While Mike Trout had a phenomenal campaign as a rookie, Miguel Cabrera deserved the 22 first-place votes that landed him the award. At the end of the day, it comes down to baseball not computer stats.
With 44 home runs, 139 RBIs and a .330 batting average, Cabrera became Major League Baseball’s first triple crown winner in 45 years. To achieve an accomplishment that rare and that unique carries significant weight in the discussion.
The modern day sabermetrics geeks are calling RBIs an overrated statistic and an inaccurate way of judging a player’s value. But last time I checked, the objective of the sport is to score more runs than the opposing team.
On a day-to-day basis, Cabrera came through in the clutch — with runners in scoring position — to drive in RBIs at a high rate. Unlike Trout, Cabrera delivered RBIs down the stretch, knocking in 54 runs in the last 57 games with a .354 average.
Meanwhile, the Angels outfielder hit .257 in the month of September. It’s a sports cliché, but baseball aficionados have always analyzed players by how they finished, not how they started.
Many have defended Trout’s candidacy by pointing out that he was a better defender. But keep in mind that Cabrera sacrificed the comforts of playing first base and shifted over to third to accommodate newcomer Prince Fielder. Again, that has to count for something. That sacrifice epitomizes value. On top of that, the Tigers third baseman also played the majority of the second half injured, but managed to stay on the field for 161 games.
With those contributions, Cabrera led the Tigers to the postseason. While the Angels finished with one more win than the Tigers, they failed to sneak past the Athletics and Rangers in their division.
That isn’t Trout’s fault, by any means. But in all sports — especially the NBA and MLB — a team’s playoff status is a big determinant on who is worthy of being awarded the MVP. So Cabrera gets the nod once again.
Advocates for Trout have pointed to the hitter-friendly dimensions of Comerica Park as a reason for Cabrera’s success. But a hitter has to be talented enough to capitalize on that advantage, albeit a minor one, against skilled pitchers.
Just look at the Yankees’ performance in the American League Championship Series. Even in the confines of two hitter’s park, the Yankees’ most feared hitters had a power outage and proceeded to drive in just six runs through four games.
Regardless of the stadium, Cabrera never once had a hiccup.
There’s no denying Trout is light years better than Cabrera on the basepaths. His 49 stolen bases certainly helped his cause, as the rookie became the first player to reach 10.0 WAR (wins above replacement) since Barry Bonds in 2004. But this is the award for the most valuable player, not the best player. That’s why Cabrera was the right man to win the AL MVP.