Miguel Cabrera: Is Detroit Tigers' Slugger the American League MVP in 2012?
Just 29 years old and already in his 10th major-league season, Cabrera has already finished in the top five in the Most Valuable Player voting five times in his career. Not surprisingly, Cabrera is right in the mix again this year as he tries to power the Tigers to their first back-to-back postseason berths since Detroit split consecutive World Series appearances in 1934 and 1935.
Looking at the traditional statistical categories, Cabrera is again in the mix for a triple crown. He’s second in the American League with a .323 batting average, trailing only rookie Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels. He’s tied for fourth with 29 home runs despite playing in one of the Yellowstone Parks of baseball at Comerica Park, trailing leader Adam Dunn of the Chicago White Sox by two. He’s tied with Texas Ranger outfielder Josh Hamilton for the league lead with 95 RBI, with Josh Willingham of the Minnesota Twins a distant third with 83.
In the advanced stats, Cabrera is no slouch either. His .384 on-base percentage ranks seventh in the American League, he is third in the AL with a .586 slugging percentage and a .971 OPS.
Gaudy numbers to be sure and this year, they’ve been done despite moving across the diamond defensively from first base to third base, a position he hadn’t played regularly since 2007 and not at all since 2008.
How consistent has he been? Since his first full season with the Florida Marlins in 2004, Cabrera has never hit lower than .292, never hit fewer than 26 home runs and never driven in fewer than 103 runs. He’s a .318 lifetime hitter and already has 306 career homers and topped the 1,000 RBI mark earlier this season.
Who is the American League MVP (so far) in 2012?
He’s won a triple crown of sorts, leading his league all three categories once in his career. His first batting title was last year when he hit .344 while leading the Tigers to the AL Central title. He led the American League with 37 home runs his first year in Detroit in 2008 and his 126 RBI topped the league in 2010, the year he finished a distant second to Hamilton in the MVP voting.
He’s done all of that while never missing more than 12 games in a season.
Baseball-reference.com tracks what it calls similarity scores, where a player is compared to other players when they were the same age. Cabrera’s career tracked with Hank Aaron when he was in his early 20s, Ken Griffey Jr. in his mid-20s and now most favorably compares to Frank Robinson. That’s some pretty good company.
Despite his consistent greatness, however, Cabrera always has seemed to be overshadowed when it came time for MVP honors to be awarded.
In addition to the runner-up finish in 2010, Cabrera was fourth in the AL voting in 2009 behind eventual winner Joe Mauer of the Twins, fifth in the AL in 2011 behind teammate Justin Verlander, fifth in the National League as a Marlin in 2005 behind Albert Pujols, then of the St. Louis Cardinals, and fifth again in the NL in 2006, the year Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies won the award.
It appears he’s running an uphill battle again this year, as Trout appears to be the media darling this time around. Trout’s been great, hitting a league-best .345 so far with 20 home runs, 60 RBI and league-leading totals of 87 runs and 36 stolen bases while playing a Gold Glove-caliber center field and he’s done all that in just 88 games and despite turning 21 on Tuesday.
Trout didn’t get recalled from Triple-A until April 28 and since then he and the Angels have been on fire. The Angels were 6-14 when Trout was recalled and have been 53-39 since and are in the mix for one of the two American League wild-card berths.
I’m not knocking Trout’s contributions this season by any stretch of the imagination, but for my money, Miguel Cabrera has been the most valuable player in the American League in 2012.
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