There has been so much talk in the media over the past week about who the front-runner is for this year’s American League MVP, but after just the last week, there is no way anyone can think the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera should not be the leading candidate.
Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim has been a great story. The, just turned, 21-year old outfielder has shown, speed, power, defensive ability, the tools to hit for average and just the overall intangibles of a five-tool player. In 88 games he is batting .346, has tallied 60 RBIs and stolen 36 bases to go along with 20 bombs. Solid stats and definitely the best numbers for a young player in the a long long time. Yet, his statistics pale in comparison to the guy batting third for the Tigers.
The little-big man in Detroit, with Prince Fielder locking down the big-big man title, has absolutely crushed American League pitching all year. He is batting .326, knocked in an AL leading 95 RBIs, has 142 hits, 29 long balls and even has four stolen bases on the year, all of this while making the transition to a third base position he hasn’t played for almost five years. Sure, he doesn’t have the flashy average or stolen base numbers Trout does, but look at his body of work in terms of when he is productive. It always seems Cabrera is improving his statistics in the late innings or during key at-bats. Oh, and for everyone who said Cabrera had a huge head start on Trout, he has done it all in just 22 more games, not that many when you think about it.
Many credit Trout for turning the Angels around. He came up and suddenly the whole team started to take off. Really though, on a team with Albert Puljols, Mark Trumbo, Torii Hunter, was it really a 20-year old kid who suddenly helped them remember how to hit? Sure, he probably helped but it is not like Trout walked into a locker room full of veterans and gave some speech about how they are better than this. Plus, sure he turned the Angels around, but turned them around to what? They are currently six-games behind the Texas Rangers, are third in their own division and a half-game back in the race for the final Wild Card spot.
Meanwhile, Cabrera has been the engine driving the Tigers. Just look at the last week to see how much of an impact he has on his team. With a bum-ankle, Cabrera hit a two-run walk-off moonshot to cap a sweep of the Cleveland Indians, hit one of the deepest home runs you will see at Comerica Park in the opening game of their current series against the Yankees and hit a another key home run last night to start a two-run rally to tie the game. All of that production is from just this past week too, let alone the whole year.
This season, Cabrera only batted under .300 in one month, April when he hit .298, has at least 20 RBIs in each month and has teamed up with Prince Fielder to lead the Tigers back from a below-.500 record to the first Wild Card spot and are now just one half-game behind the Chicago White Sox. Trout has had solid number too, only hitting under .300 in three games in April when he hit .167, has at least 16 RBIs in every month, again except April, but is starting to tail off with his average dropping sharply in seven August games, where he is only hitting .276.
August and September is when the real MVP candidates begin to shine and if Trout continues his downward August slide of a lower batting average, elevated strikeouts — he already has 11 this month— and lower power and RBI numbers, there is no way he can be awarded the MVP. Most importantly, he can’t win the MVP if his team does not make the playoffs with weaker numbers down the stretch.
The MVP award is not supposed to be for players whose teams make the postseason, but look at the last few winners. Justin Verlander with the Tigers who won their division, Josh Hamilton with the Rangers who won the division, Joe Mauer with the Minnesota Twins who won their division, Dustin Pedroia with the Boston Red Sox who won the AL Wild Card and Alex Rodriguez with the Yankees who won the AL Wild Card. You see where this is going. It is tough to picture a Trout, who had a fast start and tailed at the end, on a team that missed the playoffs winning the award over a Cabrera, who started slow and got better when it mattered at the end of the season.
Trout is a fantastic player and he probably will win at least one MVP in his major league career, but it just is not his time yet and all of this talk about him being the runaway AL MVP candidate is premature. There is a guy in Detroit who is continuing to post numbers that will one day put him in Cooperstown and to overlook it for a flashy young player would be a shame. As it stands now, Cabrera is leading his team to the postseason with what look like video game home runs and numbers. Hard to argue against just those two facts and think he doesn’t deserve to win the award.