The first Triple Crown winner in 45 years, Miguel Cabrera won the AL MVP
One of the most interesting debates in sports has finally ended, as Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner for batting since 1967, edged out rookie phenomenon Mike Trout as the American League's Most Valuable Player.
For Cabrera, it's his fourth straight season with over 30 HRs, 100 RBI and a batting average over .320.
Trout, meanwhile, enjoyed arguably the greatest season by a rookie in MLB history. He is the first rookie ever to hit over 30 HRs and steal over 40 bases.
For many, not only was this a battle between two of the game's most talented players, but it was a struggle between two distinct schools of thought in baseball analysis.
Supporting Cabrera were the old-school thinkers, who believed that the Triple Crown and the fact that the Detroit Tigers went to the playoffs while Los Angeles Angels didn't were enough to put Miggy over the top.
In the other corner were those who're students in the philosophy of sabremetrics, which showed stats that Trout was the better overall and more valuable player than Cabrera, despite the fact that his team missed the playoffs.
No player had won the batting Triple Crown since Carl Yastrzemski for the 1967 American League champion Boston Red Sox. The Tigers ended up winning the pennant this year as well, before getting swept in the World Series by the San Francisco Giants.
The Triple Crown had to be considered when voting for this year's MVP award. It is one of the rarest feats in all of sports, comparable to winning the Triple Crown in horse racing or passing for 50 touchdowns in the NFL.
At the same time, only one player has ever hit over 30 HRs, stole over 45 bases and score over 125 runs. His name is Mike Trout. And he played in a much tougher division, and the Angels still won more games than Detroit. The Tigers won the worst division in baseball.
According to FanGraphs.com, Trout was easily the most irreplaceable player in baseball, ranking in at 10.0 WAR.
Wins above replacement is one of many attempts at trying to estimate the true value of a player. It factors in everything: hitting, base-running and fielding. Trout does all of those very well, stealing 49 bases (leading the majors) and having an 11.0 UZR/150—one of the best among AL OFs.
Trout did this at 20 years old. As a rookie.
Cabrera, on the other hand, is a non-factor on the basepaths and was the worst defensive third baseman in baseball, dead last in UZR/150 at minus-11.2.
But clearly, the voters decided that the hype surrounding the Triple Crown, as well as the Tigers making the playoffs, was more than enough to elect Cabrera.
Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. Team success has always played a role in these awards. And the Triple Crown really could not have been ignored.
Miguel Cabrera is the American League MVP, and he deserved it. But Trout's season made a great case for it.
In the end, the old-school way of thinking in baseball won this year.