Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland recently said in a radio interview that he feels Miguel Cabrera, his team’s incredible slugger, deserves the 2012 American League MVP award over Angels center fielder Mike Trout. Leyland is obviously going to back his guy, but something else he said kind of struck me as wrong. Leyland said he feared those voting for the award would give in to Trout’s quick ascent to stardom and give the 20-year-old the award over the veteran Cabrera based on the story he represents.
If anything, I think MVP voters would probably sway the opposite direction. Baseball writers have a long history of dishing out MVP awards to candidates who shouldn’t really win them, but it’s rarely based on a big story as much as it is reputation and raw baseball card numbers. When it comes to the sort of stuff traditionalist writers look at, they may very well side with the well-known superstar Cabrera over the rookie sensation Trout. Cabrera’s surface stats include a .323 batting average, 29 home runs, and 95 RBI. Trout’s hitting .343 with 20 home runs and 60 RBI. From a remedial standpoint, perhaps it would be easy to feel that Cabrera’s season is the better one.
Thing is, it’s definitely not. Cabrera is having a fine season, which is nothing unusual because he is one of the best hitters of his generation, but he’s sort of inhaling Trout’s dust right now. Miggy has been worth 4.7 WAR so far this season per FanGraphs. He’s put up a .407 wOBA, a .970 OPS, and a wRC+ of 158. Those numbers are all just disgusting, but what’s shocking is how far ahead of him Mike Trout has been able to get.
Trout has been worth the most WAR in all of baseball at 6.9 per FanGraphs standards. He’s also the owner of a .441 wOBA, a 1.006 OPS, and a wRC+ of 184. All of these advanced metrics have Trout’s season as the better campaign by the statistical equivalent of a canyon, and that’s with Cabrera’s season being an excellent one. Trout has some other advantages that are absolutely worth making note of as well. He’s doing all this while playing much better defense than Cabrera in center field, one of the more demanding positions on the diamond. He’s also been better as a baserunner, and he’s stolen 36 bases in 39 attempts. There literally is not one aspect of Trout’s season that has a hole in it, and other than raw power he’s probably been better at every tool than any other baseball player in the world.
For Trout’s sake, and for the sake of baseball as a whole, I hope that everyone (traditional stat folks as well) really understands the historic nature of the season he’s having. Trout’s dominance has been asserted all over the internet on a variety of sites, but it bears repeating as often as possible. The season he’s having as a 20-year-old is one of the very best of all time, not just the best on his team, and not just the best in the American League in 2012. There’s nothing wrong with Leyland publicly saying he thinks Miguel Cabrera is this season’s AL MVP, but if he really believes this I hope there aren’t others out there like him. Trout’s season is utterly peerless, and he’s even done it in fewer games than the opposition thanks to a late April call-up. Mike Trout’s been the most valuable player in baseball this season, and that shouldn’t even be up for debate.