Should Win: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels
No, you have not fallen asleep and woken up back in 2012. The AL MVP debate will once again center on Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera.
Like 2012, the player who should win won't. Trout gets punished because the Los Angeles Angels' front office isn't as good as Detroit's. Make no mistake about it, though: Trout is the best and most valuable player in baseball.
Sometimes, you will hear that a player can be the best without being the most valuable, which makes no sense when you think about it.
Trout had sky-high expectations placed on him after one of the greatest rookie seasons ever, only to get better in 2013. His 10.4 FanGraphs wins above replacement this year was the highest since Barry Bonds' 11.7 in 2004.
The 22-year-old finished in the top three of AL hitters in batting average (.323), on-base percentage (.432) and weighted on-base average (.423). He was second in extra-base hits (75) and fourth in slugging percentage (.557).
Since I can see Detroit fans saying Cabrera beat Trout in average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, just know those numbers are only part of the MVP debate.
Trout was one of the best baserunners in the AL, adding 8.1 baserunning runs this season and stealing 33 bases in 40 attempts. His defense took a step back this year, but when you have his offensive prowess, it doesn't hurt much to be adequate with the glove.
By the way, putting up those offensive numbers while playing primarily as a center fielder absolutely helps Trout's cause. It is one of the most important and difficult positions on the field to fill.
Hopefully, Arte Moreno and Co. can figure out a way to do their jobs better so Trout can get at least one of the MVP awards he so richly deserves one of these years.
Will Win: Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers
It will be interesting to see what the narrative for Cabrera will be when he wins the AL MVP award.
Last year, it was how he single-handedly carried the Tigers to the playoffs, even though they were the best team in the AL Central, underachieved all season and also had two other legitimate MVP candidates (Justin Verlander and Austin Jackson).
There was also the Triple Crown story last year, which was a story for a long time this year until he got hurt and didn't perform in September (.278/.395/.333 in 72 at-bats). He clearly wasn't right at the end of the season, though that should positively impact his candidacy because it was value he wasn't adding.
When healthy, Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball. No one disputes that. There is more to the game than just being a great hitter, though, which is where Miggy's candidacy suffers. He is a bad baserunner, costing the Tigers 4.4 runs because of his inability to run.
Cabrera also rated as the worst defensive third baseman in the AL and second-worst among all position players, just ahead of teammate Prince Fielder.
Great hitters add a lot of value on the field. Cabrera is one of the best and most valuable in baseball, but he's not No. 1.
*Award announced on November 14