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Saturday, October 13, 2012

Why Mike Trout Deserves To Win The AL MVP Over Miguel Cabrera

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you do not understand the advanced statistic WAR please read this article. While it is not a "traditional stat" it is still the best statistic we have to judge baseball players. If you refuse to keep an open mind about this statistic or refuse to even considered it in your analysis and will blindly judge players based upon numbers used solely in fantasy baseball then I don't want you reading this article because you're not smart enough to talk about baseball. I encourage you to get informed about how to better judge baseball players. Even has wised up

Mike Trout was the best baseball player during the 2012 MLB season. This is just a fact. I will help prove this fact throughout this post but this is truth. Not only was Mike Trout the best player in the American League, but he was the best player in all of baseball.

The best evidence of how great Mike Trout was in 2012 is mainly proven by his 10.0 WAR*. By far and away the best WAR in baseball. Second best was only 8.0* done by Buster Posey. That is a full two points higher for Trout and while 2 points may not seem like a lot, it actually is because mainly tenth and hundredths of points separate players. A 160 LSAT score is significantly better than a 158 LSAT score. 

Not only does Trout have the best WAR in baseball but he is one of the few players in baseball to actually hit the 10 WAR plateau. This is a rare feat that does not often happen. Since 2000, only three players have managed to get a WAR of 10.0 or better: Alex Rodriguez once, Sammy Sosa once, and Barry Bonds thrice.** The fact that Trout hit this bench mark is an incredible feat on its own and really should be praised more.

What is even more incredible about this feat is that Trout did it while missing the first sixth of the season. Mike Trout did not get called up in the majors until about a month into the season. To get a high WAR not only do you have to produce numbers (obviously) but you need to accumulate at-bats as well. Generally speaking, an average player who plays 162 games will have a better WAR than a great player who only plays for 82 games (this may or may not be true but the concept and logic behind this statement is true). It doesn't matter on a per game basis that the latter player was a better player than the former when it comes to WAR. But it does matter in Trout's case that he was able to generate that high of a WAR while starting a whole 22 games less than Cabrera.

The mere fact that Mike Trout hit the 10.0 WAR bench mark and the fact that he had the best WAR in all of baseball should be reason enough to award Trout the AL MVP but sadly this has become a debate and a debate I fear Mike Trout will actually lose when it comes to how actual voters will cast their ballot for who should win the AL MVP. 

The biggest hurdle against Trout is Miguel Cabrera and the fact that Cabrera won the AL Triple Crown- he lead the American League in batting average, home runs, and RBI's. This is an incredibly hard feat to accomplish and that has only been done 13 time prior since the 20th century. The last triple crown was done in 1967. I give all the credit in the world to Miguel Cabrera for doing what he did and he should get showered with all the praise in the world. But the fact remains that earning a batting triple crown is just not good enough to automatically win an MVP. Baseball has come a long way since stats were first created and recorded and even within the past five to ten years we have become smarter and more knowledgeable with not only how to calculate how good a player is but also how to determine which player is the best.

For starters, we know know how useless RBI's and batting average are as statistics on their own. Batting average alone is a bad stat because it has been proven that the best way to score a run is to get on base. On-base percentage is a much better measure for how runs will get scored. It does not matter if you get on base because of a hit or because of a walk, you just need to get on base. In 2012, Trout (.399) has a better OBP than Cabrera (.393). RBI's are also a bad stat because you can be a great player but if no one gets on base in front of you, then you can not generate an RBI. A great player can generate low RBI totals if few people get on base in front of them and a bad player can generate high RBI totals if the players in front of him in the order continually get on base time and time again. 

The fact that Cabrera (44) has more home runs than Trout (30) is a knock against Trout but what we really should be doing is trying to figure out who is the better offensive player. That is the underlying assumption people make when they make the "Cabrera for MVP" argument. Even though Miggy has a triple crown, Mike Trout is the better offensive player. The best way to determine who the best overall offensive player is by looking at their wOBA. (If you do not understand what wOBA is then read this great article). Mike Trout has the best wOBA in baseball with .422 and Cabrera has MLB's 3rd best wOBA with .416.

Trout is a better offensive player than Miguel Cabrera even though Cabrera won the triple crown is because 1) as mentioned earlier, two of the three triple crown statistics are bad measurements to begin with for measuring offensive output and 2) Mike Trout does EVERYTHING on offense well. While Miggy does have Trout beat in the home run department, Trout does have pretty darn good power (.238 ISO, albeit much less than Miggy's amazing .277 ISO) plus he is an elite base runner. He's third in the league in BsR (Fangraph's base running statistic), leads MLB in stolen bases with 49 and rarely gets caught stealing. Trout has only gotten caught stealing five times. A high stolen base total is not inherently a good thing if the player gets caught stealing a lot however in Trout's case his 49 SB is more impressive as he only had 54 attempts. 

Simply put, Mike Trout has been a better offensive player in 2012 than Cabrera. Trout can hit, hit for power, walk AND is a great baserunner. The sum of the whole is better for Trout than it is for Cabrera.

