Miguel Cabrera, The Triple Crown, And Handicapping The AL MVP Race

Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

According to both the FanGraphs and Baseball Reference calculations of wins above replacement, Mike Trout blah blah blah something something something wow.

I don't want to seem jaded, but I was finishing the sentence the same way you were in your head. You've read it all by now. According to Baseball Reference, Mike Trout has been worth 10.3 wins. That's the same as Miguel Cabrera and Josh Hamilton stapled together. It's the greatest rookie season ever. It's the greatest season by a 20-year-old ever. Trout is currently tied with Barry Bonds's 2004 season, in which Bonds walked 232 times and hit 45 homers and got on base 61 percent of the time.

Mike Trout is having a good season.

And if it were up to the blognoscenti, the Internet wonks, Trout would be the unanimous choice for MVP. This is something historic that we're watching. When you factor in defense, baserunning, and everything he does at the plate, this is something we haven't seen before. People use the term "video-game numbers", but video-game programmers are too realistic these days. You can't make a Mike Trout in a normal video game. He's having a Game Genie season.

Here are some more numbers, though:

Batting average
1. Miguel Cabrera - .333
2. Mike Trout - .327

Home runs
1. Josh Hamilton - 42
2. Miguel Cabrera - 40

Runs batted in
1. Miguel Cabrera - 129
2. Josh Hamilton - 123

That's a fancy way of saying that Miguel Cabrera is two home runs away from the American League MVP.

If it seems like a weird, arbitrary reason to pick the most valuable player in the league, that's probably because it is. Cabrera would lead the league in three categories, two of which are waning in popularity and perceived value. Cabrera would be the MVP because Jose Bautista didn't hit 45 home runs this year, and he'd win it because Josh Hamilton hit .296 with runners in scoring position instead of .316.

Maybe that's too cynical. Cabrera would win it because he's having a monster season. Forget what the other people are doing; Cabrera is going nuts, and so happens to lead the league in three highly recognizable categories. When shoveling praise on Internet darling Mike Trout, make sure not to disparage the season Miguel Cabrera is having as a hitter. It's fantastic.

As a hitter. That's a key point. The other stuff matters. Trout plays an otherworldly center field. Cabrera plays a below-average third base, though he's supposed to get extra credit for not swallowing his stirrups this season. He's successfully navigated the stream of lowered expectations without tipping his canoe. Trout runs like a CGI creation, something you can't fully comprehend. In comparison, Cabrera runs like he's wearing flippers.

When it comes to hitting, Trout and Cabrera are close. Cabrera takes it, though. When it comes to every other part of the game, it's no comparison. That's why there's such a huge gap when it comes to WAR. But I don't think the voters need to have ever heard of WAR to know that, instinctively. The Legend of Mike Trout isn't just about how he's hitting or how young he is, it's about him robbing home runs and stealing bases with an unbelievable success rate. It's about him being the most exciting player since maybe Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays.

The Legend of Mike Trout is strong, alright.

But the Legend of the Triple Crown is stronger.

I guess there's a way to concoct an alternate scenario that Cabrera wins the MVP -- an insane stretch during the last week of the season, where he hits .528 with nine homers as the Tigers come back to win their division. But for the most part the calculus is simple, just like it is in the National League. If Miguel Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, he's the MVP. If not, Mike Trout is the MVP.

It's not how I'd vote. It's not how you'd vote. But there are still a lot of writers who would be physically incapable of not voting for the Triple Crown winner. So if you're a Mike Trout fan, you just have to hope that the pitching staffs of the Twins and Royals can keep Cabrera in check over the last 12 g ...

...

This is going to happen, isn't it? You should probably get some popcorn and watch the apocalypse from somewhere safe if Cabrera does it. When the traditionalists and sabermetricians are through killing each other, we can dig through their stuff and see if there's anything we can use.

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