The IPI Awards: AL MVP
By Jim Piascik
October 11, 2012
To celebrate the conclusion of another baseball season, we here at Indians Prospect Insider have decided to give out our picks for the major awards. In the coming days, IPI will be rolling out our picks for NL MVP, Most Valuable Indian, and Least Valuable Indian.
As this award was a tight one, fellow IPI writers Kevin Dean and Jason Ruggiero joined Charlie Adams, Jeff Ellis, Tony Lastoria, Sean Mahon, Adam McGavin, Stephanie Metzger, Steve Orbanek, Jim Pete, Andrew Zajac, and yours truly in voting on these awards. Not all of them supplied write-ups, but those who did are listed below.
I could spend some time talking about the great years that New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano and Texas Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre had, but there would be no point. Everybody knows that the American League Most Valuable Player will come down to two players: Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielder Mike Trout.
Cabrera's candidacy for MVP is largely based on two simple words: Triple Crown. The 44 home runs, 139 runs batted in, and .330 batting average for Cabrera this year all led the American League, giving baseball its first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
There is no denying that Cabrera is well below-average defensively at third base, but supporters argue that the way he voluntarily moved back to the position to make room for Prince Fielder is another reason he should be MVP.
As for Trout, the outfielder only put up one of the best seasons, rookie or otherwise, in baseball history. The 21-year old had a .326/.399/.564 slash line, 30 home runs, 49 stolen bases, and 129 runs scored. Trout also added tremendous value defensively, a big part of why Trout posted a 10.0 fWAR, 2.9 wins better than Cabrera's mark. For Trout supporters, it is the Most Valuable Player, not Most Valuable Hitter.
Detractors note that Trout only played in 139 games this season since he was in the minors to start the year. Cabrera only missed one game all year, but there is weight to the argument that Trout played well enough that even with the missed time, he still outplayed Cabrera. There is also the argument that Trout did not make the playoffs while Cabrera did, but the question is if team success should influence an individual award.
IPI's AL MVP is... Miguel Cabrera
It may not be how I voted, but the power of the Triple Crown buoyed Cabrera past Trout here on IPI by a 7-6 margin. The vote was as tight as it could be and I literally needed to find one more vote last night to break a tie. So if you are an angry Trout supporter, you can blame Jim Berdysz for the decisive vote he cast last night.
Here is what the rest of IPI has to say:
Charlie Adams: Mike Trout. He's the best player in the American League. Since Trout has been called up the Angels are 82-56 and would be on pace for 96 wins. That is cherry-picking to a degree (Albert Pujols was not himself for that first month either), but the fact is that Trout could have made the difference in two games, and those two games would have had them in the playoffs. If playoffs are the only argument against Trout, then blame the front-office for making him miss 20 games. Don't withhold a deserved award from a player that simply lacked the chance to be the difference in making the playoffs.
Jeff Ellis: The award is most valuable player, not best hitter. Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown, but frankly the value of that is small. I mean, to most people, RBI and batting average aren't even valuable stats. As hitters they were about equal, but Mike Trout killed him on the base paths and on defense at a very challenging position. In both of those categories, Cabrera was a below-average player. I know the Tigers made the playoffs, but the Angels had more wins in a harder division. Cabrera didn't carry them to the playoffs, the White Sox's divisional collapse carried them in. In terms of who was the best total player this year, I don't think you can argue against Trout, unless you pick your MVP based on who is the ideal DH.
Tony Lastoria: Look, I know that Miguel Cabrera won the first Triple Crown since 1967, which is almost as long as the last time a Cleveland team has won a championship. And I know that Cabrera no doubt was the best hitter in the bigs this year. And I also know the Tigers made the playoffs yet the Angels did not (though the Angels won more games). But to me, this is the Most Valuable Player award and not the Most Valuable Hitter award. And for that, I chose Trout, a guy who had the first ever 30 homer and 30 stolen base season by a rookie, something to me that is equally as impressive as Cabrera’s Triple Crown. Trout affects the game almost as much as Cabrera with his bat, but also affects it much more than Cabrera on the bases and in the field.
Sean Mahon: I'd love to look you dead in the eye and say Mike Trout is the MVP, but I cannot fairly do so. Trout's team fell so short despite monster talent. Trout came into a sub-.500 team that struggled out of the gate despite three-time MVP Albert Pujols' arrival and carried them through August. However, if you win the Triple Crown and propel the Tigers into the playoffs after trailing the White Sox for the majority of the season, you win the MVP.
