Who Deserves the American League MVP Award And Why MVP Debates Are So Infuriating
We have been building towards this debate for years; a slow, poor fielding power hitter who also hits for average, against a fast, athletic, five-tool player who can do it all. The stakes: the American League's Most Valuable Player Award.
Never before have two players that were so completely opposite of one another been the final two contenders for the award and, as a result, never before have the two candidates been more divisive among baseball fans.
On one side, you have old school baseball writers and fans who don't want to be bothered learning what VORP or WAR are, (and why would they? I mean, WAR, what is it good for, right!? Sorry, I had to.) preferring to lean on more traditional metrics. On the other side you have a the newest crowd in baseball; the calculator toting sabermetricians who think that runs batted in are overrated and that every stat should be adjusted for any additional foot of fence or gust of wind in a given ballpark on a given day.
The result of these two sides clashing has been the most infuriating MVP debate of all time, taking what makes these types of debates so aggravating and amplifying it a million times.
Seriously, this year's American League MVP debate would a sit down between the creators of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama's political ads look civil and in no way dysfunctional.
Both sides of the equation are pointing to empirical data that, technically, is correct, yet is biased to make the candidate of their choice look like the better man (wins and home runs for Cabrera, WAR and OPS+ for Trout). Both sides are unwilling to bend on any one point of the debate, regardless of how wrong they are, and both sides keep throwing around one word to try and make themselves sound superior: logic. In their eyes, the MVP candidate they are backing is the only logical choice, and you are an idiot if you disagree.
If this is what we have to do before every MLB MVP award, I think we'd be better off as a society just getting rid of the whole thing. Keith Law isn't Socrates, ladies and gentlemen, let's not follow him into the depths of a baseball logical revolution, in which we just say elitist things to try and make those that don't agree with us sound stupid. It's nauseating, and it makes the end of every baseball season make a little piece of me wish we could just skip October and get straight to NBA season.
As for this year's debate, there still does have to be a winner, and I'm going to try my best to explain my selection in the least condescending way possible.
I understand both sides of the argument here. Advanced statistics add an additional legitimate method of determining a players value, and the old stats do just as good a job. With that said, Miguel Cabrera should be the American League Most Valuable Player.
Allow me to address the elephant in the room first, that Cabrera deserves the MVP solely based on the fact that he is about to win the Triple Crown. That is patently false. The words "triple crown" mean nothing to me other than that he clearly had a really, really good season.
However, the fact that he is hitting .331 coming into the season's final game with 139 RBI, is jaw dropping. Getting caught up in some made up award makes it sound like Cabrera is being picked out of some kind of sentimental desire to worship a guy who is about to do something we haven't seen in decades, which obviously makes the pro-Trout crowd angry. Don't worry, sabermetricians, it is still about the numbers, at least for me.
Also, this season, the Angels were third in the league in runs scored, second in hits, and had a higher team batting average than the Tigers. You can attribute runs to Trout, as he has scored more. With that said, he has worse numbers in the other two categories, meaning that his teammates put up way better numbers than Cabrera's did. The Tigers only allowed 17 fewer runs this season as well, an average of just over 0.1 runs per game, which is negligible.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the other elephant in the room, the fact that the Tigers made the playoffs and the Angels didn't. Outside of Cabrera and Trout, the Angels were better than the Tigers as an offensive ball club this year, and a virtually identical pitching team, yet the Tigers are in the playoffs and the Angels aren't.
This means two things. First, it means that Cabrera carried a team that, without him, would have been a mediocre offensive squad. It also means that, without Mike Trout, the Angels would be in the same place after tonight that they are going to be with him: planning their offseason vacations.
So there you go. No insults, no condescension, just one man's opinion on the American League MVP debate. Was that so hard, everyone?
If you disagree, or want to add another voice to the debate, drop me some knowledge in the comments section below.