Tepper: Mike Trout should win American League MVP

By Jeremy Tepper

When choosing a side in this season’s American League Most Valuable Player debate, it’s a…When choosing a side in this season’s American League Most Valuable Player debate, it’s a matter of new-age logic against old-age logic.

Those using the more conventional, older style of baseball reasoning are firmly entrenched on the side of Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera. They cite his possible Triple Crown award and deem this decision an easy one.

On the other side, however, sit the supporters of Los Angeles Angels rookie center fielder Mike Trout. His all-around excellence and incredible numbers make him worthy of the MVP award.

Count me on the latter side. This one’s a no-brainer: I would vote for Trout.

Examining the full body of work of each player, the decision is rather obvious. Cabrera’s candidacy hinges on possibly winning an imaginary award, the Triple Crown, which recognizes Cabrera’s leading the league in batting average, home runs and runs batted in, while Trout’s case is backed by overall statistics and his complete excellence in every facet of baseball.

Let’s examine each player’s resumé.

Cabrera is the American League’s best hitter, I’ll give him that.

The difference between him and Trout, however, is negligible. Cabrera boasts a .331 batting average, while Trout is hitting .325.

Cabrera’s only real advantage comes in his power numbers. He leads the league in home runs (44) and total bases (375), while Trout has hit 30 home runs and accumulated 311 total bases. The advantage is not as significant as it seems to be, however, as Trout has played 23 less games. If extrapolated to Cabrera’s 160 games, Trout would have 35 home runs and 353 total bases, lowering Cabrera’s advantage considerably.

All things considered, Cabrera is only a moderately better power hitter than Trout.

The last of the Triple Crown categories — RBIs — is by far my least favorite. This stat is all about opportunity and where the player hits in the batting order. Obviously, Cabrera has more opportunities to drive in runs, because he hits third in the order, while Trout bats first.

Needless to say, RBI is an imperfect statistic.

When base running and defensive statistics enter the equation, the scale tips in Trout’s favor.

There’s no perfect way to measure how capable a player is in these aspects of the game, but one thing is abundantly clear: Trout has become arguably the best on the bases and in the field, while Cabrera remains below average.

Trout leads the major leagues with 48 stolen bases. Cabrera can’t threaten defenses with his speed as Trout does, and thus, has swiped just four bases.

Finally, Trout is undoubtedly the better defender. Not only has he made numerous remarkable catches this season, but Trout’s defensive ability has also earned him a .987 fielding percentage, compared to Cabrera’s poor .966. And Trout accomplished this while playing an exponentially more valuable position — center field — than Cabrera’s third base.

So what do all of these stats mean?

Trout trumps or matches Cabrera in every aspect except hitting for power, at which Cabrera is slightly better.

A great statistic to quantify all the features of baseball (hitting, fielding and base-running) is wins above replacement, or WAR. Basically, WAR is used to demonstrate how many more wins any given player is worth than a “replacement level” player —  a minor-league or bench player — at his position. According to Baseball-reference.com, Trout leads Major League Baseball in WAR at 10.7. Cabrera, on the other hand, sits at eighth, with a 6.8 WAR. A full four wins is an immense margin and should clearly paint Trout as the MVP of the American League.

This argument isn’t meant to denounce the season Cabrera achieved.

He’s had a fantastic season — an MVP-caliber season, really.

But Trout is a once-in-a-generation talent — arguably the best five-tool player since Ken Griffey Jr., who lit up baseball with the Seattle Mariners.

Even though it’s his rookie season, Trout deserves to win this award.

Write Jeremy at [email protected]