The bigger factor that gets overlooked is defense. 30 years ago we had terrible statistics for how to measure defense. Today we have many great stats. Because this post has gone on for so long I won't bore you with too much detail (although I do have the statistics to back up my point if need be) but Trout is by far the better defender, Trout is an amazing defender at a tough defensive position (centerfield) while Miggy is just a bad defender posting negative defense at third base. Posting a negative defense actually means you are costing your team runs. 

While it is true and a great counterpoint that Cabrera is playing 3B for the benefit of his team and everyone agreed beforehand that Cabrera should not be playing third so it is no surprise that he's bad at it. That is a fair point, but here is my counter. First of all, even if Miggy played 1B or DH like he should have from the get-go he still would have produced negative defense. Miguel Cabrera has never had a positive defensive season when he played first base in his entire career and all DH's produce negative defense by inherently not playing defense. No matter what, Cabrera is a bad defender and that hurts his team. While he most certainly makes up for his bad defense with his incredible offense, we should not overlook defense. Players play defense just as much as they play offense and just because it's harder to calculate and because it is not as mainstream as their offensive categories that does not mean we should completely discount it. We are judging the best player in baseball and that includes BOTH offense and defense.

The aforementioned arguments are reason enough for why Trout should be the AL MVP but sadly there are STILL critics to Trout. Here are some of the counter arguments against Trout that frankly don't matter but I will still discount them anyways:

- The Detroit Tigers made it to the playoffs and the Los Angels did not. Because Miggy put the team on his back and made it to the postseason and Trout did not, Miggy still deserves the MVP. 

Here are some bullet pointed counter arguments:

- The Angels (89) ended up with more wins than the Tigers (88). The Tigers benefited from an AWFUL division where their only competition was my beloved and terrible White Sox. Angels had to play with the Rangers and A's and still finished with a better record. If the Angels were in the AL Central and the Tigers were in the AL West, the Tigers would not make the playoffs and the Angels would have
- Getting your team to your postseason is not a prerequisite to win an MVP. See: Pujols, Albert
- The Tigers have three of the top 15 players in the AL not named Miguel Cabrera with Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander, and Austin Jackson. Miguel Cabrera was not the only one who got this Tigers team to the playoffs
- On paper the Angels had a great rotation with Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, and C.J. Wilson. They also added Zack Grienke to this mix. In reality, while Weaver was amazing, Haren was bad with injury issues, Wilson was really bad, and Grienke was horrible. I'm sorry Mike Trout doesn't pitch well enough to get his team into the postseason 

- In 50 years we'll still be talking about Miguel Cabrera winning the Triple Crown but we won't be talking about Mike Trout.

What a dick grandparent you are then not telling your kids about this incredible season by Trout? No one told you not to talk about Trout! For starters, four players have gotten a Triple Crown and not won an MVP and we still don't talk about them. But if you're really using this "memory" argument then I disagree with you. I think we will be talking about Trout because if he wins like he should then he'll be an another elite group- he'll have won the Rookie Of The Year award and the MVP in the same season. We'll remember that. Also, Trout has put up once in a lifetime numbers while only being 21 years old. All we talked about this year was Mike Trout and he was recently on the cover of ESPN The Magazine. If Miguel Cabrera didn't win the MVP we would still talk about Mike Trout 50 years from now...

- The award is mVp, Most "Valuable" Player not Most "Outstanding" Player which means we have to vote for the player that is most valuable to their team.

Well then we should give this award to Billy Butler of the Kansas City Royals considering he was the only player who decided to put up any sort of numbers. Out of the Royals 25 man roster, Butler was really the only person that seemed he wanted to play. Think of how many more games the Royals would have lost without Butler! 

First of all, can we please all agree while the technical title is "Most Valuable Player" what we really mean is "Most Outstanding Player"? That is historically the reason this award is given out every single year since its existence in all sports. We determine who the best player in the sport/league is and give that player the MVP. Secondly, even if we went by this inane "valuable" versus "outstanding" argument Trout still wins.  As mentioned earlier the Tigers have the best pitcher in baseball with Verlander and two other great offensive players in AJax and Prince Fielder. Even with Pujols (who's more name than machine) Trout was a huge reason why the Angels won so many games.

- If any GM was the general manager of the Tigers, none of them would trade away Miguel Cabrera right now for Mike Trout.

None of them? Really? You asked all 32 GM's this hypothetical question and they all said they'd rather keep Cabrera? That's cool you have that kind of insight into baseball and you're buddy-buddy with all these baseball hot shots!

This was an actual argument I heard from someone who was defending Cabrera. Why don't we ask Angels GM Jerry Dipoto if he would trade his young hot shot star for an aging veteran, huh? Not only did Trout have a better overall season than Cabrera in 2012 but Trout is 21 and under a rookie contract whereas Cabrera is 29 and making a boat load of money. I honestly believe more GMs than not would give away Miguel Cabrera straight up for Mike Trout right now. 

However none of that matters because that is an inane way to even judge who should be MVP and is not a legitimate arguing point. 

I'm sure there are more argument in favor of Miguel Cabrera and against Mike Trout but I neither have the time nor the patience to entertain those notions. Mike Trout is the best player in baseball and the best player in the American League. He deserves this MVP award hands down and as great of a season as Miguel Cabrera has had and as amazing of an accomplishment getting a triple crown is, it does not mean he deserves to win the AL MVP.

*As judged by
** Source:


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