Let’s put all the cards on the table–Mike Trout has been an absolute godsend for my fantasy baseball team. OK, we can begin.
Mike Trout is getting robbed. It’s as if Trout wasn’t just forced to dress as a baby, but he also was forced to be a baby, and Miguel Cabrera walked in and took his candy, err MVP.
For those of you who do not know, Miguel Cabrera is the third baseman for the Detroit Tigers, just won the Triple Crown for the first time since Carl Yastrzemski in 1968 and is now the prohibitive favorite to win the American League MVP this season.
And it’s flat out wrong.
Plenty of people have been hooked onto the Trout bandwagon–all of my puns are always intended–but as someone who followed the 21-year old rookie from the beginning, let me tell you why it shouldn’t just be men in suits poring over stat sheets who agree that Trout deserves the trophy.
Let’s begin with the reasons Cabrera deserves to put the award on his mantle when the Baseball Writers’ Association of America announces the winner in a few weeks.
Reason No. 1: The Triple Crown is awesome, sacrosanct and anyone who wins the batting title, RBI title and home run crown in the same season has to be the best player that year, maybe even in the conversation for greatest player of all time.
Except that I fooled you with my sarcasm.
Reason No. 1 is a trap that people want you to fall into–the Triple Crown is not awesome, and while Cabrera is having a great year, it’s not better than Trout’s. Just look at the numbers.
Trout’s triple-slash is .326/.398/.962. He scored 130 runs. He hit eight triples, had 49 steals, was caught stealing just five times and oh, yeah, hit 30 home runs as well. In 138 games. That’s stupid good, but some people tell you it’s not enough.
Because Cabrera was damn good himself. The slugging Venezuelan hit .330 with 44 home runs and 137 RBI. In most years, those numbers will lock you into the trophy early in September. But not when you try to take on a man whose game is as good as his name is fishy.
If they gave an award each season to the player who had at least 30 home runs, 45 stolen bases and 125 runs, Trout would be the first to win it.
Because no player in history has done it before. And Trout did it in 138 games. I’m no historian, but “never done before” sounds at least a little better than “last done in 1967.”
That doesn’t even begin to get into the real nerdy stats, like Wins Above Replacement (WAR). WAR is supposed to be an all-encompassing sabermetric stat that shows how a player contributes to his team based on all facets of his game. Literally, WAR represents the best estimation of how many wins a player is worth when compared to a baseline “replacement” player.
According to FanGraphs analytics, Mike Trout’s WAR this season is 10.3, in 138 games. Miguel Cabrera’s was 7.1. Cabrera has even been passed by another player, Robinson Cano, mostly because his defense is, well, porous.
Trout’s, on the other hand, has been unbelievable. Don’t believe me? Just ask J.J. Hardy, who was robbed of a home run that would have cleared the fence by a good four feet had Trout’s leap not been perfect. Or Gordon Beckham, who was likewise victimized by the Trout. Or Miguel Olivo, who had almost rounded second base when Trout’s glove came back over the wall with Olivo’s blast in the webbing.
Cabrera? He has 13 errors–which is not all that shabby–but he is ranked as one of the slowest fielders with one of the smallest range in the big leagues, costing his team close to 10 runs over the course of the season.
For those who smugly note that Cabrera didn’t need those runs, or those extra wins because his team is sitting in the playoffs while Trout sits in his parents’ home (where he still lives), I say for shame. The Detroit Tigers would have finished fourth in the AL West, a full four games behind the Angels, and playing in one of the weakest divisions (the AL Central) is nothing to be proud of.
In any other year, I’d be the first one to say that Miggy’s accomplishment is awesome and truly deserving of the MVP. But history is not kind to players that cater solely to the “Big Three” of statistics.
Manny Ramirez had an unbelievable season in 1999, quite honestly a season for the ages. Man-Ram hit .333 that year, with 44 home runs and a whopping 165 RBI in 147 games. And he didn’t win the MVP because Ivan Rodriguez had a great offensive year and was a much more valuable defender as a standout defensive catcher.
Heck, Ted Williams won the Triple Crown in 1947 and even the Splendid Splinter didn’t take home the “P.”
What I am saying is just that we need to look more closely and completely at athletes these days, because we have more data to add to the good old eye test. The Triple Crown is an amazing achievement that Cabrera should be proud of. But what it really means is that he had a great year and other people might not have had their best years or might have gotten hurt.
Josh Hamilton surely would have won the home run title if he hadn’t missed 10 games after drinking too much caffeine and getting dry corneas. Trout would have had even better numbers, maybe closer to 100 RBI, 35 homers and 60 steals if he hadn’t gotten a bad virus in spring training and been sent to the minor leagues to begin the year.
Crazy things happen, and I take nothing away from Cabrera, but Mike Trout is the MVP. Full disclosure–I own a Mike Trout fish hat.<P>
Miles Bennett-Smith also would vote for Ryan Braun as the NL MVP, because the man beat the rap. If you’d like to tell him all the reasons baby-faced Buster Posey will be MVP, send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @SmilesBSmith.