The Washington Times-Herald

October 5, 2012

There's no debate, it has to be Cabrera

By Dennis Glade
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — Miguel Cabrera is the American League MVP, and it’s not even debatable.

The regular season closed Wednesday with Cabrera, the Detroit Tigers first basemen winning the Triple Crown, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished in 45 years since Carl Yastrzemski last did it.

But he’s not considered the odds- on-favorite for MVP.

By now you have heard about the ridiculous debate between old school statistics and new school sabermetrics that have come to the forefront thanks to Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout’s outstanding rookie campaign.

As a baseball fan for the past 16 years, I always hoped I would see someone hit for the triple crown, but figured with so much talent at the Major League level it seemed nearly impossible. We finally got to see the near impossible as Cabrera completed one of the best seasons in recent memory. To a baseball purist this would appear to be like Christmas, but for reasons that are hard to explain, Cabrera isn’t the clear cut MVP for the American League.

Trout has been a popular MVP choice since July when it became clear that he was the runaway Rookie of the Year choice and the Angels appeared to be heading towards a playoff berth. In 138 games, Trout has scored 129 runs, added 182 hits, 27 doubles and eight triples to go along with 30 home runs and 83 RBI, but also struck out 139 times. Pairing those numbers with his .326 batting average, .564 slugging percentage, .963 OPS and 49 stolen bases in 54 attempts makes it clear that Trout, 21, has a bright future.

To call that an MVP season is just wrong. Taking away he missed 23 games beforfe being called up in May, the only reason Trout is in this race is one new age statistic, wins above replacement (WAR).

WAR has been a popular metric that tries to value a player’s total contribution to a team in terms of wins over the value of a replacement player by calculating batting, fielding, baserunning and pitching to his team. As you would have guessed Trout has a Major League leading 10.7 WAR, Cabrera is third with 6.9. For more than 100 years baseball players have been judged on stats, and that system for judging the best players seemed to be working fine. Sure, Trout runs the bases and plays better defense than Cabrera, but this is baseball where batting average, home runs and RBI do matter. Do you think Tigers manager Jim Leyland would trade Cabrera for Trout for the postseason since Trout’s WAR is nearly four runs higher? Yeah I don’t think so.

 In case you were wondering, future first ballot Hall of Fame shortstop Derek Jeter, who has been lauded for doing all the right things to win games over the course of his 17-year career hasn’t had a WAR higher than 6.4 since 1999 when he had his highest WAR of 7.8, nearly three wins short of Trout’s 2012 season.

Cabrera just accomplished something that has been duplicated 15 times. Let that sink in — a season that is one of the most rare things in the history of baseball —  and we are overlooking it, because a metric that is less than a decade old says Trout is more valuable. Yes, Trout runs the bases extremely well and scores nearly a run per game, things Cabrera could only dream of doing, Buit it’s what Carera does that render’s this debate meaningless.

Cabrera, hit .330 with 44 home runs, 139 RBI and only 98 strikeouts in 161 games, on his way to leading the Tigers past the Chicago White Sox for the AL Central Divison title. Trout and the Angels didn’t qualify for the playoffs, falling short by four games of the Texas Rangers for the final AL wild card spot even though they won one more game than Detroit.

On Sept. 10, Detroit trailed Chicago by three games and it appeared Cabrera’s season wouldn’t get him and his teammates to the postseason.

In September, when MVP’s are historically crowned, Cabrera hit for a .308 average to go with 10 homers, 27 RBI and a .654 slugging percentage. As for Trout’s September, it appeared that the 21-year-old tired down the stretch while registering a pedestrian .257 average with five homers and only six RBI.

Baseball is a simple game, just pay attention to what your eyes are telling you. Miguel Cabrera is the MVP — just look at the numbers and you’ll see there is no debate necessary.