Miguel Cabrera and the Los Angeles Angels outfielder, Mike Trout. If you were to look at the history of baseball statistics, it would be fair to say that this debate, is one of ‘old-school’ versus ‘new-school’.
Let’s start with Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera is leading the American League in batting, with a .346 average. He is leading the league in runs-batted-in, with 133. And is just one home-run behind, Texas Rangers’ outfielder, Josh Hamilton, with 42. He is, oh so close, to that long coveted, Triple-Crown, a feat that has not been accomplished in 45 years. The last triple-crown winner in either league, was Carl Yazstremski of the Boston Red Sox, during their historic ‘Impossible Dream’ season of 1967.
Traditionalists of the sport would easily claim Cabrera as the undisputed MVP, even if he falls just short in home-runs. While the numbers definitely support the argument for Cabrera, there has been a statistical revolution over the past 15 years that could make a difference. Brought to the forefront by baseball statistician, Bill James, sabermetrics has been the new specialized way of analyzing the in-game productivity of players. Described by James himself, sabermetrics is “the search for objective knowledge about baseball”. It attempts to answer subjective questions, such as who contributed the most to their team’s offense, defense, or both. One of the new statistics provided by sabermetrics, is WAR (wins above replacement). While many feel it is impossible to accurately measure such a statistic, it still makes a remarkable point of consideration. This is where Mike Trout comes into the argument for MVP.
First off, here are Trout’s traditional offensive stats; .321 batting-average, 79 runs-batted-in, and 29 home-runs. Those are still remarkable numbers for any player, let alone a 21-year-old rookie. And oh yeah, he leads the league in stolen bases with 46. Also WAR doesn’t just consist of offensive statistics, it includes defensive stats as well. While Cabrera has improved his defensive skills, he remains primarily an offensive force. Trout, on the other hand is a five-tool player. He excels at hitting, hitting for power, base-running, fielding and he has a hell of an arm. Not since Ken Griffey Jr., has baseball seen a guy like this.
When you consider sabermetrics, particularly WAR, Trout is ahead of everyone. And not just ahead, he is out of this world, and out-of-sight ahead. Currently, he has a WAR of 10.6, whereas Cabrera has a WAR of 6.7. What makes this so remarkable, is that you could add the current WAR’s of some other all-star-type players, such as Prince Fielder‘s 4.1, Matt Holiday‘s 3.9 and Josh Hamilton’s 3.8, to simply equal or get close to Trout’s. If you just look at WAR, you could say that Fielder and Cabrera equals Trout!. To give this statistic some historical perspective, only eleven players since 1946 have posted a plus-10 WAR for an entire season. Starting with Ted Williams in ’46, these names include such Hall of Famer’s as Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Carl Yastremski and Cal Ripken. Out of these eleven, ten of them went on to win the MVP, whereas six out of all ten triple-crown winners in history, went on the win the MVP.
Baseball can’t go wrong with either choice. Whether you are ‘old school’ or ‘new school’, both Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout represent the best of the best in the American League.