October is when a long baseball season of ups and downs come to a front, not only for the team that will eventually be called World Champions, but for the individual honors of Major League Baseball's MVP.
And this season is offering plenty to debate when it comes to who deserves that title. Here is a breakdown of the top candidates from both the National and American League.
First, once again in the discussion is reigning MVP in Milwaukee's Ryan Braun. His numbers are extremely comparable to those from last season and he has led the NL in numerous categories: home runs (41), total bases (356), slugging percentage, OPS (.987) and runs scored (108). If his suspension appeal doesn't do him too much damage, he could very well retain the title.
Then there is the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey, who was recently named the 2012 Comeback Player of the Year after a horrible injury at home plate, and earned his first All-Star start. He has a lot going for him since his return, including leading all of baseball with a .385 average, .456 on-base percentage and 1.102 OPS after the All-Star break.
And all of his hard work behind the plate earned the Giants the 5th lowest ERA in the league. If San Francisco can clinch the NLCS tonight in game 7 against St. Louis, that will just give his case a little more weight.
And lastly in the NL is Andrew McCutchen of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Most is credit to the incredible start he made to the season, leading the Pirates to their best ever first half. He entered the All-Star break with a .362 average, 18 homers and 60 RBIs after being named an All-Star himself for the second straight season.
Despite petering out a bit in the second half, he still showed why he is a good candidate for MVP, finishing with a .327 average, second in runs and total bases and a defense record that put him in Golden Glove contention as well.
The debate for AL MVP has been more discussed. Some are validating the argument of old school versus new school, but there is still a lot to look at beyond that.
First, you have the 2012 Triple Crown Winner Miguel Cabrera. Having that on your resume gives you a significant boost to start the discussion, but bolster it with a leading .330 batting average, 44 home runs and 139 RBIs, and you may forget why you're bothering to have the discussion at all.
Cabrera also led the AL in slugging percentage with .606 and on-base-plus-slugging with .999. Oh, and his Detroit side just knocked off Yankees with a clean 4-0 sweep and clinched the ALCS. I guess he's got a case then.
But, then there is the new school in the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout. Despite Cabrera dominating column after column in the stat book, Trout leads in a couple of his own: runs (129) and stolen bases (49), 83 RBIs, 30 home-runs and a .963 OPS. He also weighed in with a .326 batting average, just below Cabrera.
What is more difficult is how to value his capabilities and his success versus his youth. Someone with that much control, strength and speed, who was only called up to the Majors in April has to be worth something to the voters. When all added up, this makes him a really strong candidate. That being said, if he does not win the AL MVP this time around, I have a feeling that one isn't far ahead of him.
The funny thing about an MVP title is that any of the five candidates mentioned would trade it for a ring. For either Cabrera or Posey, they may not need to.