Tigers’ Cabrera clear choice for MVP award

The Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, celebrating a home run on September 22, 2012, is the American League's first Triple Crown winner in 45 years and he captured the league's MVP trophy on Thursday, November 15, 2012. (Diane Weiss/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

As if winning the American League Triple Crown wasn’t enough, Detroit Tigers’ third baseman Miguel Cabrera was voted the AL’s Most Valuable Player Nov. 15. Cabrera is the first Tigers position player to win the MVP since Hank Greenberg in 1940.

Leading up to the final votes by the Baseball Writers Association of America, it seemed as if this would be neck-and-neck between Cabrera and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim rookie outfielder Mike Trout.

However, the BBWAA votes weren’t as close as most expected: Cabrera received 22 first-place votes (362 points) as opposed to Trout’s six (281 points).

The way each player receives points are by which votes they receive. Each first place vote is worth 14 points, second place votes are worth 13 and progressively less as the place gets lower. A last place vote earns only a single point.

The long debate over who would win has been called “The War on WAR.” WAR is the sabermetric statistic for Wins Above Replacement. Trout’s WAR for the season was 10.7, while Cabrera scored a 6.9.

That leads up to the next question that many casual baseball fans and non-fans alike ask: How is WAR even measured? Many fans think that this is a made-up number that has no true origin other than it being some guesstimated number.

In short, WAR takes wins, hitting, baserunning and defense all into account. Baseball Prospectus writer Russell Carleton posted an article titled “WARP for People Who Didn’t Like Math Class” to better explain the statistic without giving confusing numbers.

Many fans that were pro-Cabrera saw this “new school” stat as a silly way of having pencil pushers think they know more about baseball than the next guy. Plus, the Tigers made it to the playoffs, whereas the Angels did not.

BBWAA member and MLB analyst Tim Kurkjian discussed his thought process on ESPN’s Mike and Mike radio show as he sent in his vote.

“I had Mike Trout as No. 1 until the final week of the season and I flipped because Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown,” Kurkjian said. “[Cabrera] won it for a team that won the division where Mike Trout’s team finished in third place.”

The Tigers finished first place in the AL Central Division title with an 88-74 record, whereas the Angels had an 89-73 record but didn’t make the playoffs after finishing in third place in the AL West behind the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers.

Many fans argue that the Tigers wouldn’t have made it into the playoffs without Cabrera. Let’s not forget that there are two other Tigers that finished in the top ten in AL MVP voting, pitcher Justin Verlander (58) and first baseman Prince Fielder (56). It’s fair to say that the Tigers couldn’t have had the same success without Verlander and Fielder as well.

The voters may have weighed their votes on the basis of Cabrera being the first Triple Crown winner since 1967, when Carl Yastrzemski had 44 home runs and 121 RBIs with a .326 batting average. That’s very hard to argue with. Cabrera knocked in 139 RBIs and 44 home runs with a .330 average. Saying that these stats are remarkable just doesn’t provide Cabrera justice.

Defense was Cabrera’s biggest flaw. Even though he shed weight to play third base to make sure Fielder could play first base, it doesn’t take away the fact that Cabrera was seen as a “defensive liability” to some.

The 240-pounder committed 13 errors in the hot corner, while Trout only had four errors while playing all three outfield positions. Trout also had a higher fielding percentage (.988 percent) than
Cabrera (.966 percent).

As far as base running, Trout stole 49 bases and was only caught five times while Cabrera stole four bags and being only caught once. But that would be adding more wood to a successful fire.

Yes, Cabrera is probably the best right-handed hitter today, probably one of the best ever, and he absolutely deserved and earned his MVP title, but Kurkjian said it best, “I’m not sitting on the fence here, there were two MVPs in the AL this year; it is impossible to make a good case against Mike Trout.”

The dust has long settled as Cabrera received 22 out of the 28 first place votes, and deservingly so. Both leading candidates deserved the title but only one could go home as the MVP.

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