Last Week: No. 1
The Miguel Cabrera vs. Mike Trout debate boils down to a very simple question:
Would you rather have a great hitter or a great player?
I'll take the great player any day of the week. And this year, no player in baseball has been greater than Mike Trout.
Trout can do it all. At the plate, he's a .323/.394/.554 hitter with 28 home runs, 78 RBI, a league-leading 46 stolen bases and 122 runs scored. He's on pace to finish with 30 home runs and 50 stolen bases, something that has only been done twice before.
To date, nobody has ever finished with 30 home runs, 50 steals and a .320 batting average in a single season. Trout has a very legitimate chance to do just that.
Miguel Cabrera, meanwhile, is on track to do something that has been done 15 times before throughout MLB history. As ridiculous as this may sound, Trout is thus on pace to do something more historic than what Cabrera is on pace to do.
Thus, there's a question of which one of them has actually been the better offensive player. And in my estimation, it boils down to more even than what Cabrera's Triple Crown numbers can suggest.
Cabrera may be leading the AL in wOBA at .421, but Trout is right there with him at .418, according to FanGraphs. Presently, Trout has him beat in wRC+, 172 to 169. That has a lot to do with Trout's ability to generate runs with his legs, and that's something he can do better than any other player in baseball.
Then there's the question of Trout's defensive value, which far exceeds that of Cabrera. Per FanGraphs, Trout leads all AL outfielders with a DRS of plus-25, and only Ichiro has a higher UZR. He's an elite defensive player, while Cabrera is at best an average defensive player.
Trout's assorted skills add up to a WAR that FanGraphs has calculated at 9.5, which is far and away the best in MLB this year, not to mention already better than any WAR posted by a position player in all of 2011.
FanGraphs' calculation of Trout's WAR is actually pretty conservative. Baseball-Reference.com has Trout's WAR at 10.4, by far the highest in baseball. For that matter, Trout's WAR is already the 24th highest in MLB history. He's almost matched Ty Cobb's WAR from his 1911 season.
I don't want to suggest that the MVP award should go to the player with the highest WAR year after year after year. If we start doing that, then the MVP award will become no different than the batting title or the home-run crown, and that's not how things should be.
However, it's a stat that does go to show just how much more valuable than Cabrera Trout has really been this season, and it's not such a hard notion to wrap your head around if you take a moment to actually think about it.
Offensively, Trout and Cabrera have both been excellent. Where the two players differ is that Trout has also been a force on the basepaths and on defense. In 2012, he's practically defined the word "valuable."
Dare I mention the fact that his Angels have a better record than the Tigers despite the fact they were 6-14 before Trout came along?