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Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers: .321/.921, 36 HR, 102 RBI
Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers: .330/.999, 44 HR, 139 RBI
Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays: .280/.941, 42 HR, 110 RBI
Derek Jeter, New York Yankees: .316/.791, 15 HR, 58 RBI
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: .326/.963, 30 HR, 83 RBI
Beltre, Encarnacion and Jeter all had excellent seasons, but I would be wasting your time and mine pretending that the most heated award battle in a very long time wasn't between just two players.
Cabrera became the 12th American League player to win the Triple Crown, something that hasn't been done in 45 years since Boston's Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the feat back in 1967.
Aside from leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBI, Cabrera also led the league in OPS and slugging percentage while finishing second in runs scored, behind Mike Trout.
How awesome that is cannot be overstated, but the accomplishment does not come with a guarantee of a MVP award. Ted Williams accomplished the feat twice, in 1942 and again in 1947, and he didn't win the MVP award. Neither did Lou Gehrig, who won the Triple Crown in 1934.
So there's a precedent for what's coming next.
Mike Trout put together a rookie season unlike anything that we have ever seen before.
He led the league in runs scored and stolen bases, finished second in batting average and OPS and third in slugging percentage. He didn't start his season until April 28, and oh yeah, he's only 21 years old.
That cannot be overstated either.
But if we take each player's offensive numbers and put them to the side, what are we left with?
A first baseman-turned-third baseman in Cabrera who, according to FanGraphs, is the second-most inept fielding third baseman in the game, trailing only Arizona's Chris Johnson. Among American League third basemen, there's nobody worse than Cabrera.
Trout, conversely, is one of the best fielding outfielders around, ranking ninth among all of the game's outfielders in UZR/150 and third in DRS. In the American League, he moves up to third and second, respectively.
If the MVP award was based only on offensive production, then it's no contest—Cabrera wins the award going away.
But this is the Most Valuable Player award, not the Most Valuable Batter.
Defense is a big part of the game, and the gap between Cabrera and Trout on defense is far greater than the advantage Miggy holds over the rookie with a bat in his hands.
2012 AL MVP Winner: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
B/R's Preseason Pick: Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim