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OMG! RABBLE! RABBLE! RABBLE!
Yeah, I know. And trust me, I'm as sick of this argument as anybody else. I've said what I have to say on the matter countless times, and there's not much more to say now that the season is over.
But there's one analogy I haven't used yet that seems appropriate. The best compliment that can be paid to Mike Trout is that he was basically MLB's very own LeBron James in 2012. He did it all, in spectacular fashion to boot.
Since Miguel Cabrera was more of a one-trick pony, I suppose he was more like MLB's own Kobe Bryant in 2012.
There's no argument that Trout was a better overall player than Cabrera this season. At the absolute least, Cabrera supporters have to acknowledge that Trout was by far the superior defender and baserunner between the two. Trout led all of baseball with 49 stolen bases, and he was robbed of a Gold Glove in a year that saw him finish with an 11.4 UZR and a Defensive Runs Saved of plus-21.
Cabrera, meanwhile, effectively did more harm than good with his baserunning and defense. He finished with a UBR (Ultimate Base Running) of minus-2.8 and posted a minus-10.0 UZR and a minus-four DRS. He was a poor defender at third base, regardless of what his fielding percentage may say.
Ah yes, but the offense! Surely Cabrera was the superior offensive player!
It's actually not as obvious as you think. Cabrera may have won the Triple Crown by hitting .330 with 44 homers and 139 RBI, but that's not a tell-all testament to his true offensive value. Home runs are fine and dandy, but batting average is overrated and RBI are next to useless.
In terms of how many runs Cabrera was worth in and of himself, he finished with a wRC+ of 166. Trout finished with the exact same wRC+, which shouldn't come as much of a shock if you actually think about how many runs he generated with his baserunning.
Cabrera did top Trout in wOBA, .417 to .409, so there's at least one sabermetric stat that gives Cabrera an edge over Trout in terms of their offensive performances. There are also plenty more that don't, however, as Trout topped Cabrera in True Average, True Runs and Batter VORP, according to Baseball Prospectus.
With their offensive production about equal and Trout holding a significant edge in baserunning and defense, it's no wonder he blew Cabrera away in the WAR race no matter which source you consider. As far as the numbers are concerned, Trout was the most valuable player in the American League this year by a mile.
What Cabrera supporters say at this point is that Miguel led his team into the playoffs and Trout didn't, and he did it by being significantly more productive in the last few weeks of the season than Trout was.
This is a fair point to make, but to give Cabrera all the credit for the fact that the Tigers won the AL Central in the end is to deny credit to the team's starting pitching staff. Detroit's starters were the best in baseball in September and October, going 13-8 with a 2.48 ERA and a collective WAR of 5.3.
Besides, shouldn't the MVP be for a player's entire body of work instead of what he did in the last couple weeks of the season? If so, Trout was both a statistically superior player and the player who had a bigger impact on his team in 2012. The Angels went 80-58 with Trout in their lineup, whereas the Tigers went 87-74 with Cabrera in their lineup. That's a .580 winning percentage up against a .540 winning percentage.
This is to say nothing of the fact that Trout was competing in a superior division. The competition in the AL West this year was far tougher than the competition in the AL Central.
If you subscribe to dogma, Cabrera is the AL MVP. If you subscribe to logic, Trout is the AL MVP.