Unlike Mike Trout, MVP Miguel Cabrera came through in clutch
BY DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN email@example.com November 15, 2012 11:04PM
FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2012, file photo, San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey makes a diving catch on a foul ball hit by St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday during the fourth inning of Game 1 of baseball's National League championship series in San Francisco. Posey is the favorite to win National League Most Valuable Player, to be announced Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip, File)
Updated: December 19, 2012 1:08PM
Angels center fielder Mike Trout’s blend of power and speed and the offensive numbers those tools produced —and his defense at a key position and value as a leadoff man — are extraordinary stuff.
Trout played for a team that won one more game than Miguel Cabrera’s Tigers, but in the end, his team failed to make the postseason when 10 teams did. And when that playoff push heated up in August and September, Trout’s production lost steam. He batted .284 in August and .289 in September, his worst months, and during the crunch time of September, Trout drove in nine runs, stole seven bases and struck out 35 times, all season highs.
Meanwhile, Cabrera was hitting .333 with 11 home runs and 30 RBI and slugging .675 in September, leading a Tigers charge past the White Sox into first place in the American League Central after he had batted .357 with eight homers and 24 RBI in August.
It’s somewhat curious that Cabrera’s Triple Crown feat — he led the AL in average, homers and RBI — is viewed as less significant even though Cabrera became the first player to do it in 45 years. (Cabrera’s feat is more impressive considering he faced about 100 more pitchers this season than Carl Yastrzemski did during his 1967 Triple Crown season, and he had tougher, deeper bullpens to contend with. And don’t forget that Cabrera is a right-handed hitter. Yaz, a lefty, had the advantage of facing more opposite-throwing arms. But that’s another debate.)
And for those who maintain that .330 isn’t an impressive figure for a batting title, does the fact that Cabrera had only seven infield hits say anything? It’s one of many things that points to what a great pure hitter Cabrera is.
And that’s something that seems to have been overlooked in all of the Cabrera/Trout arguments and statistical analysis. Cabrera is a better hitter, a tougher out than Trout. Ask any AL pitcher which poison they’d choose with the game on the line, and they will say they’d rather face Trout than Cabrera.
The numbers support that, too: In the seventh through ninth innings, Cabrera had an OPS of 1.060 with 16 homers and 41 RBI. In late and close games, Cabrera batted .337 with a 1.040 OPS. His overall average with runners in scoring position was .356. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Cabrera was a .420 hitter with a 1.211 OPS.
There is some value in that.
Trout, meanwhile, had an Alfonso Soriano-like advantage of leading off games, facing starters searching for a rhythm with no need to tiptoe around the strike zone. In late and close games, Trout batted .277 with three homers and two doubles. He batted .260 with nine stolen bases, eight homers, 18 RBI and 28 runs in the seventh through ninth innings.
Late in the season, I asked a couple of executives and scouts and numerous White Sox players whom they would vote for, and they all said Cabrera. There was no hesitation in any of the responses. Here’s what every pitcher said: When they pitched against the Tigers, no matter where they were in the order they always knew where Cabrera was looming.
Trout is a five-tool wonder who had a sensational season, statistically and otherwise. What a talent he is, what a joy to watch, and he was only a rookie. I hope he treats us to more great things next season and beyond. I hope the loud and strong case for Trout as MVP is about him, not a metrics debate.
Cabrera deserved the AL MVP. His peers believe that, he won a Triple Crown, led the league in OPS and led his team to a World Series. And he was at his best under pressure when it counted most.
There wasn’t much to debate in the National League MVP vote. Giants catcher Buster Posey won in a landslide.