New year, same story as Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout once again are competing for the AL MVP. But unlike in 2012, this year should be Trout’s to win it, because by the very definition of the word, he and not Cabrera, has been the AL’s most “valuable” player.
If MLB wanted to continue to give the MVP to Cabrera, they really should change the name of the award to BOP – Best Overall Player. Because there is no disputing the fact the Cabrera has been and is still the best overall player in the AL, but when it comes to how valuable he is, there is one better.
If you trust in the Bill James sabermetric method, namely WAR (Wins Above Replacement), the numbers clearly show that Trout has actually been a more valuable player in 2013 than has Cabrera. Sure, he has 20 less home runs and more than 50 less RBI as well as a lowered all-around slash line, but when it comes down to it, you have to ask the question: Where would the LA Angels be without Trout compared to where the Detroit Tigers would be without Cabrera?
This is where WAR comes in.
Like any other sport, baseball is a game of wins, and WAR measures just how many wins a single player is worth to their team compared to what a player off the bench, minor leaguer, or other “replacement” player can provide. Baseball Reference, Baseball Prospectus and Fangraphs all have their own calculations of WAR, but when it comes to the results they are all the same.
bWAR – Trout (7.8), Cabrera (7.0)
WARP – Trout (8.78), Cabrera (7.31)
fWAR – Trout (8.8), Cabrera (7.6)
Ultimately what it comes down to is the fact that Trout is worth one more win to the Angels than Cabrera is to the Tigers. And considering that Trout plays on the same team as Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and Mark Trumbo just to name a few, this one is significant. Of course, Cabrera plays on the same team as Prince Fielder and Austin Jackson, so it is not as if his numbers are insignificant.
Then there is the so-called “It” factor, which is also important in MVP voting. Cabrera’s “it” factor is that he is the best pure hitter in baseball and could be on his way to being the only one to win back-to-back Triple Crown titles. That was what put Cabrera over the edge last season in a race that very well should have probably gone to Trout. If Cabrera manages to do it again, there is no question who will be crowned MVP.
Meanwhile, Trout’s “it” factor is the fact that he is the prototypical five-tool player and perhaps the best currently in the game. On the season he has 29 SB and an AL-high nine triples (speed), 23 HR and a career-best 35 doubles (power), he is hitting .335, again a career best (hits for average) and his defense and arm strength are also both considered a plus.
Trout does everything well and that is no even an exaggeration. His added value because of his five-tools, is what could make him a perennial MVP candidate for the rest of his career. All-around, Trout is a better player than Cabrera as well because of all that he can do.
But that said, Cabrera is a powerhouse and the insane numbers (43 HR, 130 RBI, 95 R, .358/.449/.681) are just too hard to ignore. Obviously sabermetric supporters can argue Trout is more valuable and he likely is. The only problem is that the MVP is not really given to the most valuable but the best and this year, Cabrera has been the best.
In a year when it should be a runaway though, Trout is actually making it a race. His name is in the conversation, make no mistake, and depending on how the rest of the season goes, it really could be an anyone’s game between the two stars as to who takes home the hardware.