For the second consecutive season, the American League will have a controversial end to its Most Valuable Player race.
Angels rookie Mike Trout has put together a season that is unprecedented in baseball history. Trout has 45 steals, 30 home runs and 125 runs scored in a season, which according to ESPN Stats and Info, is the first time in Major League Baseball history in which that has happened.
The speed threat that is produced from Trout's legs has allowed the 21-year-old to lead baseball in steals with 48 bags swiped in 52 attempts. Trout's speed has put him on top of Bill James' speed score for the 2012 season.
Trout has also robbed three home runs—the first time that has happened in baseball since 2010 when two Seattle Mariners, Ichiro Suzuki and Franklin Gutierrez, took away three potential home runs (according to New York Times' Joanne C. Gerstner).
Perhaps the most impressive stat that Trout has from his historic season is his WAR statistic. Currently, FanGraphs has Trout's WAR at 10. This is the first time since 2004 that any player has achieved a WAR rating in double digits.
Ultimately, Trout will win the American League Rookie of the Year hands down, and will also capture the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove.
And Trout did all of this while missing the entire month of April while he was playing with the Salt Lake Bees in Triple-A.
But what Trout has done pales in comparison to the season that Miguel Cabrera has registered for the Tigers.
With three games left, Cabrera has compiled an outstanding campaign of his own. Cabrera leads the American League in all three Triple Crown categories: batting average at .325, RBI with 136, and is tied with Texas Rangers outfielder for the league lead in home runs with 43.
If Cabrera can complete the Tripe Crown, he will become the first player since Red Sox outfielder Carl Yastrzemski did so in 1967.
Those are not the only stats that Cabrera leads the American League in. Cabrera has the highest slugging percentage in the Junior Circuit (.601), while also leading in OPS (.991). Cabrera is also second in hits with 199.
Granted, Trout also leads Cabrera in some other key stats like walks (67 to 66) and on-base percentage (.395 to .390).
Trout has also been arguably the best defensive player in baseball with his aforementioned heroics in robbing home runs. But there is no real defensive precedence that could be used to compare and/or contrast the two players because Cabrera is a third baseman and Trout, an outfielder.
Defensive WAR and fielding percentage are probably the two best ways to make this selection.
In defensive WAR, Trout has a 2.3 rating while Cabrera has a -.3 rating. But when ranked among his peers in both leagues at third base, Cabrera has the sixth-highest fielding percentage. Meanwhile, Trout has the eighth-highest percentage among outfielders in baseball.
Now, Trout's fielding percentage is much higher than Cabrera's (.992 to .966), but Cabrera plays at third base, which is arguably the second hardest position to play in baseball. Traditionally, the best third basemen will make more errors than the best outfielder.
A run-through of these statistics shows that Mike Trout has been superior to Miguel Cabrera. And the historic feats that Trout has replicated will not be replicated for many years.
Even if Cabrera completes the historic treble that has not been done in 45 years, it does not necessarily mean that he will win the MVP award.
Ted Williams won the Triple Crown two times in his career, but did so without winning the MVP award. In 1942 and '47, Yankees Joe Gordon and Joe DiMaggio won the MVP over the Splendid Splinter.
In 1934, Lou Gehrig won the Triple Crown, but finished fifth overall in the MVP chase. And one year earlier, Phillies outfielder Chuck Klein completed the Triple Crown, but finished a distant second to Giants pitcher Carl Hubbell in MVP voting.
Though these examples happened over 60 years ago, the precedence from these four cases gives Trout hope.
However, all four of these examples have something that Trout cannot claim: the MVPs in all four of those seasons were on teams that finished in first place in the single-division format that was used at the time—which meant that all four MVPs went to the World Series.
This season, Trout has starred on a third-place Angels team that was expected to contend against the Rangers and at the very least earn a playoff berth.
However, since Trout's call-up, the Halos have been stuck in third place in the difficult AL West thanks to the Oakland Athletics.
On Sunday, they were officially eliminated from playoff contention.
