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Mike Trout, baseball’s best player, is denied MVP award

Nov 15, 2012, 7:04 PM EDT

Mike Trout Reuters

In handing Miguel Cabrera the American League MVP award, the voters weren’t making a statement that Cabrera’s four additional points of batting average, his 14 homers or even his 56 RBI made him a better player than Mike Trout last season.

Because this isn’t really about who was the better player.

Sportswriters decided long ago that the Most Valuable Player isn’t necessarily the best player. Because the best player is often quite obvious. One doesn’t need any inside knowledge to deduce the best player. In fact, it’s very much in the best interests of the BBWAA to keep the MVP criteria ambiguous and controversial. It’s the debate that keeps the machine going.

Mike Trout was pretty obviously a better overall player than Miguel Cabrera this year. He hit .326/.399/.564 to Cabrera’s .330/.393/.606, while playing in the tougher environment for hitters. He also grounded into 21 fewer double plays. Cabrera was still probably a bit more valuable offensively, but Trout more than made up for that with his defense and baserunning.

So what trumps that…

Cabrera won the Triple Crown.

But he wouldn’t have been any more or less valuable had Jose Bautista remained healthy and hit 50 homers. It’s a really cool feat, but the title adds nothing to his value.

Cabrera’s team made the postseason.

But the Angels had a better record while playing in a better division. Also, for what little it’s worth, the Angels were 81-58 when Trout played and 8-15 when he didn’t.

Cabrera moved to third base for the good of the team.

He never wanted to move off third base in the first place. Trout opened the season in the minors “for the good of the team” and never uttered a peep, even though that decision could have cost him millions in future earnings, the Rookie of the Year award and, as it turns out, the MVP award.

Cabrera was better from Aug. 24 until the end of the season.

Why Aug. 24? Oh, that’s right, Cabrera had a good game that day and Trout had a good one the day before.

Cabrera certainly did have better stats than Trout over the final five weeks. But here’s another truth: Cabrera’s RBIs were the difference in one Tigers victory down the stretch (3 RBI in a 6-4 win over the Twins on Sept. 29). Trout’s RBIs were equal to or greater than the Angels’ margin of victory on Sept. 30 against Texas (solo homer in a 5-4 win), Sept. 9 against Detroit (solo homer in a 3-2 win), Aug. 28 against Boston (two RBI in a 6-5 win) and also in that Aug. 23 game that no one wants to count (two RBI in a 14-13 win).

In my opinion, the best argument for Cabrera as the AL MVP is that he was the league’s second best player and he played in 22 more games than the best player, which has a whole lot of value. It’s hardly his fault, but the fact is that Trout contributed nothing for three weeks in April. Cabrera already had six homers and 16 RBI by the time Trout was called up.

And I’m OK with Cabrera getting the MVP. He’s been one of the game’s best players for a long time, and he hadn’t won one before. He’s not Juan Gonzalez; he’s a legitimately superb hitter and a sure-fire Hall of Famer unless he suddenly falls off a cliff. He wasn’t quite as good as Trout in 2012, but then, Trout’s 2012 campaign trumps that of most MVPs most years.

198 Comments (Feed for Comments)
  1. banggbiskit - Nov 16, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    Voters are old school, they arent interested in ‘moneyball’ stats, they’re interested in BA, RBI’s and HRs….Cabrera was better than Trout in all 3 categories. Im not saying its right or wrong, but it is what it is, that’s how they vote.

    • earache88 - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:11 AM

      Its called silver slugger not MVP

  2. temporarilyexiled - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:27 AM

    It’s a team game. The problem with many sabremetricians is that they seem to forget that. At a certain point, the statistics you create isolate the player too much from his context with the rest of his team. The MVP is a both an individual and a team award, even though it’s not presented that way. When players say they couldn’t have done it without the help of their team, that’s not just saying the right thing in front of the media. I’m still in favor of adding the “Willie Mays Award” to denote that year’s best position player in each league. You could win the WMA and/or the MVP. I agree, Mike Trout WAS the best player. But it’s a mistake to assume that being the best player automatically makes you the most valuable to your team. I know statheads want to believe this to be true. It totally validates how they’ve somehow found the miraculous answers to the questions of the universe that we oldtimers have been stumbling over ACTUALLY WATCHING baseball thoughout the ages. If Mike Trout wins the WMA and Miguel Cabrera wins the MVP, all we lose is the belief that this molehill is somehow a mountain. Can’t wait for 2013. It can’t come soon enough.