Adam McGavin: In spite of Mike Trout’s unfathomable rookie season, this race is just as lopsided as the AL Rookie of the Year award because of Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown season, the first since Carl Yastrzemski's in 1967. It’s incredible that Cabrera was able to reach the exceptional heights in power and average that his 44 homers and .330 batting average boast. Again, Trout was great and so were Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre, but Cabrera’s season was historic.
Steve Orbanek: To me, this is a no-brainer. With his .330 average, 44 home runs, and 139 RBI, Miguel Cabrera became the first player since 1967 to win baseball's Triple Crown. An argument can be made for Angels rookie Mike Trout, who led the league in [Baseball Reference] wins above replacement with 10.7, but the significance of the Triple Crown simply cannot be denied; it took almost half a century for the event to happen again. For that, Cabrera is more than deserving of the award.
Jim Pete: Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown, and to say that I've flip-flopped on this one would be an understatement. I want to. I really...REALLY want to pick the guy. I get downright irritated at the fact that Ted Williams didn't win it in 1947 or 1942 (he lost to DiMaggio in 1947 and Joe Gordon in 1942), that Lou Gehrig didn't win it in 1934 (Mickey Cochrane), and that Chuck Klein didn't win it in 1933 (Carl Hubbell). Mike Trout is the other choice here and he truly had a historic season, which I documented in our ROY piece. In my opinion, the only avenue that Cabrera is truly better than Trout is power, and that's not by much. Had Trout played a full season, there is no doubt in my mind that he'd be pushing 100 RBI, and that's as a leadoff hitter. Both teams are loaded, so who is more valuable to his team? According to WAR, it's Trout, by a lot...with his 10.7 WAR, to Cabrera's 6.9...but c'mon...IT'S THE TRIPLE CROWN PEOPLE. I can't stand him, but my choice is Miguel Cabrera.
Jason Ruggiero: Obviously the vote comes down to Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout. While they both had great numbers and both had a tremendous impact on their team, the award has to go to Cabrera. Not only did he win the Triple Crown (and we all know how long it has been since that was done), but he led his team to the playoffs and switched positions at the beginning of the year (without throwing a fit about it). While he was certainly not a Gold Glover at third, he was much better than I expected. Remember when he got hit in the face with a grounder in spring training and missed several days? I thought that was a sign of how his season at third base would go, but I was wrong. Also, his willingness to switch positions allowed his team to sign a top-level free agent, another example of just how valuable Cabrera is to the Tigers. To me, when you add up the numbers, the playoff appearance, and the team-first attitude of returning to third base, it's an obvious vote for Cabrera.
Coming tomorrow: The NL MVP. This one is just as tight as the AL MVP, but with even more competitors. Come back tomorrow to see who takes home the prize.
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No one singular saber stat is a definitive answer to this question...but Jim...neither is the Triple Crown that you keep referring to. What if the Triple Crown included Runs Scored instead of RBI?
Here are a list of stats. Not one of them alone defines a hitter, but the combination paints a very clear picture of who was the best this season:
wOBA (doesn't include positional adjustments):
Without getting into a bunch of statistical mumbo-jumbo (which I would be happy to do if anyone is interested), Trout was also a much more effective, consistent hitter in the clutch all season, while Cabrera grounded into the most double plays in the AL, many of those coming with runners on and in scoring position.
All of this is to say NOTHING about how Trout changes the game in so many ways that Cabrera does not. Even if you think Cabrera is a league-average defender (chuckle) and a league-average baserunner (bigger chuckle), Trout is a complete game-changer in both of those aspects.
HE WON THE TRIPLE CROWN!
...which is the only point that needs to be made, in my opinion.
I've got no problem selecting Mike Trout...because as Piascik will tell you, the first e-mail I sent him...I DID pick Trout....but that was before the end of the season. I changed it the second the season was over.
It hasn't been done since 1967 for a reason...and you can pooh-pooh the stats all you want...but it makes is MVP worthy.
Now, to debate the definition of MVP is a completely other debate...but I think you can make a legit case that both the Angels and the Tigers have teams built around both that make both greater parts of a whole...
Bottom line...you can make a case for both...pretty darn equally...
and sorry...you win the Triple Crown...it makes you slightly better than the Most Valuable DH. I get the point, but c'mon...
IT'S THE TRIPLE CROWN.
I like SABER stats, but have to be honest...I hate that SABER stats dominate some conversations..when the best of SABER stats aren't as definitive as they are made out to be...