Why Mike Trout, Not Miguel Cabrera, Is MLB's Premier Talent
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim outfielder Mike Trout has the full package. We hear that statement a lot spoken by scouts and "homer" announcers alike, but when it comes to Trout, it actually has truth.
Arriving to the majors in the shadow of Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, Trout was not necessarily expected to become the star he now is at just 22 years of age. However, he has done so thanks to his elite talent at several facets of the game offensively and defensively.
The elephant in the room, however, is Miguel Cabrera (I swear that's not a fat joke).
Cabrera won the Triple Crown and MVP last season and would have done so again this season if not for an out-of-nowhere 51-home run season from Chris Davis.
So, you may fairly ask, how could I not think Cabrera is Major League Baseball's premier talent? The simple answer is that if I were given the choice of either Trout or Cabrera (age disregarded) to build my team around, I would choose Trout for his better overall skill (see video of Trout hitting for the cycle for just a taste of evidence).
The long answer is to follow...
Let's break down the qualities of an all-around baseball player into the following five categories* and see how Trout and Cabrera compare, shall we?
Hitting for Average
I didn't think it was possible, but Cabrera managed to improve upon his .330 average from last year and is currently sitting at a league-best .349. This facet of the game probably goes to Cabrera as he has beaten Trout in each of the years where they were in the league together...
However, for Trout proponents it's not all bad. In Cabrera's first two seasons he hit .268 and .294, much lower than Trout's two years of amazing consistency at .326. So, although Cabrera beats out Trout today, Trout looks to be ahead of the game in terms of career numbers (I am, however, by no means assuring Trout can keep up that pace for the next 10 years of his MLB career).
Hitting for Power
Baseball doesn't feature a bevy of hitters who can hit for power in addition to their ability to hit for average. This year, for example, only six players are hitting .300+ with 25+ home runs (Trout and Cabrera being two of them). In truth, they are a rare breed.
There should be no doubting Trout's power (as the video here shows) to hit the ball out of the park, but he likely loses this battle to Cabrera as well...
However, I did some math and through his first three seasons in the big leagues, Cabrera's home run rate was 0.05 (about once every 20 at-bats). And Trout's? He is also at 0.05, so the hitting of Cabrera and Trout becomes much more comparable the further we go back in Cabrera's career.
One could make the argument that baserunning is overrated and that if you hit home runs all day, baserunning is rendered essentially useless. Why baserunning is so important, however, is the ability to take extra bases and bring your team 90 feet closer to a run.
For instance, the difference between a man on first with one out is light years away from a man on second one out. If a player can steal second it takes away the double play and puts you in a position to score on a single. These are the small differences that make big changes in close games.
Miguel Cabrera could never do this. He is the guy you want at the dish when the speedster steals that bag, but he could never be the guy stealing.
Trout can be. Moreover, he has been 33 times this season and 49 times in his rookie season.
Stealing bases is one thing, but how that aggressiveness and speed ultimately affects the number of runs on the board is the only thing that matters. Scoring 108 this year and a league-leading 129 in 2012, Trout is one of the best in the business at getting around the bases in the most economical way possible.
Cabrera's defensive troubles may not be widely noticed because his offensive production really is that good, but most baseball fans could tell you Mike Trout is a beast on the defensive side. Exhibit A, the below video.
Game changing ability
When you're talking about game changing ability, you're talking about wins above replacement (WAR). When you talk about WAR, you're talking about Mike Trout. His 10.7 mark last year was the highest WAR since Barry Bonds' steroid-induced campaign in 2002 when he had a 11.6 WAR. One could argue he has put the stat on the map and it became one of the points of argument for those vying for him to win MVP last year (his WAR was 10.7 while Cabrera's was 6.9).
Who is the best MLB talent?
This season, Trout sits at a league-best 9.1. Further displaying his versatility, last year Trout became the first rookie to hit at least 30 home runs and steal at least 40 bases.
Of course, there is no doubt in my mind that Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball, but he is absolutely dominated by Trout in three of these key categories while Cabrera wins the hitting elements apparently by way of experience (Cabrera's hitting numbers from his first couple years look a lot like Trout's), leading me to declare the Angels' outfielder a better overall talent.
*I realize the five-tool player refers to hitting for average, hitting for power, baserunning, throwing and fielding, but as there is no practical way to compare arm strength through statistics, I replaced it with game changing ability.
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