    • vanquish0916 - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:34 AM

      So many holes in this logic. If there was a “Willie Mays Award” for the best position player, do you honestly think these same voters who thought Cabrera was “the most valuable to his team” wouldn’t also think he was the best position player? He “had the most RBIs”, was “the most clutch”, and “led his team to the postseason”. The BBWAA eats that @$% up, they would absolutely consider Cabrera the best position player over Mike Trout.

      • temporarilyexiled - Nov 17, 2012 at 12:55 PM

        If your beef is with the BBWAA, fine. Unfortunately, they’ve turned down all of my requests to join them. Yes, that was sarcasm. Save your shock and dismay. I really don’t know how the writers would vote, but I do know that the MVP award has always rubbed me the wrong way. It’s not unprecedented to have major sports that have both an MVP and a Best Player award. Sometimes, they’re the same person. Sometimes, they’re not. Doesn’t seem so awkward to me.

    • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 6:13 PM

      The problem with non-sabremetricians is that they too often try to ascribe traits to sabremetricians that don’t exist.

      • temporarilyexiled - Nov 17, 2012 at 12:51 PM

        You mean like taking themselves too seriously, placing statistical analysis ahead of common sense, and forming conclusions that make more sense in the realm of fantasy baseball than art and science of putting together a winner? Guilty as charged. Yes, I ascribe the above traits to many, but not all sabremetricians. And, while I’m not a sabermetrician, I’m only a non-sabremetrician if the definition of that turns out to be someone who’s amused by the swing of the pendulum. Just because I criticize statheads (just using this word guarantees plenty of thumbs down and avoidance of anything I have to say) doesn’t mean I think the new generation of statistics isn’t a really cool addition to our discussions. When folks from both sides and the middle can truly come together and quantify a player’s value to his team’s chances of winning the World Series, then all of this much ado about nothing will calm down. Until then, we’re left with the fact that it’s just as hard to be truly accurate in how we value various statistics as it is to be truly accurate in the conclusions drawn by our eyes.

  3. WatchThis - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:42 AM

    Wah, shut up.

  4. metrocritical - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:50 AM

    Relax, baseball fans and number crunchers worldwide. You are stressing yourselves out over nothing, much like arguing over which model should have made the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition. Rather than bicker, why not simply behold and enjoy?

  5. jschulz79 - Nov 16, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    I’m not going to get into the “old-school” versus “new-school” debate. Instead, I’ll just say this. There’s something to be said for the fact the pretty much EVERY player or manager who was asked about the MVP said Cabrera should win. Numbers are nice, but both players had numbers to support their MVP campaigns (Cabrera – HRs/RBIs/Avg, etter “clutch” performance from 7th inning and later and a much better last month of the season, Trout – WAR, stolen bases, runs). But the people who actually play and manage the game on a day in and day out basis almost uninamously picked Cabrera. For the managers, an argument could be made that they are “old-school and crusty,” but what’s the excuse for players who would be more prone to accept “new-school” thinking? Both had great seasons, but in the end, it was Cabrera in a landslide.

    • Gamera the Brave - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:59 AM

      Well, as long as they’re crusty…

  6. albertmn - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:07 AM

    Both Cabrera and Trout had tremendous seasons. But, I think a lot of people feel Trout’s season should get extra merit because he was only 20. If anything, that likely cost him some votes, because many voters likely assume he will have more chances to win another one than what Cabrera will. Not saying that would be fair, but it also isn’t fair to give Trout extra push just because of his age.

    Personally, while Trout is very good defensively, I think his defense is overhyped because he robbed a few home runs. Even those plays were usually overblown, as I kept seeing people claim that Trout had jumped waist high to the top of the wall on the one play, when if you watch it, his armpit hits the top of the wall. That is at least a foot of exaggeration. Trout is really good, but you don’t need to exaggerate. He may have won an MVP a lot of years with his numbers. But, to pretend this is any kind of travesty is ridiculous. Voters picked between two very good players who both had very good seasons.

    • earache88 - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:20 AM

      Its not a travesty but anyway you look at it. Mike Trout is a better player. All awards aside. To say Trouts defense is over-hyped proves you haven’t watched him play that much. He gets to balls in the gaps that no one else can get to.

      • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:07 PM

        There’s no beating Detroit homers, it seems.

  7. earache88 - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    Mike Trout is the best player and would make any team better. Every general manager in baseball would take Mike Trout over Miguel Cabrera to play for them. MVP is that the best player not the best hitter. They have silver slugger awards for each position for hitting.

    • johndobelwrites - Nov 16, 2012 at 1:28 PM

      want to make a bet on that? Your supposition is insane. You really think that all baseball GM’s would take a rookie over Miggy?

      • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:07 PM

        Yes. But thanks for attempting a bet that can’t possibly be proven.

