MLB MVP 2013: Making the Case for Each Finalist in AL, NL Races

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVNovember 14, 2013

Sep 29, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) rounds third base after hitting a home run against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Red Sox took home the 2013 World Series, but they aren't the only winners. Individual awards are also being passed out, and none is more vital than the Most Valuable Player award.

Both the American League and National League are down to three finalists, with tight races across the board setting up for some exciting announcements in the coming days.

While some favorites have emerged from the bunch, each player brings a formidable resume to the table.

Let's break down the best stats and attributes for each contender in the MVP races.

*All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.

American League

Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers

Oct 19, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) signs a baseball prior to game six of the American League Championship Series baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

How do you actually improve a season after becoming the first Triple Crown winner since 1967? Just ask Miguel Cabrera. 

Cabrera notched better numbers in batting average and slugging percentage than in his 2012 Triple Crown campaign and matched his home run total of 44. If it weren't for late injury problems and 53 home runs from Chris Davis, Cabrera would've easily won another Triple Crown this year. 

Miggy's numbers tapered off late in the season—.278/.395/.333 in September—but much of that had to do with the fact that he was battling a number of injuries as he fought to keep his team's title hopes alive.

A season average of .348/.442/.636 is nothing short of video game numbers. Unless voters forget his early-season prowess, he should run away with another AL MVP.

Mike Trout, CF, Los Angeles Angels

Sep 17, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels center fielder Mike Trout (27) swings for a one run home run during the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

The 22-year-old Mike Trout entered 2013 much like Cabrera—it was nearly impossible for him to improve after a historic 2012. 

Then, like Cabrera, he proved everybody wrong. He led the AL in runs scored, knocked in 97 runs and continues to be the player most likely to impact a game from any standpoint.

Whether it's in the field, in the batter's box or especially on the basepath, Trout is top-notch in every category and is only getting better at an age when even great prospects are still rising up the minor league ranks. 

There's nothing Trout can't do—he's the most complete-package player in the majors. When he's not competing against a batter as dominant as Cabrera, he'll easily win MVPs left and right. 

The only knock on Trout is that his team didn't win, but that has more to do with the rest of the Angels roster than the 22-year-old. 

Chris Davis, 1B, Baltimore Orioles

Sep 13, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis (19) hits his 50th homerun of the year in the eighth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre. Baltimore defeated Toronto 5-3. Mandatory Credit: John E. Soko
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

After nearly striking out of the league as a youngster, Chris Davis enjoyed a resurgent campaign in 2013 that produced one of the best power seasons in recent memory.

Davis became the first guy in baseball to surpass 50 home runs since Jose Bautista did so in 2010. In total, he hit 53—the most in baseball by nine. 

The long ball wasn't the only thing the 27-year-old had going for him, as he also edged out Cabrera for the AL lead in RBI with 138. He tied for third in doubles with 42.

All of those stats combined for a gaudy .634 slugging percentage, which was beaten out by Cabrera by just .02. Did I mention he also had 96 extra-base hits—21 more than anyone else in the AL?

It may not be enough to stack up against his counterparts, but Davis' 2013 season will be remembered for some time. 

National League

Andrew McCutchen, CF, Pittsburgh Pirates

Oct 1, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) hits a single against the Cincinnati Reds in the sixth inning of the National League wild card playoff baseball game at PNC Park. The Pirates won 6-2. Mandatory Cred
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Not only did the Pittsburgh Pirates enjoy their best season in quite some time, but 2013 also brought Andrew McCutchen's evolution into a superstar.

The 27-year-old didn't have elite numbers—84 RBI, 21 homers, 38 doubles—but posted an impressive .317/.404/.508 average. His 185 hits were third in the NL. 

Producing at this level as a center fielder makes it that much more impressive. Center fielders are known to be more valuable defensively than with their bats, but McCutchen does both at an elite level.

His 27 stolen bases and .404 on-base percentage ranked sixth and third in the NL, respectively. 

Not that it always acts as an influence for voters, but McCutchen also led his Pirates to the NLDS—their first playoff appearance since 1992.

Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks

Sept 3, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt (44) hits a single as Toronto Blue Jays catcher J.P. Arencibia (9) looks on during the fourth inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

It's hard to believe given the lack of attention it garnered, but Paul Goldschmidt led the NL in both home runs and RBI this season. Despite Goldschmidt's name not quite spreading like wildfire during his epic season, voters took notice, as he's one of the favorites to win the MVP award.

With 125 RBI, Goldschmidt hit 16 more RBI than any other National League player, and he tied Pedro Alvarez for the NL lead with 36 homers. His .302/.401/.551 average allowed him to join McCutchen as the only NL players to reach the .300/.400/.500 club. 

His batting average of .302 doesn't rank at the top by any means, but it doesn't hurt his cause either. He doesn't blaze a trail around the bases, but he still found a way to pick up 15 stolen bases on the year.

Even though he's known as a powerful hitter, Goldschmidt makes his presence felt in the field. Despite playing the stagnant first base position, he was credited with 13 runs saved this season. 

Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals

Oct 30, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; St. Louis Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina (4) reacts during the fifth inning of game six of the MLB baseball World Series against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The statistical resume of Yadier Molina won't convince many people that he deserves the award over McCutchen and Goldschmidt, but his overall impact is as notable as anyone's. 

Not much is expected of catchers offensively, but, despite that stereotype, Molina finished fourth in batting average and second in doubles with 44. His .319/.359/.477 average is unheard of from a catcher.

Molina's impact was also felt behind the plate—he threw out 43 percent of batters attempting to steal. 

On top of all of that, Molina was one of the leaders for a Cardinals team that came just two wins away from securing a second World Series in three years. 

After finishing fourth in the MVP voting a year ago, Molina continues to improve. He may not boast as much of a resume as his competitors, but Molina's 2013 season cannot be understated. 


    Kluber Is First to 11 Wins, Indians Rout White Sox 12-0

    MLB logo

    Kluber Is First to 11 Wins, Indians Rout White Sox 12-0

    Mariners Rallying to Get Ichiro in HR Derby

    MLB logo

    Mariners Rallying to Get Ichiro in HR Derby

    How Trout Can End MLB's GOAT Debate 🐐

    MLB logo

    How Trout Can End MLB's GOAT Debate 🐐

    Zachary D. Rymer
    via Bleacher Report

    Report: Omaha to Host Tigers-Royals Before 2019 CWS

    MLB logo

    Report: Omaha to Host Tigers-Royals Before 2019 CWS

    Adam Wells
    via Bleacher Report