Cabrera, on the other hand, has kept the Tigers in the AL Central race despite an underwhelming season from most of the squad. In short, Cabrera's second half has gotten Detroit to a second consecutive division title.
When voters make their decision, they will have a set of guidelines to help them choose who they feel is the Most Valuable Player. Thanks to Seattle Times columnist Geoff Baker, we can see what guidelines will be used:
The rules of the voting remain the same as they were written on the first ballot in 1931: (1) actual value of a player to his team, that is, strength of offense and defense; (2) number of games played; (3) general character, disposition, loyalty and effort; (4) former winners are eligible; and (5) members of the committee may vote for more than one member of a team.
If we were to make our final decision based on these guidelines, Trout would win statistically. But we also have to remember that Trout did not have to carry his team like Cabrera did.
This year's Angels lineup had names like Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, Torii Hunter and Kendrys Morales all protecting the rookie outfielder.
Meanwhile, Cabrera did have Prince Fielder and Austin Jackson around him, but the Tigers lacked the additional pop for their third baseman that the Angels lineup provided for Trout.
The term value has additional meaning in this duel. Though Trout's speed certainly has played a major role for the Angels, Cabrera's RBI production easily supersedes Trout's. Cabrera's 136 RBI leads baseball, while Trout's 80 RBI are fourth on his own team.
Though Trout has been by far the better defensive player, let's not forget that Cabrera has put together a strong showing at third base, which he has not played on a full-time basis since he was on the 2007 Florida Marlins.
Heading into the second criteria, Cabrera has played in 158 games, much more than Trout's 136. Even if Trout were to have played an entire season, Cabrera would still have participated in more games than Trout, considering Trout has taken three games off this season to Cabrera's one.
When it comes to general character, both players are strong examples of a great teammate. Trout has moved around the outfield to make room for his teammates, while Cabrera moved over to third base, a position that he had not played in with the Tigers since 2008.
Both players are good examples of team-first players. And there is no doubt that both individuals are loyal and put in tons of effort.
But ultimately, Cabrera has to get an edge from the third point. That move over to third base to allow Fielder to play first shows tremendous effort. Even after suffering a non-displaced fracture of the orbital floor in his right eye, Cabrera worked hard and has put in an average season for a third baseman.
There were no reports that Trout was upset that he got demoted to Triple-A. But it is hard to take his promotion to the major leagues in the same way as Cabrera, mainly because Trout came to the show thanks to a strong first month in Salt Lake City.
Because the fourth point is irrelevant, that leaves the fifth and final point. When it comes time to vote, there will probably be several people who will split their first ballots between these two players.
When the votes are tallied, expect Cabrera to win. The vote for the MVP is not a vote on who is the best statistical player, but rather who has been the best overall player in the league and who has contributed the most to their team's success.
If Mike Trout never played with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim this season, the club would be in third place. With Trout, they are still a third-place team, though they were a contender until the final days of the season.
The Detroit Tigers were expected to win the AL Central before the season started thanks to the addition of Fielder. However, the club struggled throughout the season and would not be in position to make the playoffs without Cabrera's recent contributions.
Through the months of August and September, Cabrera batted .332, had 18 home runs and 51 RBI. He also had an OBP of .405 and 67 hits.
Meanwhile, Trout did have more runs and stolen bases during this two-month stretch, but his average stood at just .271 with 12 homers and 25 RBI. These stats combined barely beat Trout's outstanding July, while his batting average was over .120 lower in August and September than in July.
Now, it is slightly unfair to just base an entire MVP race off of two months, but ultimately, Mike Trout's play did not lift the Angels to the wild-card playoff spot despite a 30-25 record in August and September.
Meanwhile, the Tigers went 32-23 during that same stretch, which was enough for Detroit to take the division from the reeling White Sox.
The reason why MVP awards are decided during the final two months of the season is because the games that take place during this time are the most important ones of the season.
Cabrera rose above everyone to put himself within reach of a triple crown. Trout's play was contained well enough to see his stats diminish. That is why Cabrera will win the MVP.