      • cpkerr - Nov 19, 2012 at 9:06 PM

        It’s not insane; it’s the truth.

        From Buster Olney’s blog: “I haven’t kept notes each time I’ve talked with players, managers and front-office types in the past month about the American League Most Valuable Player vote, and I can’t tell you exactly how many have addressed the question of whom they would pick, Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout. Probably about 50.

        “But the conversations have been so strikingly similar that I can say, for sure, that all but a very small handful of uniformed personnel — by small handful, I mean two — have told me they would pick Cabrera. And all but a very small handful of front-office types — as in, one — have told me they would pick Trout.”

        “A response from an executive, which is typical of many responses I’ve heard: ‘Why is there even a conversation?’ In other words, this executive views Trout as so much the superior player overall — with his peerless baserunning, extraordinary defense and exceptional offensive skills — that he doesn’t view them as close.

        “‘We’re seeing a combination of talents we’ve never seen before,’ said one highly ranked NL official. ‘He does everything. He’s among the best hitters in the game right now; he is the best baserunner; and he might be the best defender [in the outfield]. It’s actually hard to put into words how good he is.’

        “The advanced metrics do it for them. Some executives don’t use WAR, viewing it as something of a junk stat, but virtually every team uses some form of metrics to provide a summary of a player’s overall value, and Trout has dominated those, in that way that Tiger Woods once dominated in golf.

        “Those advanced metrics are used now more than ever to pick players, to build teams, to structure decisions made in games every day. The Cabrera-Trout debate is falling along the lines of red states and blue states, and it is just the latest clue about how much players, coaches and managers remain skeptical about the numbers that are crunched all around them.”

  8. siftin thru nonsense - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:23 AM

    Why dont you scale the results and compare per at bat or per plate appearance and look at who did better Homer-wise, and extra base hit wise,etc. Need to equalize. Hard to win mvp if u are not playing the full season. I’ll have to examine this deeper and get back on it.

    • cur68 - Nov 16, 2012 at 1:09 PM

      Nate Silver did just this. Check it out.

  9. beelza - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:32 AM

    Two years in a row, sabr metrics have failed! to deliver MLB’s most coveted individual award. In a crazy turn, Verlander had the superior, advanced stats, sabr stats and he loses this year’s Cy to a pitcher that had better traditional stats. Sabr metics is having a serious identity crisis. Moreover, the Detroit Tigers had terrible sabr stats compared to the Rangers, Angels, Yankees yet they win the AL Pennant. Sabr metrics suffers from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). I’ll make it easier for Trout fans and the article’s author to understand DID – Jekyll / Hyde syndrome.

    • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:06 PM

      Total bullshit from start to finish.

      • beelza - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:10 PM

        Brilliant and creative contribution, you maricone mother fucker.

  10. giselleisasucubus - Nov 16, 2012 at 10:58 AM

    Cabrera wins the Triple Crown, leads his team to the playoffs all while switching his position from first to third, which IS a big deal. Look what happened to Gonzo when the Sox stuck him in right. His numbers fell way off. Trout had a great year, historic, but he wasn’t the MVP. It isnt like the vote was close.

    • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:04 PM

      Playoffs are supposed to mean nothing to the MVP race…

  11. ken49ers - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    Wha wha wha….

    Miggy won because he deserved it. Next topic.

    • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:02 PM

      Don’t become a lawyer.

  12. irishphilly87 - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    Trout is a Jersey guy grew up a Phillies fan and I still cant belive how much people are arguing for him that he deserved it more than Cabrera! THE GUY WON THE TRIPLE CROWN. The best in the TOP 3 OFFENSIVE STATS that baseball has gone by for the last 100 years. Just because these pointdexter geeks piece together all these new #’s they come up with, no, Cabrera won the triple crown last time it happened was 1967. Apparently it’s pretty special considering it doesnt happen often. Cabrera hands down should have won it. Buster Olney’s and the Craig Calcaterra’s can suck Trout’s wang the rest of his career with all there MVP’s they award him.

    • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:03 PM

      This is because the new numbers are MORE ACCURATE.

      It’s like we’re speaking to children.

  13. irishphilly87 - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    And while on the MVP subject, itd be a travesty if a rookie won it but Derek Jeter is a living legend and never won it.

  14. 2dmo4 - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:25 PM

    Shuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuup!!!!!! Quite pissing and moaning.

    • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:01 PM

      No?

