NEW YORK — There is a fierce debate going on in and around baseball about who should win the American League MVP award, Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers or Mike Trout of the Angels.
Because Cabrera has a chance to win the first Triple Crown since 1967, he seems like an obvious choice to some. Because Trout comes out ahead in more nuanced statistics, he is just as obvious of a choice to others.
First, a few things to keep in mind:
• Votes are cast after Game 162. So postseason play has no bearing on the matter.
• The selection panel consists of 28 members of the BBWAA, two from each American League city. So there is no regional bias.
• Voters are asked to select 10 players.
• Pitchers are eligible.
To me, it's fairly simple. I'd give Cabrera the Most Valuable Hitter Award if such a thing existed. But the most valuable player is Trout. If you combine hitting, fielding and base running, he is the most valuable player in the league and it's not really close.
In terms of advanced statistics, Trout has a 10.5 WAR (wins above replacement), a statistic that calculates how many wins a player has been worth when his total contributions are assessed.
Cabrera checks in tied for fifth with teammate Prince Fielder at 6.5.
Cabrera has had an amazing season. He is hitting .325 with a .991 OPS, 43 homers and 136 RBIs. He is the guy you would want at the plate in almost any situation.
But Trout is hitting .321 with a .952 OPS, 30 home runs and 80 RBIs as a leadoff hitter. He also has 48 stolen bases in 52 attempts and has scored 127 runs in 136 games. His defense in center field is ridiculously good and puts pressure on the defense with how well he runs the bases.
Other than his teammates, you won't find too many players who will support Trout for MVP. Cabrera is a veteran and most players feel like rookies should wait their turn. Beyond that, the virtues of WAR are not a hot topic in most clubhouses.
If the Tigers make the playoffs (which seems likely) and the Angels do not (which also seems likely), Cabrera could get some extra votes. Given that the Tigers are 86-73 and the Angels are 88-71, that seems incredibly silly. But nonetheless, some people will take that into consideration.
When Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award with a 13-12 record in 2010, it created hope that writers were willing to look beyond traditional counting statistics. The MVP vote this season will test that theory some more.
Who's your choice, Cabrera or Trout? Leave a comment and let's have a discussion.