  15. panolapony - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:32 PM

    Let’s ask this question: As a former pitcher, who would I rather face in the bottom of the 9th, bases loaded, 1 run lead, 7th game of the World Series…Trout or Cabrera. If I am pitching, I would rather have to face Trout than Cabrera…period. Cabrera was a monster all year, but especially so the last 2 months, whereas Trout cooled off considerably the last 2 months. Anyone who has toed the rubber before, I believe, would come to the same conclusion. Miggy can’t be pitched to. I believe if you took a poll of MLB pitchers and asked them the same question, they would also choose Trout as the one they would rather pitch to.

    • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 1:05 PM

      So the MVP is all offense?

      No?

      Then this argument holds no water.

      • johndobelwrites - Nov 16, 2012 at 1:25 PM

        Argument holds plenty of water….The baseball players and coaches said Cabrera was the best this year. As to the person who wrote that baseball GM’s would rather take Trout over Cabrera is a lunatic. I watch a lot of baseball. Saw most of the Tiger games this year and a lot of Angel games living in So Cal. Trout has a tremendous career ahead of him but Miggy was the most feared hitter in baseball this year. In addition he played a decent 3rd Base. He is not Brooks Robinson but he has adequate range and a great arm. When the day comes that Sabremetrics chooses who wins awards like MVP and Cy Young will be the day baseball is ruined.

      • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 1:57 PM

        You must have voted for Romney. Statistics worked for politics, and they work here.

        Do you know anything about sabremetrics?

      • kicksave1980 - Nov 16, 2012 at 2:13 PM

        I hate sabermetrics and I’m a straight ticket Democrat…so don’t make assumptions. :)

  16. chrisjfla - Nov 16, 2012 at 12:53 PM

    Matthew Pouliot thought Milli Vanilli was the best group in Music after only 1 album! Lets slow down on anointing Trout as the best player in baseball after 1 partial season

  17. lionsplayoffs - Nov 16, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    One thing I’ve learned for sure in this whole debate. Troutheads are sore losers.

    • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 3:41 PM

      And Cabreraheads are ignorant homers. Point being?

  18. drpompanoduke - Nov 16, 2012 at 3:22 PM

    And trout’s numbers were on par with the CF from the pirates who was the MVP of NL. NOT. Sore loser these nerds

    • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 3:42 PM

      Wrong on so many levels. But if the preceding comments didn’t sway you, why should I bother making the attempt.

  19. weaselpuppy - Nov 16, 2012 at 4:52 PM

    Until the defensive and baserunning sides of WAR get fixed, it’s a fatally flawed measurement. How is it broken? Well of the hundreds of dWAR absurdities that anyone can find without too much looking…

    how about Mike Trout’s 130 games 2012 dWAR is equivalent to the entire freaking career dWAR of Al Kaline, generally considered one of the top 3-5 defensive RF in history….

    horrible metric…

    • drewsylvania - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:00 PM

      Yeah dWAR is fairly useless. But the eyeball test can tell you that Trout is a MUCH better fielder than Miggy.

  20. adm272012 - Nov 16, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    I just want to know do half of the people on this site even watch baseball or do they just form there opinions from studying advanced stats on there computers in there moms basement?

  21. Greg - Nov 16, 2012 at 11:40 PM

    No matter what the “old school” numbers say or the “sabermetrics” numbers say or the “guys who play and manage the game” say, there is no way to prove one way of the other who the MVP is. It is simply an argument of opinion that can never be solved definitively. In Michigan, Tiger fans are about 95 percent sure Cabrera is the MVP. They don’t base it on anything other than “He won the Triple Crown, they went to the playoffs, and I am a Tigers fan.” They will never be convinced otherwise and can’t be, because there is no real answer to this debate. It cannot be solved by science nor by “the eyeball test.” Both are valuable to their teams. Both teams are probably not as good without their guy, but determining who was really most valuable is really just a matter of opinion and will never be proven. They were both great. That’s good enough for me.

  22. pricejustin24 - Nov 17, 2012 at 3:10 AM

    I wish Canadians would just stop watching baseball. Die like the expos you losers and definitely stop writing about Americas pastime.

  23. xjokerz - Nov 17, 2012 at 3:39 AM

    Still front page on MLB headlines ? You make me sick Matthew

  24. marshallnbrown - Nov 19, 2012 at 6:13 PM

    For crying out loud. The award is for Most VALUABLE Player, not BEST PLAYER. Sabremetrics (sp?) will never be able to determine the value of a player to his team, the league or the game. It’s a very subjective issue, not statistical. Period. If you want to reward the best player, I also suggest you make it for a three year average, not one year, although Mr. Trout is a very impressive player… so far.

  25. kev86 - Nov 19, 2012 at 7:05 PM

    I would have voted for Miggy because he won the triple crown and it wouldn’t have taken me long to vote ( I’m not a Tigers fan or an AL fan).

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